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here for someone with a masters degree in molecular biology — and even less for someone whose skills are fifteen years out of date.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?