January 21, 2017

When in doubt, stop and wait?

I’ve mentioned previously that I get mood swings from time to time. I’m not sure if this issue has been researched in depth, but anecdotal evidence shows that creative people are more likely to experience fluctuating moods.

Today, though, I’ll tell you about someone other than myself, though this person’s situation closely reflects mine. I have a friend, let’s call her Julia (not her real name). Like me, Julia is a thirty something-year-old freelancer living in eastern Poland. Like me, she’s educated and has good marketable skills, but isn’t faring that well in today’s economy (all too often, freelancers are offered low-paying jobs and have to choose their work carefully, at the risk of getting paid very late or not at all). I can’t get into too much detail here, but moving to another city or country isn’t an option at the moment, while looking for a 9-5 job doesn’t make sense; even with its downsides, the freelancing is still an OK job with flexible hours (a huge plus) and no commute. The only problem is that when pursued full-time, the freelance work can’t be reconciled with writing. 

Like me, Julia is constantly torn between focusing on earning a decent stream of income and building her CV as a professional fiction writer. She writes well, she has been a published author for quite some time (a little-known name, good reviews, so-so sales), but is not efficient in terms of pumping out one novel after another. Realistically, she doesn’t see herself as a future bestselling author in Poland, much less abroad. But she’s not ready to quit writing books either. At least not yet.

Due to the constant mental see-saw between “I want to write” and “I need to have a normal, dependable career”, Julia is prone to recurrent attacks of self-doubt and feelings of failure. She has the luxury of not being financially on her own, but earning little money leaves her feeling very inadequate and immature. When she focuses on her freelance work, though, writing goes out the window. She can’t reconcile the two. She has tried and failed many times, ever since her university days. Her writing is a s-l-o-w endeavor. It needs lots of time and space to germinate, grow and unfold. Rushing results in poor-quality output.

I can relate because I’m in a similar situation. And I haven’t found a solution yet, either for Julia or for myself. On some days, there’s a strong temptation to just give up writing and focus on “real” work, and being a respectable adult.

On the other hands, publishers have already invested in us. Our books have been published. Reviewers have praised them. We have fans – maybe not thousands of them, but certainly hundreds. (Or perhaps, actually, thousands.) We just don't write fast enough to produce a new book each year.

Ultimately, there’s probably no good answer regarding what we should do. Temporarily give up the freelancing, and focus on learning to write quickly and efficiently like Stephen King? Quit struggling, accept that writing wasn’t meant as our career, and move on? Or keep on see-sawing, and hope that life will ultimately solve the dilemma, one way or the other?

It’s a conundrum.

If you can relate, or have thoughts to share, feel free to!

Image courtesy of punsayaporn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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