December 19th, 2006

And It's Good For You, Too

When I stumbled into freelancing, I was thrilled to at last earn money from my writing. (And exhausted from constantly struggling to break into new markets. And terrified that my editors would find out how young and utterly inexperienced I was. But that’s all fodder for another blog entry.) 

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I realized freelancing was actually good for me. 

When I was a kid, I used to envision my life as a sandcastle I was steadfastly building on the shore—and all my progress, all my work, could easily be swept away by an errant wave. (Seriously, if reincarnation is true, you have to wonder what happened to me last time around.) I was incredibly shy, incredibly worried, incredibly concerned about my fate (and the fate of the world, and all that, too. My anxieties were not all self-directed). 

So I was certainly not in the category of Most Likely to Succeed in a Precarious Career Such as Freelancing. I mean, I would have thought the precariousness of it would have paralyzed me completely. 

But instead I plugged away, and after a couple of years I realized I was a different person. 

If I couldn’t get in touch with a vital contact for a story, instead of bemoaning my fate, I worked around that person. I looked for alternatives, I let my editor know I was having trouble, I got suggestions for other interviewees, and I persisted in leaving voicemails. And I always got my man (so to speak). 

Although I’m still shy, freelancing has forced me to mask it so well that people laugh when I confess that I am. 

And I’ve developed a philosophy far less inclined toward worry and far more inclined toward the idea that things just tend to work out. Experience has showed me that it’s true in my freelancing, and I don’t see why I can’t apply that idea to real life, too: if you keep working away, if you maintain a cheery attitude, why shouldn’t things work out? (Again—let’s not add cancer or car accidents to the mix. My philosophy will only stretch so far.) 

This morning I was reading an article by Norman Lobsenz in the newsletter of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and he quoted a letter to the writer Paul Theroux. “To be a freelance it is also necessary to believe, to know, to know profoundly that one is going to be all right—however unlikely it seems at any particular distressing moment,” his correspondent wrote. “This faith your friends cannot give you; it is something you have to discover for yourself.”

It’s a gift you give yourself! (Another appropriate holiday reference—go, me, go!) So this year, I have decided to give myself the gift of this in another arena of my life: fiction writing. If I am as fearless and straight-ahead with my fiction as I am with my freelancing, my juvenile novel will be in a completely different (and thoroughly excellent) state—as will my other MS—as will my not-yet-quite-outlined projects. I don’t know if you can command faith (even faith in yourself). But I’m planning to find out.


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