Once upon a time, I could count on April being my “busy” month. Every year, every April, I would think to myself, if I can just get through April, everything will calm down. Then one year, it wasn’t just April that was my busy month. It was May, then June, then July. Each month I kept thinking, just get through this and you’ll be able to enjoy a calmer schedule next month. But I never did.
Blog writers understand the stress of freelance life. There’s always that worry at the back of your mind that you’ll end up with no project or assignments for the next month, or worse, next few months. My response to that is to take on more and more projects, until every month is a busy month and I feel as though I’m running on a treadmill that will never stop. Since I’m taking on more projects, and earning more, I’m also justifying spending more, which means that I need to keep working more to keep up with my adjusted lifestyle.
After doing that for a few years, I have to say that I’m tired. I like freelancing, but I don’t like the pattern I’ve created for myself, where I’m constantly trying to keep up with myself. I’m in the process of simplifying my life, so that I can focus on what’s really important to me: writing.
Cutting the Clutter
I’m going to be a total cliche here, but Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up really changed my life. The premise of her book is that you should get rid of the things in your home and life that don’t “spark joy.” When using her method, you go through a process during which you closely examine each item you own, decide whether it sparks joy or not, then either keep it or thank it for its service and send it to the charity shop or the landfill. You use the same criterion whenever you decide to purchase something new. I didn’t really keep track of how much I got rid of using her method, but it was a lot.
Even though I couldn’t see most of the stuff on a daily basis, knowing it was there and that I wasn’t using it or feeling that I should use it was stressful. Now that it’s gone, I’m able to think about the things that are more important. I’m also being much more careful about what I purchase, so I don’t end up filling my home with more stuff that I don’t need or really want.
Learning to Say “No”
It’s not just physical clutter that gets in the way or that keeps us from meeting our goals. I have a tendency to take on projects when I really shouldn’t, because a client says something nice to me or because I think doing a project will look good or help my career. Every time I’ve taken on a project that I wasn’t really into, it’s not gone as well as it could have. The client would have been better served working with a writer who was more excited about their project. I’m not the best at saying “no” just yet, but I’m working on it.
I’ve slowly learned that if I want to work on passion projects, such as writing a short story or novel, I really have to carve out the time to do it. After writing all day for other people, it’s difficult to want to keep writing at night, even if it’s for myself. To help myself, I’ve recently joined a writing group. It’s not the type of group where people share their work. Instead, the point of the group is to give writers a space and time to work on their projects.
Since seven or so people are there with you, and you get kicked out if you say you’re going then “no show” more than three times, the group really holds you accountable. I’ve only gone once so far, but just that one session gave me the chance to finally get a long-stalled project off of the ground.
It’s hard to find balance in life. I think that freelancing makes the whole work-life balance even more difficult. But, I realize now how important it is and I’m making it my goal to pay more attention to it.
Amy F. is a freelance writer in Philadelphia. Thanks to the support of her writing group, she recently finally got started on a novel.