Since getting laid off in the fall of 2011 from my full-time magazine editing job, I've called myself a full-time writer and editor. Technically, that has been true, and in the last two years I've added a lot more teaching and consulting to that equation. But this past week, I've realized how not quite accurate that was, because that definition of "full-time" had a lot of give and take, a lot more lee-way. You don't have that when you're on tap to file, file, file. Maybe that's obvious to anyone who's had a newspaper job or a more strenuous freelance career. The truth is, I got lazy. My books were doing okay, so I was able to coast. Then, last year, that abruptly ended and I've got zero tricks left to try to get my books back into some semblance of popularity. I still have hope, which is why I do things like give away free books to Thunderclap supporters. It's more a matter of my time; I have to use it as wisely as possible, and book promotion has fallen by the wayside in favor of earning a living. Ultimately, the lesson that I may love my books, but the world may not, was a good thing because it showed me I cannot rely on something so precarious if I want to support myself and, hopefully, a child. That would be utterly foolish and I don't want to make the same mistake twice.
So when I got offered new work out of the blue, of course I took it (I don't say yes to everything, but I do my best to pursue writing opportunities that will help my bank account and my career). Hence, this week, I've gotten up before six every day and been going-going-going what feels like the entire day, with a little time with my boyfriend, and then back at it. It's an honor to have editors believe in my work enough to ask me to not only write for them, but trust that my story ideas are worthy. Writing for Salon, in this case, is something I dreamed of for a decade before it finally happened.
So I am in no way complaining, just noting that this week was a handful. It's meant constantly being on my laptop so that I can reply to the latest round of edits on an essay, scouring the internet for something noteworthy to cover, interviewing authors, planning upcoming sex columns, promoting the ones that went up. It's been wonderful, but definitely not a pace I could keep up forever, even though I definitely need the money. As I try to be a responsible adult in middle age, for the first time in my life, I'm trying to truly live by the Serenity Prayer and abandon the aspects of my career I have no control over and focus on the ones I do. This is also part of flexibility: recognizing what's not working and choosing to move into new arenas, rather than literally doing the same thing over and over again. It's a challenge, and one I don't always live up to, but I'm trying, and I'm writing this post mostly to highlight, for me, that I can do it, even when it seems hard or impossible. That even though being this kind of full-time around-the-clock writer can feel daunting, I have work I can truly be proud of to show for it and it can be about topics as varied as I am. And who knows? Maybe someday I won't be doing all of this from home, and I'll get to work at a cool office where the fast pace will be fun and I'll have colleagues to bounce ideas off of. Part of me would absolutely love that; I miss co-workers, and think I'd enjoy the fast pace of that kind of writing or editing job. I don't mind fast-paced, but I think the other side of loving what you do is being able to have a little time away from it too, hopefully.
While writing this post, I took a Facebook break and found this piece in The New York Times on "Why You Hate Work" by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath. From that article: "The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become." I get that, intensely. I want to make it clear, I don't hate my work, I just don't want to get burned out and then give up and then not hold up my share of my household duties. That is my biggest fear, which is different than when I lived alone. Then, I was the only one to answer to. Now, there's an added layer of shame when I have to borrow money for rent because I didn't save enough, or a check was later than expected, or whatever the issue du jour.
I'm wrapping up next week's articles and columns and then putting on a different hat: LitReactor writing teacher. I can't wait to dive in with my 16 students and see what they come up with, and I am also hoping to book upcoming online classes as well.
I didn't write all of these this week, but this is what I've published from Saturday to Friday. Thank you for believing in me, editors, and thank you for reading. Yes, there's lots more next week. I look forward to more, just at a slightly less crazy pace. On the off chance you're an editor reading this and you like my writing, please don't let my pre-coffee 8:35 on a Saturday morning tone discourage you; I'm available for work, starting now. Okay, after my coffee.
"Do condoms kill the mood of a book? Erotica authors don't agree on safe sex demands" for Salon
"Why Marriages Cannot Be End Goals (And The Ways We Still Convince Women They Are)" for Thought Catalog
"Old magazines, stuffed animals, and sex toys: How hoarding shaped my relationship " for Washington Post Post Everything
"Fresh Meat: Fry Another Day by J.J. Cook" for Criminal Element
"Sex shop crimes: How vandals, creeps and violence threaten our neighborhood vibrator peddlers" for Salon
"The Huffington Post's 'good news' experiment is bad news for Facebook" for The Daily Dot
"Meet a sexier, smarter Dom than Christian Grey" for Philadelphia City Paper
"Christian sex activists warn against the “dangers of mommy porn” and “50 Shades of Grey”" for Salon
"The anti-Pick Up Artist’s Guide: A new graphic novel teaches teen boys how to form healthy hook-ups" for Salon