Writer Rant: Freelancing is Killing the Poet in Me
Welcome to Writer Rants–where every Friday a writer just lets loose on whatever the heck is bugging them this week. Enjoy.
The part of my soul that paints with words, crafts characters and puts readers inside a story is dying. My freelancing side that arranges facts, pleases clients and ultimately brings home dollars is taking over. But I think my inner poet is darkly enjoying it.
He gets to spend all day with his feet on the freelancer’s couch, eating his chips and drinking his beer. He can’t make a dollar out of Play-Doh, but he can bemoan the cruel world controlled by business forces. How come his thousand line post-apocalyptic epic has earned less money in a year than the professional content writer made in an hour writing about the 2015 Ford Taurus? Damn the wicked muses and his tortured artist’s heart.
Now that I have a family, I basically do two things: earn money or spend time with my wife and three kids. I manage a little bit of screwing around time for Eighty S, but essentially that’s it. So does creative writing fall into either the money or family category? I’m afraid not, so I find I’m not doing it anymore. I fear I’ll lose the ability. It’s like a muscle that atrophies. I’ll never forget how to ride a bike, but I won’t be able to climb that hill after too much time off.
I no longer believe I can sell a piece of fiction or poetry, no matter how good it is. The real world has shattered my confidence. I am unwilling to commit the time to write or market. Spending hundreds of hours on failure is unacceptable, so give me a series of short projects guaranteed to bring in grocery money.
But can’t a poet work intricately descriptive language into ad copy and blog content? One sweet molecule at a time, but don’t overdo it. Most clients want your spelling and diction, not your personality. At best, the economy of language that makes good poetry can also be used in tight professional copy. Poets know how to shrink and reduce waste.
Yet I don’t want to go out like this. All work-writing and no play-writing makes Eighty a dull boy. Somebody will end up with an ax in his back.
Like most things, it’s about budgeting time. I need to carve out at least a tiny part of my week to write something I enjoy. I need to read my old poetry and fiction to remember how it feels. That piece of post-apocalyptic verse still raises my heart rate and the hairs on my arms. Some days I forget I’m the guy who did that. I was up after work until four in the morning many nights grinding out those syllables.
Who’ll tell me it wasn’t worth it?
The poet in me needs to get off the couch and crack me upside the head with a cup of tea. What is earning money if art is dead?
Eighty S is still an indestructible poet and fiction writer, although he’ll pretend he’s not for $20.