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here for someone with a masters degree in molecular biology — and even less for someone whose skills are fifteen years out of date.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

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

Sleep.

Sep. 25th, 2012 03:07 am
eimarra: (Default)

Way back in May, I mentioned that I have workaholic tendencies. These are worse when I have a deadline or (very rare!) if I’m actually past a deadline. So I’ve been up completing a freelance job since . . . well, whenever I got up on Sunday. I did take some time out to breathe, to chat with my friend Nicki, to get groceries for the week.

Most of my time, however, has been sitting here, staring at the screen. Getting ready to send off this index now, and then, yes, SLEEP. Some little errands to run tomorrow, a book to finish reading (another one to start), and then on Wednesday, it’s back to the other current freelance job. And making sure I have time in my schedule to write and exercise, too.

Right now, though . . . zzzzzzzzz. G’night!

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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My day job is a self proprietorship that I’ve been running for more than a dozen years now. I can tell you the adage is true — it’s more profitable to get a repeat customer than several clients who only use you for one job. There may be businesses where this is not true (wedding dress sales, perhaps?), but even those can use referrals from customers. One of the publishers I’ve done proofreading for over a number of years is engaged in selling off one of its imprints that I do a lot of work for. This could’ve meant a hit to my income, but with no fuss, they simply started asking me to do proofreading on other titles.

The same is true for readers, I think, which is probably why series are so strongly recommended. It’s easier to get readers to come back to see what happens next, rather than leaving them wondering if you’ll like their next book, your next world, your next set of characters, as much. It can be done, but it’s more work.

So today I am grateful for clients who like my work enough to keep working with me, even if it means shifting to a different topic area and style. And I am grateful to readers who enjoy my stories enough to keep reading, even those that have nothing in common with each other.

What are you grateful for today?

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

Finished!

Jul. 9th, 2012 04:11 pm
eimarra: (Default)

Sent off the latest index just before 1 this afternoon. Now I have a break before the next proofreading job comes in next week. I’m grateful for the break and grateful for the work. Later this week, I’ll send off some more marketing e-mails to try to line up work heading into the fall.

I’m also grateful that I’m figuring out a schedule that seems to be working to get writing, editing, and paying work done. Is the writing as fast as I would like? Well, no, but I still remember starting out and thinking silly things like, “If I type 50 words a minute, an hour of writing should net me 3,000 words, so on days when I don’t have work to do, I should be able to get 15 to 20,000 words written.” . . . I said it was silly, but that’s pretty much my benchmark for “as fast as I would like,” so I’ve come to terms with the knowledge it’s never really going to get there. Which means I’m grateful for the progress without actually having high expectations.

And I’m grateful for friends and maybe actually starting to create a real friendship after more than 7 years of living here. And for chocolate-covered coffee beans (which helped me finish that index!).

I’m also going to be really grateful for sleep tonight.

Lots to be grateful for. What about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

eimarra: (Default)

Or, I’m still proofreading. You may have noticed I didn’t get my weekly gratitude post up yesterday. That’s because my computer was busy crashing and corrupting files, so I had to do some disk maintenance, run a virus/malware scan (just in case), and repair disk permissions. That didn’t leave a lot of time for things like blogs. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Today, I’m grateful for work that I enjoy, that uses my abilities, and that stretches my brain. (It also fills my wallet, which I’m also very grateful for.) Yes, these describe my writing, but I’m applying them today to my freelance business. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Balance — a topic near and dear not just to every writer’s heart, or anyone who has a day job and a creative pursuit, or any person with a family and a job and interests of her own — well, okay, that probably includes all of us. Yes, it’s time to talk about how I balance everything I have to do: wife, mother, daughter, freelance worker, writer, blogger, friend, person . . . Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve been really tired of late. Some of it’s good — I’ve had a lot of freelance work on my plate, which keeps me busy. Unfortunately, then I have less time and energy to do my writing, and when I start figuring the time for other things — exercise, family time, cooking, life — well, there’s even less time and energy. So I cut corners. Skipped the exercise because heading out for over half an hour to run, then coming back and stretching out, showering, cooling down, well, all that takes time. Chunks of it.

Today, I read a post Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote back in 2009 as part of her Freelancer’s Survival Guide, Burnout. In it, she lists several symptoms of burnout — exhaustion, irritability, inefficiency, and more. Hmm. Yes, that’s ringing bells.

Okay, to be fair, I figured I was on the edge of burnout. That’s why I took the weekend essentially off, just doing things I enjoy and don’t stress over (mostly — getting kids to bed has to get done, and there often seems to be stress involved). It’s also why I read her post today; I hoped she had some good advice.

Her advice? Sleep, eat right, exercise. And then worry about whether you’re taking on too much. I’m trying to get more sleep; it’s not always easy with a family, but I’m trying. I do need to get back to the exercise that I’ve been slacking on, though. I mostly eat right — except for the chocolate chip cookies I baked this weekend and ate copious amounts of.

One of the stressors I’ve had is feeling like I have to live up to others’ expectations for my writing career. Whether it’s things I disagree with (like writing taking precedence over everything else in my life, including attending my son’s first band concert) or more insidious things like being a writer meaning I should be writing every day, for more hours than I put in, so I get things done faster. And even if I do want to get things done (and some I need to get done, like the book I’m writing for Moongypsy Press), adding that expectation on top of everything else has made it worse.

I’m still trying to write, but I’m trying to not be down on myself about expectations. I want to write because I want to write, because I have these characters in my head whose stories I want to tell, not because it’s one more thing on my to-do list.

I’ll probably be much more upbeat after even a week of better sleep and a couple times of exercise, but this is a good wake-up call that I need to take care of myself, and that includes managing my expectations.

What about you? Have you been pushing yourself too much recently? Or some time in the past? What helps you get back on track?

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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When people think of balance, they often think of a static situation — a pair of scales, equal weights on both sides. Dynamic balance — the kind you need to ride a bike or walk on a tightrope — isn’t usually what people are striving for in their lives. There’s this idea that you can get everything together and cope for once and all with everything you have to do.

Nope.

That’s why I prefer to think of juggling. When you’re juggling, the more you’re juggling, the more is out of your hands. If you’re doing it well, things fall into place, right in your hands. And occasionally, balls get dropped, but it’s not the end of the world. That describes what I live with.

There’s the personal — wife, mother, manager of family finances, cook, washerwoman, gardener, and more.

There’s the professional — copyeditor, indexer, proofreader. Running the business, dealing with finances, finding new work.

There’s the writer — um. Current count of projects on my list for the next couple of months? I’ve got one short story now, but I’m hoping to participate in the Story-a-Day challenge on Forward Motion in May. I’ve got the Mayan book I’m working on for Moongypsy Press, and Daniel’s book (under Doru’s name) that I promised to have up by the end of this month. I have four other books in various states of completion that I want to send out to NY publishers, at least 2 of which I’d like to get done in the next month or two. I have another project, Bridge, which I started this month but really won’t talk about until December or January. I have the steampunk adventure stories. I want to write another novella to submit to the UPC Science-Fiction Award this year. I just got an idea for a new series yesterday, and I was reminded of an old idea for a series that I probably won’t get to before next year. Oh, and then there are the short stories already written that I keep sending out to markets (occasionally selling one), as well as the ones I’m considering putting up for sale.

So, yes. Juggling.

No balls dropped so far today, but the day is young.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

eimarra: (Default)

I had an epiphany this morning at 5:00, but I can’t use “epiphany” because E was yesterday. I suppose I could have used “F is for five o’clock,” but the time isn’t as important as the content. I was awakened by the girl fussing (she got herself back to sleep), and I started to complain to myself that I was just barely going to fall back asleep before it would be time to get up and get the kids ready, then start on my day — same old, same old. That’s when it hit me — I chose this life.

Okay, that may be obvious to others. Epiphanies do tend to be personal, after all. Still, I’m going to explore what I mean.

I chose marriage and children. I chose work that I could do anywhere we lived because I didn’t have to look for a new employer. I chose to start telling the stories in my soul. And, if it comes right down to it, I choose to do our taxes because I’m a bit of a control freak.

Every part of the day before me is a direct consequence of something I chose, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m married to a wonderful man whom I love, we have incredible kids, and my work allows me to be who I am.

There are downsides — the only family here is the one my husband and I have made; our closest relatives are several states away. I don’t have any close friends where we live, though certainly part of that is that I’m not good at reaching out. With the Internet, though, I’m in touch with friends and family that I haven’t seen in decades, and I’ve made several excellent new friends through on-line communities (especially Forward Motion).

This is my life, and I’m grateful for it.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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