Time for another check-in post, I think: mostly to clarify my own position, but also to see whether any of you have any suggestions on how to best get where I’m going.
As many of you know, about fifteen months ago I left full-time Sudbury staffing to focus on CASE, my Sudbury support nonprofit. However, even after minimizing expenses and scrounging paid work here and there, I haven’t broken even once in any month since I last worked full-time at a school. To some extent, this was part of the plan: I knew it would take time for CASE to generate even minimal income, and I’d built up perhaps two years’ worth of savings.
From the start, living mostly off savings went sharply against the grain of a lifetime’s conditioning. Now that I’m in the second year of this adventure, my lack of progress is escalating from moderately uncomfortable to deeply disconcerting. My bare-bones budget is hardly what one could reasonably consider viable, and I’m not even covering that.
Numerically speaking, I could break even on about $15,000 per year right now, and at this rate I have about twelve months until my savings will reach a point where I’ll have to start covering my expenses from current income, whether or not that includes passion-driven work, work I believe in.
The news is not all grim. Finally, after having moved back to Denver to focus more fully on CASE, I’ve found a greater sense of direction and some discernible forward movement. But progress remains maddeningly slow. I still have time, but frankly, I’m at a loss. I don’t know how to speed up CASE’s development toward being self-sustaining, and I’m unsure what balance of paid and nonpaid work to pursue.
Should I focus more on building up a freelance writing/editing business? After all, even when the content isn’t directly supporting some worthy cause, the very act of wordsmithing brings me some joy. In theory, part-time writing/editing jobs could still allow significant time for my Sudbury work. Should I try to market my children’s books or work up proposals for my other book ideas? Or should I simply (as I contemplated this past July) trust in my twelve months of savings and go all-out (or all-in) on CASE?
My biggest concern these days is what one might call a paralysis of cluelessness. In addition to the specific question of whether and how to blend passion-driven and mercenary work (or even knowing how to find the latter), there’s not knowing what I should be doing to move CASE forward. I have plenty of ideas—indeed, I’m drowning in a sea of possible projects—as well as what should be plenty of time. Yet far too often I struggle to decide which project to prioritize. CASE is a niche within a niche, struggling to gain traction: how to publicize it and when (and how) to actively seek donations or grants or other funding remains too much a mystery.
I was raised, trained, and otherwise conditioned for work that’s much more clearly defined, where I have discretion over specific tasks but which doesn’t challenge me so consistently to figure out what the work itself should entail. Too often, my current situation has me feeling lost in the wilderness without map or compass, without stars or the ability to chart a course by them.
And so, as I often do in these checking-in posts, I appeal to you, dear reader. If you believe in my cause of promoting the Sudbury model; if you know of other worthy work (e.g., addressing climate change, poverty, or political reform); or if you know of publishers looking for editors and/or manuscripts, I hope you will share with me whatever ideas, information, and support you might have.
The primary goal of this blog is to prove it’s possible to make a decent living doing enjoyable, fulfilling, meaningful work. Will you join me in this quest?