Sunday, July 03, 2022

freelance life | 6 month update

It occurred to me over the weekend that it has been exactly 6 months ago that I set sail on this crazy little adventure working on my own after over twenty years at the library. Sometimes it still does not seem real.  It feels like I snapped my fingers and several months passed. It feels like there's a part of my soul that still gets angry and sullen over the things I let pass as acceptable those last few years, especially near the end.  I left, citing my desire to spend more time on my own pursuits, but there was so much yuck underneath that still occasionally prompts me to utter a WTF? outloud. Money and treatment of non-MLA-degreed staff. The way my talents were taken advantage of, but never quite rewarded. A place, that as whole, took more and more til there was nothing left. I was totally complicit in all of it, which means perhaps most of the anger is self-directed rather than any one person or institution.

Nevertheless, it doesn't matter.  6 months ago, I walked out into a snowy, cold February evening with the last of my stuff and left the place I spent most of my days behind.  Sometimes my old job feels like an ex I want to spy on.  Sometimes, I am so happy to be out of it, I don't even want to think about it.  This is not to say it's been all roses.  There were moments where I was really worried about money. Trying to strike a balance between taking on freelance work that I may not be all that interested in just to get a feeling of stability.  The goal, initially,  was of course to perhaps eventually grow things like critiques and workshops, design jobs, my Patreon,  my shop business, to be able to eek out a living with the extra bolster of some freelance work.  But I also worried I was putting a little too much pressure on the shop (just because you make things, of course, does not mean they are going to thrive in sales (esp. in a shitty economy.)  With things just costing more--toner, paper, outsourcing printing, postage, I worried that the chapbook series would stay out of the red this year (so far, so good, raising the list price $1 helped) But yes, money made me anxious, esp. with the spectre of a rent increase on the horizon and new building management. Would I fail and end up not being able to tie two ends together firmly. Growth in terms of new shop offerings and art work takes a little time as well, as well as money for supplies.  

There was also the struggle of determining what a day looked like now that I had so many options.  At first I wrote lessons like a madwoman (which I started writing in November as I eyed the door), sometimes for several hours a day.  Since this was more academic, research-laden work it felt best to just dive in first thing in the day.  I'd spend the latter half working on press stuff, and then later at night, with a block of creative time. I tried different configurations and weekly plans and finally found one that works pretty well.  I was also able to add, over the course of a few months, some other new writing-related work to supplement the lessons.  I actually feel like I now have an embarrassment of riches that has me feeling so much less anxiety about money going into July. I also seem to have collected a slate of jobs I am really excited about--writing about all sorts of things like antiques and home decor and Chicago neighborhood history.  

There was a lot of applying, querying, and trial jobs involved, but things worked out far better than I imagined. I now am able to switch back and forth between various projects and levels of intensity during the hours I work on freelance stuff each day. Longer and shorter assignments help.  I also feel good not having all my eggs in one basket. I will also be able to save up my safety cushion rather than dip into it and still have extra funds for occasional treats (I've been so careful these past few months in terms of not spending on anything I did not absolutely need. To be able to buy a fancy bath gel or new dress or takeout will be nice again. ) Even the hours dedicated to writing work allows me so much more flexibility and hours per day for creative work and press work than I ever had before.  You figure even if I work a standard day, I've gained two extra hours that used to be commuting and so much more energy by not having fifty percent of brain space eaten by library work I was not even close to being compensated for. That means the hours devoted to creative things are so much more productive than they used to be. and my brain is infinitely quieter and more organized.. And even though I still have two dozen tabs open,  my inbox is even occasionally zero. If I have to do work on the weekends, its more a choice than a necessity.

You worry a lot when you do something like this. Especially when you have very little net to catch you. City living is expensive, especially alone. Especially in this economy. Would I fail and have to find another full-time job eventually?  Was this just an experiment that may or may not take?  But ultimately, the thing, outside of money, that I feared turned out actually not that scary at all.  I worried a little over the past year, that should I make money by doing other kinds of non-creative writing, would I have nothing left for the poems. If I spent so much time inside words, would they fail me where I needed them most.  I've actually found not only is this not true, since they use very different parts of my brain, but that sometimes they, too, feed each other quite nicely. I'm present in my own creative work in a way i never was able to be before. I've also learned so many new things peripherally--random trivia and subject matter (who knew I would ever know this much about architecture?), but also video script writing, SEO optimizing. I think I've discovered that this monster in the woods was perhaps not even a monster at all, and maybe its just the wind after all. 

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