Looking at the path to take

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work, freelancing, and writing — and money. The love of money may be the root of all kinds of evil, but the lack of it is the root of all kinds of stress.

Freelancing is often a feast-or-famine work arrangement, and more than once I have burned myself out taking on too much work to make up for times when I don’t know there will be money coming in. Globalization and the current publishing climate haven’t really helped — freelancing gets outsourced to places where bottom dollar is still good money, imprints get sold off, publishers go into bankruptcy. There are self-publishers looking for copyeditors, sure, but they don’t want to pay New York publisher rates — which means taking on more work to make the same amount of money.

I’ve poked around lately, looking to see what “real jobs” might be out there that I can do. Not a lot of call here for someone with a masters degree in molecular biology — and even less for someone whose skills are fifteen years out of date. Looked into publishers — nearest magazine publisher isn’t hiring copyeditors or proofreaders at the moment, and the nearest book publisher that wants to hire an editor requires a bunch of software I have no experience with. Which pretty much leaves me looking at administrative assistant positions, places I can use Word and Excel and stress out all day over using the phone.

Of course, working such a job would mean major changes. Wardrobe, clearly. Hair color, possibly. But it would also kill family flexibility, the ability to get either child at a moment’s notice if they’re sick, time spent volunteering at the boy’s school, and the occasions when I pick up the girl because my husband has to work late. Oh, and forget errands in the middle of the week! It would completely uproot my life.

… but it would be steady income and less stress worrying about how much money would be available any given month.

So I look.

On the other hand, I also just scheduled two proofreading jobs for next month, and I have an index penciled in then, too, without specific dates.

What I really need, what I really want, is stability. I’d love for my writing to be bringing in enough every month so that I know at a minimum all pre-existing bills will get paid. Then the freelancing works as a cushion and to take care of extras. And I can see me getting there — in time. The tricky part is that I need to spend time writing now so I can build to having that then, and I need to do this regardless of whether I’m seeing immediate results. So I’m trying to figure out how to balance writing for the future, doing the freelancing, spending time with my family (crucial) — and maybe a part-time job on top of it all.

While mulling this over, I’ve run across several posts and thoughts about life and work:

Sylvia Plath in “The fig tree” said that I have to choose — I can’t have a “husband and a happy home and children” and be a famous writer (okay, she said poet, but I don’t expect to ever sell more than a handful of poems; it’s not where I put my effort).

“There can be no joy in living without joy in work.”
– St. Thomas Aquinas

“Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything.”
– Sherwood Anderson

Seth Godin recently said, “Your drudgery is another person’s delight. It’s only a job if you treat it that way.”

And then there’s Gretchen Rubin, creator of The Happiness Project, who coined as one of her Secrets of Adulthood: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Or, as she rephrased it in a recent post, “If I die tomorrow, will I be glad I took the time to complete this task?”

What it comes down to, think, is I have to build the life I want to live. Maybe that means a part-time job that still gives me family flexibility and time to write or do freelance work. Maybe it means working full-time for a year or so and writing evenings and weekends. But it definitely does not mean giving up the writing, no matter how stressed I am.

Here’s a song that helps me remember things will get better.

What themes have you been running across in your life lately?

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12 Comments

  1. You just summed up my life the past few months. I went back to work–full-time–after 5 and a half years at home. Jobs in this area are lacking, and I ended up taking an admin assistant job with a temp agency.
    I very quickly realized that I couldn’t balance writing on a consistent basis and family. So, writing was cut down to almost nothing. Even worse, I was bored at work, and the paychecks were only a bit over half of what I had been making in my last full-time position. I didn’t have as much energy to cook from-scratch meals, and we ended up eating more processed and restaurant foods–eating up a lot of my check and making us both starting picking up weight we struggled to lose.
    I would have stuck it out, but my husband was as unhappy as I was. We had gotten used to the flexibility of me being at home, and it changed a lot for him. (I am sure my moods didn’t help. Not writing makes me cranky! 😉 )
    Ultimately, we decided it wasn’t worth the sacrifice. After 2 months, today is my first time back at home, although we are still debating the idea of a part-time position.
    It is a rough decision to make–there are pros and cons to both. Good luck either way! 🙂

    • It is a struggle. Good luck if you do decide to go for a part-time position — I hope you find something more engaging and less draining. I’ll admit that’s one of the things I’m really afraid of — I’ll be too tired to write, to do things around the house, to be with my family.

      I almost didn’t post this; I was afraid I was exposing myself too much. But now I’m glad I did.

      {{hug}}

  2. Money is definitely on the mind in our home, too. Although I’m more in the “how can I have time to write and work full time so my family can eat, and oh yeah – still spend time with the family and take care of myself?” category.

    Planning for the long term – getting enough writing time in so that I can regularly publish so as to grow a decent income – is hard, but something I’m working through. Working out where I want to be in 5 years, and ten, so that when I have days when I just want to quit the 9-5 I can remind myself that I’m on track…it’s certainly not all I’m thinking about, but I certainly am worrying it around quite a bit.

    • Kudos on looking out at the long term and trying to keep that in mind now!

      I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that being an adult and having to plan for the long-term and deal with delayed gratification on a daily basis was going to be so hard! You’d think I’d have realized from watching my mom what hard work it is, but somehow it didn’t sink in that I’d have to work hard, too.

      Good luck with your balancing act!

  3. I definitely feel your pain. I busted my bum writing for well over twenty years so I would no longer have to work 60+ hour weeks at a crummy, joy stealing, life-sucking day job. While I’ve gotten to a point where I only work part-time (for the health insurance and to get out of the house), I am looking at the possibility of having to go back to work full time if my husband can’t get back into the workforce after he took a year off to renew his skill-set (courtesy my writing income). So I’m not happy about that prospect, but for now I’m just taking it one day at a time and hoping I can continue on like this as long as possible with hope that some day in the future, maybe in my 60s’, I can give up the 9-5 forever. Only twenty-some years in cubicle hell to go unless I’m outsourced or become obsolete. 😛

    • Wow. That’s a lot of work to put in. I hope your husband finds something soon — preferably something that’s not cubicle hell for him, either.

  4. It’s a delicate balancing act, that’s for sure. All digits crossed that the solution comes to you with a minimum of fuss.

  5. Hang in there. I’m sure you’ll make the best choice for you and your family.

  6. Well, there’s always companies hiring for the Holidays. Now is the time for that type of employment. It would not serve long-term, but might work for the next three months. It’s just a wee suggestion.

    YYY

    • I might check that out. The problem is that a lot of such places seem to want me to be flexible with my time in their favor — weekends and afternoon/evening hours are their preference, and that really doesn’t work for me.

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