I make my living as a freelancer, which means I work pretty much every single day, all year long. My only breaks are brief visits to out-of-town family. Real holidays are rare — perhaps once every five years.
I suspect many of you are like me. We never know when the next job will arrive or how much it will pay, so we don’t turn anything down. There are days we barely shower or sleep or eat; days the dog is neglected, the garden overgrown, personal emails unanswered; and days we go to bed at 1 a.m. and drag ourselves up at 7 to do it all over again.
Since 2008, I’ve edited 34 books. I also wrote and published three children’s books, two novels, and one book of poetry; on my desk are two more as-yet-unpublished manuscripts: a book of poetry and a YA novel. I presented one conference paper and published five essays. I taught 21 creative-writing courses in the continuing education programs of U of T and Ryerson and guest-taught a couple of creative writing classes at Queen’s and an English literature class at Dalhousie. I also mentored three novelists and three poets, judged two poetry competitions and was on juries for an OAC poetry grant and the Bronwen Wallace Award in short fiction.
During this period, daily life refused to stop to accommodate my workload. Both my children finished high school and went to university. My father-in-law passed away, and then we had to pack up my mother-in-law’s house and move her. My husband and son had major surgeries, and my own mother died after battling cancer. Last year I finally decided enough was enough. I took a sabbatical from teaching and writing — though I’m still editing, because I need to make money — and went to art school.
I have no words to describe how much FUN I am having! Here are a few reasons why:
- I am making art for art’s sake, without worrying about how it will be received or whether it will sell.
- I get immediate and supportive feedback on my work.
- I am enjoying the company and conversation of other people after too many years working in almost complete isolation.
- I don’t have to attend to other people’s needs all the time. Both teaching and editing are extremely empathetic professions that require one to listen to others’ voices and respect their feelings, and when you add caregiving to the mix, too much goes out and not enough goes in.
So all you other over-conscientious freelancers out there, learn from my example not to work yourself to exhaustion. Art school might not be the right solution for you, but replenish yourself whenever and however you can. Life is too short to work all the time!
Susan Glickman’s previous post on freelancing: What Does It Take to Start Freelancing?
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