At the junction of practicality and professionalism, it can be difficult to know the direction in which we should venture forth. I found myself at such a crossroads recently, although I didn’t arrive suddenly, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve not been at the same intersection before.
“I miss writing, though,… and I think that means something.”
I’ve been writing and finding joy in writing since I was of some single-digit age. In perhaps grade five or six, I was regularly churning out serialized episodes of a superhero story involving a cartoon protagonist I’d stolen from a cheap but locally recognized television commercial campaign (“Captain Colortyme”).
I liked writing it, and my friends liked reading it. They would pester me to hurry in finishing the next installment, and I would take an uncharacteristic pride in seeing them eagerly await their turn to read my hand-scrawled notebook pages of text.
It was probably then, or at some unnamed time before that when a teacher praised an assignment or when I excelled at a writing exercise, that I began to believe I was better than average at writing. I tucked this neatly to the side like a cute little hobby or a guilty pleasure, without ever giving it concrete, practical consideration as a professional focus.
I relegated it in my mind to a secondary skill appropriate only for supporting what I perceived to be more responsible, more easily quantifiable professional pursuits. While I was translating or analyzing national intelligence information, it was permitted to peek out now and then, glinting behind data transfers and rigid protocols. At other times, I abandoned it completely.
I’ve recently been on the rebound from one of those abandonment periods, and I’m wondering what has taken me so long. The past few years, for all the practical reasons that go along with trying to make a living and to at least look like a responsible adult, I’ve been working 40-hour per week time-clock punching jobs in which writing ability couldn’t be less of a factor.
I miss writing, though, and I know I would never miss these other jobs. And I think that means something. I don’t really know how good of a writer I am or how good I can become, but I know I’ll never be a good automotive service adviser; I know I’ll never be a good lab technician or print shop production manager. And, honestly, the difference is that I wouldn’t even want to be.
Still, the question has never really been about what interests me or about what I enjoy. My enjoyment level doesn’t pay my electric bill on its own. Full-time employment status under someone else’s company comes with the inherent promise of a regular paycheck; freelance writing only does if I’m good enough at it and if I can effectively monetize it.
The trade-off, we all know, is security for freedom. The waters are muddier than that, though. The security of full-time employment only lasts as long as my employer is willing to employ me, and this is inevitably based on performance as well. Freedom to succeed on my own, however, also means the freedom to fail alone while not being the only one affected.
I’ve had to weigh my own current daily dread for the upcoming work shift against the disappointment I imagine seeing in my partner’s face if I can’t properly contribute to our household income. The gravity of the decision is nearly incapacitating. Still, something has to change.
I’ve been traveling the hard-packed, clear cut roads of practicality for a long time now, and I’m not sure that I like where they are leading. This time I’m taking the road less traveled. I understand that it means less certainty and less safety. I’m hoping it also means a better destination and a better overall journey along the way.
Follow me on Medium or on Twitter, and accompany me as I wade into the freelance writing experience in an attempt to inject meaning and passion into my means of survival.