About a year ago I was working at a job that I didn’t necessarily hate, but it wasn’t lighting my fire. My bosses weren’t giving me the opportunity to utilize my skills and work on projects that both interested me and benefitted them. “I just want to write,” I kept telling them. And instead of letting me start their blog and write for them, they stripped my duties down to their bare bones. I had weekly and then daily meetings with my supervisor that were so frustrating I always ended up in tears. Basically, they made me so miserable I had no choice but to quit. I will never understand why it happened, but the only way to achieve some peace about it is to simply accept it and move on.
I went into a pretty steep downward spiral soon after that experience. My self-esteem had taken a massive hit. I felt like a failure who would never be able to do anything right, so why should I try to find something new to do? It was just going to blow up in my face like everything else. Then my mom talked me into trying some internships. I had always been curious about what it would be like to work in publishing. In case you hadn’t noticed from this blog, I love to read. So any job that revolved around books sounded alright by me.
I did some Googling and by January 2013 I had two internships, one in marketing and one in editing. The editorial internship was at Seal Press, a small publisher in Berkeley. They are the most amazing group of people, who put out the most amazing collection of books. You may have seen them around, many of my posts about them made it onto my “Top Posts of 2013” list. At this internship, Laura Mazer (the executive editor/my fairy godmother) introduced me to the concept of working as a freelance editor, and with her amazing support and encouragement I’ve been going after that goal ever since.
Laura warned me it was going to be hard, bless her heart she tried anyway. I nodded and said I understood, but oooooh boy. Let me tell you, it is harder than hard! I’m starting in on my sixth month at this and I don’t know what I expected but it sure wasn’t this.
When I set out my shingle back in September, I told myself that I wouldn’t count myself out for two years. If I hadn’t made much (or any) headway by then, I could call it a lost cause and quit, but not any sooner than that. About a month in, I called my mommy crying about how no one would hire me. That wasn’t strictly speaking true, it was more like no one had work to give me at the time (publishing works in cycles, and I was caught in a drought) but every “within the week,” and “maybe soon,” felt like a slap in the face.
Now that my livelihood depends on this, there is so much pressure it can get overwhelming. I have a lot of help and support, my friends and family are amazing. But if I let myself think too hard about the amount of debt I’m in, or how much I need to bring in to break even any given month, I’m liable to go catatonic. Every set back feels like the end of the world. The fact that I struggle with anxiety and a tendency to set impossibly high standards for myself doesn’t help things much. At least once a day, I feel like a loser and a failure. Like everyone must think I’m just sitting on the couch all day calling myself a freelancer so my boyfriend won’t expect me to go out and get a real job.
Not that anyone has ever actually said anything even remotely like that to my face. It’s just something the crazy lady in my head likes to throw around when I’m feeling particularly stressed out. She’s a bitch.
When it gets like this though, I know I can vent my troubles to any one of the members of my support system. My friends, my family, and my boyfriend all have my back in the most amazing ways. They all believe in me so much it makes me cry. They’re all really smart people too, so if they think I can do it then I guess I have to believe it too.
If there are any other beginning freelancers out there feeling this way, I hope it helps to know you’re not alone. I know it makes me feel better to be reminded that I’m just starting out. None of the people I look up to as examples of where I want to be got there without starting out where I currently am. So I’m going to keep trucking, and I hope you will too. Leave me a message and we can have a pity party. And when we’re done, we’ll tell each other to get back in the saddle.