The freelance writer’s life is chaotic to say the least. One day we’re sobbing into the bottom of our pomegranate caprihanas about the lack of work. And the next, we’re scrambling to file a story by the end of the day, and hopping on one foot into skinny jeans for an event we’re covering and already running late for.
Photo by Ingrid Punwani
No matter how carefully we plan, how pretty and highlighted our planner, chaos ensues. (Sometimes it feels as though chaos follows us at every corner.)The problem is our lead times—they’re all over the place. If you’re working for a paper, you’re working to hourly and daily deadlines, and with magazines, your lead time is more like a couple of weeks or a month. Then there’s online stuff that can come up whenever.
Add into that crazy mix editors who need the edits to their piece right now—or who have scrapped most of your column and need you to interview three more people and have the new version back by 5. (Full disclosure: That in no way represents the editors here at The Writer.) Now you’ve got yourself not only a very typical freelance week, but one that makes you realize why many of the great prolific writers looked to the bottle for relief. After all, there is the working 10 days straight, 12 hours a day to deadline, and then the ennui that envelops us afterward. We are simply sapped, too empty to rejuvenate or pamper ourselves. We can muster up only enough energy to lie on the couch and mindlessly work our way through a bag of chips/box of crackers/family-sized bar of chocolate and watch TV.
If not that, then we are at home panicking, cowering near our home phone, laptop and cell phone, checking our signals and dial tone, wondering when that next job is going to come through.Of course, it’s not this dramatic every single day, but I’m telling you—it is about once a week or so. Enough to almost kill you. Enough to make you wonder if it’s all worth it.
Absolutely it is.While your friends are working at their 9-to-5 jobs (read: shopping online and posting to their blogs) and flitting about town all weekend long, and you’re toiling away at tedious interview transcriptions and figuring out how to make air-travel safety sound exhilarating, there are good moments.
Moments where you get inside someone’s head and heart and can really see what she is aiming for—and there’s no better person to tell her story than you. Moments where you breeze through a decidedly difficult piece on foreign affairs.And moments where you work without checking your e-mail or the time, and four hours later, you have written something that you are immensely, bursting-out-of-your-chair proud of.
It may not be balanced, but you wouldn’t give it up for anything.