It’s a new year and I’m already tired. We went home to visit family for the week after the holidays and, as a freelancer, that just means I had to work on the road–easier said than done. As in, you can say it, but you can’t do it. It’s been a lot of catching up and I’ve been burning the midnight oil too many days in a row. At this point, it’s safe to say I’m a workaholic.
And yet, the first drafts go unedited, the rejection letters pile up and I continue to be beyond on my timetable goals and dreams. It’s easy to feel discouraged. In fact, it’s pretty much expected. Why am I working so hard when I still can’t get out the books I want to write, when I still can’t take off any time before I’m beholden to so many bosses, when I work, work, work every night and every weekend?
My boyfriend’s off this week. He’s been on since we first moved to Nashville over the summer and he works hard as hell. But for the most part, his work doesn’t follow him home. He can put an out of office notice on his email account and people leave him alone. He doesn’t check his inbox in the morning dreading a new deadline. I do.
And that’s great.
Because today I got a little perspective I so desperately needed, after all these long hours and late nights. He was streaming a new game on Twitch, and I heard him say,
“Oh, she writes for a living.”
I write for a living.
It’s not glamorous, not yet. I work too hard and I’m stressed about deadlines, but I don’t go into an office, I don’t dress up every day, I don’t have a thankless position somewhere. I’m my own boss, I set my own office hours and I write for a living. I don’t have to wait for some barrier where I’m allowed to say I’m a writer, where I’m allowed to identify myself that way. I’m there now because I’m writing now.
When our eyes are so strongly set on the distance future, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. I’m making good money writing. Do I love the work? Not all of it. Some of my projects are absolutely fantastic and I even get paid for those. Some of it is busywork, but busywork that allows me to write and to put money into marketing my new books, and to write for a living.
It’s possible I’d never actually heard the words spoke aloud before.
When people ask me what I do, I tend to hesitate. I’m a romance novelist and author by passion, but I’ve also published more than a dozen novels, novellas and short stories over a five-year career. I’m a journalist by trade and education, a startup company owner by my hopes and dreams and a freelancer by necessity. When people ask me, I give a little of this, and a tilt of the head, oh, I write…as if I’m not so damn proud of the work I get to do.
I write for a living, damn it, and I need to remember that.
I have high expectations for myself–and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But I do think it’s important to remember that this thing, this artistic career, this monster we’re trying to wrestle into something sustainable and profitable and manageable, it’s a marathon. We will have setbacks, we will have moments of joy and excitement. We will have victories. Celebrate the victories as they come–they’ll help you get to the finish line.