Freelance: falling behind on freedom

Perhaps it’s the old Protestant work ethic, drilled in from my blue collar/steel town/northeastern disposition, but I’m a pretty hard worker.

Giving up my full time job as a part time teacher (yup, two schools and way more hours than any full time job I’ve had), to try my hand at freelance writing, I realized two things pretty quickly:

  1. I don’t know how to market and what it means to market. I’m actually pretty curious why my MFA didn’t cover this; I’m including submitting work, sending queries, finding publishers, and what now seems like it should have been a 101 class I must have missed. Work piles up and I find it on odd places: yesterday, an old children’s book I wrote was next to the sweet potato hash in the fridge, a poem was in my address book, and my grocery shopping list was scrawled over an idea for a book on mentorship (still a good idea). And perhaps I need more hustle: writing more reviews, looking for more calls for work and writing to them, sending books out, all that poetry-biz stuff. Which leads me to my second lesson…
  2. There’s no freedom in freelance. To put bread on the table I work two part time jobs that hour me past full time and keep me notorious for bringing work home and working after work.

This is the real lesson of writing: making a space for it.

Ive really tried not to be a writer, fact is: I’m more sane when I’m writing. It isn’t, in this way, free-ing or free at all. I think this way on the page too: the work is careful, the punctuation is thought out, each thing and mark need to have a reason (at least a feeling of a reason). It’s interesting that we–cultural we–talk about writing as freedom and make it a kind of mystical liberation. I don’t think there’s much about writing that’s mystical (it’s hard work, practice, study, and attention) and I’m not sure that the freedom we talk about is the freedom writing garners.

I do think it’s freedom to think, to try and finish a thought and see that it’s un-finish-able–that it gets tangled into another thought or it gets connected into an interrupting thought, etc. I think it’s freedom to see this kind of connectivity and that might be what’s mystical: connection.

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