Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Freelance Writing Dream?


A few months ago my working hours were cut and as a result my free time went up. Hurray! I spent the first few months revelling in all this extra time I had to wallow in novels and daytime television.  But as anyone with even the slightest twinkle of ambition knows, every spare moment you spend doing anything other than strutting towards your dream looms over you with damning disapproval.  Every extra hour spent trawling through your Sky+ delights is an hour spent in guilt.  You really should be doing something. Those scarves won’t knit themselves and that paint wont leap spontaneously onto canvas.  In my case, those articles I need to complete to become a freelance writer wont type themselves up whilst I sit and watch The Great British Bake Off.

I have always wanted to write, for as long as I can remember.  But life and slovenliness has got in the way for many years, and its only now that my job has become part-time that I have felt guilt-ridden enough to do anything about it.  And it is now, when I’m just starting out, that I’m beginning to wonder whether this dream is really mine.

I know quite a few people who are freelance writers full-time.  Some thrive, they relish in falling out of their beds into their office (the coffee table) banging out a few articles surrounded by all the comforts of home.  They drink endless cups of tea, listen to BBC Radio 4 or 6 and are Zen and lovely   This is the image I had pinned my dreams to:  Sitting primly at my laptop, tappity-tappity-tapping away, sending off my articles to the wittiest, most right-on and most read websites out there. Once I had spilt my wisdom on fashion, popular culture and what’s so hot right now, I would spruce myself up and skip into town to take in an art show or two before whiling away my evenings cooking and reading. 

In the couple of months I have spent researching and finding websites to write for it has become ever clearer that there are a few glitches to this ideal freelance world.  The internet is freakishly good at eating up time, a phenomenon I also experience whilst writing.  Add the two together and your day lasts about 45 minutes. If I remember to eat or drink I’m having a good day. The concept of leaving the house becomes ever more alien and before I know it, it’s time to get ready for work-work.  All this and I’m still not anywhere near being an actual freelance writer.

As the hours tick by, and the article ideas dry up a nagging doubt keeps creeping up on me:

“I’m not sure I can actually do this…..and I’m not sure I even really want to….”

I was spurred to write this blog after someone tweeted (I cannot remember who, else I would give them the credit due): “Being a freelance writer is like having homework to do every night”.  It summed up beautifully what had begun to dawn on me.  Being a freelancer is hard and demanding and isn’t necessarily a career that promises endless days of creativity followed by hours spent in whimsy.  For some, it IS just that and I take my hat off to them.  But these people are clearly crammed to the edges with ideas and don’t mind not leaving the house for days on end.  Now I’m not the life and soul of the party, the word “hermit” has been banded about.  But even I wince at the idea of being cooped up until I have completed a client’s work “just-so” and knowing that the relief of having completed something is short-lived.  The moment I press “send” I will immediately have to seek out new employment.  My world will shrink into my laptop screen.   Just writing this has taken about forty minutes.  FORTY minutes.  When I’m actually at work forty minutes stretches on for an unflinching eternity.  When writing on-line it zips by in flash.  All well and good when you are writing for yourself, but unimaginably daunting when you have to get articles written (emphasis on the plural here) in order to pay your bills.

Luckily most jobs I have looked at don’t ask for many words, less than I have written here in fact.  And once a writer has a book of clients and a working rhythm I can see how it could be a viable and enjoyable career.  But it's a career you have to slog towards and sacrifice for.  I shall continue to plod and blog along but it is almost comforting that this dream job I have chastised myself for not yet having, MAY not be the key to absolute working happiness.  Knowing this I can go back to enjoying writing and as a result I may be able to produce something worth selling.  Ironically it may be letting the dream go that might actually make it happen. 

Photo - TYPE! by Carlos Moreira

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