Squish Like Grape

Long time, no blog, I know.

Let me explain.

In addition to the expected headaches and distractions of settling into a new place, I’ve been fighting more literal headaches lately, having spent the past two weeks rather ill. More serious than this, however, was the nagging case of learning-curvitis I contracted. In my last post I mentioned the joys of tracking down freelance writing jobs. Well, as I’ve learned once again, sometimes getting a job is just the beginning of the fun.

Resume-writing isn’t bad work, I have to admit: for all the silliness of self-promotional writing, I appreciate the wordsmithing challenge; I take pride in my work and enjoy thinking it’s helping people find better employment. Problem is, this current gig is currently paying less than I’d get at McDonald’s or Wal Mart.

This is due primarily to the fact that the pay is per finished product, and nine resumes into the job, I can’t seem to get my speed up. I don’t want to think perfectionism is holding me back—frankly, I don’t want to spend any more time on each resume than I have to. No, this isn’t perfectionism but professionalism: even minimally satisfying work simply takes a while, especially when I have to find the right buzzwords for a given industry and use them convincingly.

It doesn’t help that this is contract work, meaning all the taxes fall on me, or that I discovered my gross pay turns out to be as little as 20 percent of what the company’s clients are paying. Granted, I don’t have to advertise or go looking for customers, but the reality that this isn’t passion-based employment is trumped by its apparent inability even to cover my minimal expenses.

So my immediate dilemma is how much more time to give this business: how long I should wait too see how much faster I might get at cranking out resumes. At the same time, there is a larger underlying question, and that’s the main reason I’m airing my dirty freelancing laundry in public today.

My current plan, such as it is, has been to bring my expenses to an absolute minimum and find enough freelancing work to cover them, so that I don’t go any further into the hole, hemorrhaging my savings. Then I can use whatever time’s left over—ideally, at least 20 hours per week—to pursue my real passions, like Sudbury schooling and my Sudbury support nonprofit, CASE.

Yet lately I’ve been questioning the wisdom of this plan. Could I be half-and-halfing myself to death here? Because I came of age in the 80s, this thought put the voice of Mr. Miyagi (from the original Karate Kid) in my head:

I’m beginning to suspect that my present course amounts to “walk middle,” a place where “sooner or later” I can expect to “get squish just like grape.”

What if, instead, I go all-out, make-or-break (and other inspirational cliches)? I could calculate how long my savings will last under my present budget, factoring in some sort of reserve (say, six months), and then throw myself into really making this work: no longer neglecting CASE, but rather, giving myself a powerful incentive to get it funded as quickly as possible.

I could still pursue freelancing jobs, but instead of working at a contractor’s disadvantage, I would launch my own business, looking for jobs that would actually pay what I need to justify the time I spend on them. Eventually, if leaping doesn’t land me where I want to be and I have to make some serious money, than I can just go make money for a while—temporarily switch from full-time passion to full-time income-generating, and not be stuck in this half-moneymaking, half-idealistic limbo.

This is hardly the first time such thoughts have crossed my mind. See in particular my post Schemes & Dreams, as well as Write Livelihood, in which I lay out a vision of a freelancing business in which I wordsmith for worthy causes. What I’m wondering now is, has the time come for this particular leap? Should I redirect this effort to scrape by, this plan to cobble together a little bit of income and a little bit of passion? What if, instead, I just decided to go for it?

Indeed, maybe it’s time for me to start working backwards: to envision where I want to be and figure out how to get from there back to where I am right now. When I was moving from Austin back to Denver, someone asked whether it had been my plan all along only to spend a year in Texas. Not quite suppressing a chuckle, I replied, “Plan? What is this ‘plan’ of which you speak?” I returned to Colorado because it seemed the best locale for the work I want to do right now, not wondering whether it’s where I’ll want to be in five or ten years.

But what if the real trick lies neither in looking down the road nor considering only the present, but rather some blend of these approaches? That is, what if I focus neither on the present nor some hypothetical destination, but mostly on the direction in which I seem to be headed? Right now, I don’t seem to be headed anywhere in particular. So then I ask: should I continue this less-than-satisfying path of treading water, or is it time to dive completely into this?

Any thoughts (suggestions, perspective, etc.)?

Karate Kid



Filed under My Quest

2 responses to “Squish Like Grape

  1. Pingback: Fire and Ice | Write Learning

  2. Pingback: $15,000 and 12 | Write Learning

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