Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Hasmita Chander
We study hard, get our degrees, and slave at our jobs, but do we get the satisfaction of knowing that we are spending our limited time on earth as we would really like?
Many of us are saying No.
And yet, can we give it all up--the monthly income, the colleagues, the getting ready and going out every day--to sit in our pajamas and freelance full-time?
I weighed the pros and cons and finally quit my regular job for full-time freelancing. It's been five years now, so I can tell you a bit about the grass on this side of the fence.
There's not always much money in it, number one. If you don't mind having to depend on your husband or family for dough every now and then, then this point is out of the way.
Number two, you need to be self-motivated, and steadily so. Initially there's all the fire of wanting to do this and that, but when you realize how much time you have, you enjoy it at first, then you tend to slack off and get lethargic about the pace of working. I do know a few writer friends who are freelancing and earning very well--but they are people with high energy and enthusiasm as well as a healthy amount of ambition.
If I'm not earning much, or doing much work, I feel bad and whip myself up about it, but I find it even harder then, to get down to working. Not that I don't work, I do, but it happens in spurts at best. But you do what suits you--work in spurts, work steadily, work 9-5, whatever--and accept that this is the best way for you.
I'm easily distracted. Arguments with my husband, a failed writing opportunity, something hurtful that somebody said--such things don't let me concentrate on my work. I would love to be unaffected and lose myself in work instead, but since I can't, I do the next best thing--I let it pull me down, wash over me, then get back up and write again.
When I get acceptances, I get charged and send out more work but when I get a rejection from some place I had hope in, there's a lull in my writing. I know that this isn't the way to go--I ought to be querying, writing and submitting no matter what, but it's sometimes (or even often) hard.
You might think that writing is what you love doing, so it will be easy to be motivated, to work regularly, to write the article for the query that was accepted. Not true. Sometimes you're so eager that the idea be accepted that once it is, your enthusiasm fades; you're so thrilled about the acceptance that you want to release the tension of waiting for the editor's reply--play a video game, go shopping, watch a movie. Writing the article, ah, that you'll do later--to-mor-row!
Despite the unsteady income, the emotional seesawing and the loneliness of it, I love the freedom freelancing gives me: to choose when I'll work and how much and for whom, how much I can accept to be paid, when I can refuse, what I will write.
I was glad of this freedom when I was pregnant, and continue to be glad of the flexibility now when my daughter is 16 months old, climbing into everything around the house and tasting it as she goes along. No worries about short maternity leave, cr¸ches or psychological effects of mama-at-the-office.
And I'm proud of what I've achieved through all the struggles, proud of having chosen this way of life.
Do keep in mind, though, that you cannot afford to do this for the love of it alone. Not unless you have a wealthy husband or a big inheritance to support you. You *need* to have a plan of how to earn, working out the details of how much, roughly, you can make monthly. And some part of your work may be what you do just for the cash, even if you don't enjoy it so much.
Also, very importantly, make sure you have enough savings to get you through six months to a year, if possible, before you quit your job--the writing business is unpredictable and you may get paid in December for something you submitted in January. You don't want to be stuck, a new freelance writer, with a dipping bank balance and the Christmas holidays around the corner.
The key is to keep at it--don't stop: query, write, submit; don't wait for replies. That way you'll always have several pieces of your work in circulation and something or the other will keep getting published and soon, you'll be receiving checks every now and then, as well.
One good friend is just at this stage of wondering whether to quit her job or not, and she asked me if it wasn't too late to change her career. She's around 34. But she could be 44 or 64--it's never too late to change over to doing something you love. It's your life, you do what you want with it.
All I'm saying is, think about it carefully, have some savings, sketch out plans and try to get some steady work before you quit your job.
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Hasmita Chander is a freelance writer from Bangalore, India. She has had close to 200 articles and a dozen children's stories published in India and five other countries. She has been a contributing writer for Computers@Home (India), The Grapevine (USA) and The Star (Malaysia). She runs a list for writers called Writing in India (http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/writingindia/).