It's a rare still moment where I am enjoying the quiet of a snowy Sunday morning, before breakfast, before coffee even, before shoveling. I've been working a lot, almost around the clock. Not all the time, but enough that the rhythm of my workdays blends into my nights, which I know is not sustainable in the long term, but is how things are going the next few weeks between lots of writing deadlines, getting the book I am extremely excited about, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica proofread and now working on promotions and events for it, and teaching my current LitReactor class. It's such a huge and welcome change from last year, when I was scrambling for work, but I think the other big difference is that this year, I am embracing being at home.
Last year I was still adjusting to life in suburbia and half thought I still lived in New York. I took the fact that I could take a close to hour and a half almost $30 train into the Big Apple to mean that I should. This year, I'm trying to be very sparing in my visits. Last Monday, I did brave the cold to head to Brooklyn for a reading at BookCourt, which was lovely and had a thoughtful discussion, but it made me realize that I probably will not say yes to readings in January or February in the future. It was a little too cold for most people to come out, which is totally understandable. I'm going into New York tomorrow to see the play Cootie Catcher to write about it for my Philadelphia City Paper column, and then am speaking on March 14th in my old neighborhood of Williamsburg as part of a screening of the porn film Dirty Diaries. In March I'll also be traveling, once for pleasure, and then a string of events for work in Richmond, Charlottesville, Baltimore and Arlington.
I used to do things like that without considering what it would cost in terms of money or time. Now, I have to consider every trip, even ones to "the city," and the result has meant I mainly choose to stay home, which not only saves money, but frees up my time to think and plot and plan and pitch and write and edit. Maybe some people can do those in a spare hour or two here and there, but for me, I like to have a few hours before and after what I'm supposed to be doing to give myself that freedom to focus. Maybe I won't always have that time (if I get the only thing I truly want in this universe, I hope to have far far less free time), but for now, I do and it's been such a blessing. This year has brought so many unexpectedly wonderful opportunities, and I credit them to not incessantly racing away from home, racing off to do this, that and the other thing. It's taught me to both value my time and money and to value myself, and that by saying no more than I used to, I'm saying yes to my long-term goals.
This is very different from how I used to think and act. I used to say yes to everything because I was so afraid there wouldn't be other opportunities. I didn't consider the strain on my mind or body to be constantly on the go. I would do things that in hindsight seem insane and so anti-business it's no wonder I was so broke last year, like fly out to readings (obviously on my own dime) and then spend $50 or $60 bringing cupcakes to them. I thought I had to spend all this money I didn't really have to get people to come out to my events. I thought that this was normal. I didn't consider that that money might be better invested in my business in other ways. I'm not saying those events weren't fun, merely that now I am very aware that, yes, it's an honor and exciting to be part of LoveFest in Charlottesville next month, but it's an honor that I will pay for. If I am not bringing in enough income from writing/editing/teaching, then doing things like that are wasteful, no matter how exciting it may feel to me in the moment. So right now, while doing my taxes and thinking about next steps, I'm making sure every penny I spend on my work, even if it's a subway ride to an event, is worth it, that it makes sense for me. Because if it doesn't, then I have to look out for myself.
Being in New Jersey, being separated from most of my friends and embracing being a homebody who works from home, has given me a creative freedom I couldn't have imagined. I used to go to the wonderful Gimme Coffee every single day when I lived in Brooklyn. I loved it there and if I still lived in Williamsburg I probably still would go, even though I now have a coffeepot and favorite mug and they are my morning rituals that I truly can't live without. But for those freelancing years after I got laid off in 2011, I would easily spend at least $5 a day on coffee plus tip, plus the occasional pastry. Granted, I'd spend many hours in Gimme Coffee, so I totally got my money's worth and wrote pieces I'm proud of. But having an actual home that feels like a home rather than a pit of slovenliness, is this gift that I sometimes feel unworthy of, yet have fully embraced. I sometimes lately have these "pinch me" moments of Do I really get to do this for a living?, but then remind myself that I'm here because I've earned it, I've been working hard, I've been figuring out what works for me and what doesn't. My desk is crazy and needs a good cleaning, but it's also in the office which is the warmest part of the house. It's cozy and has a printer (yes, I didn't have a printer when I lived in Brooklyn) and makes me feel professional in the same way gathering my 1099s and using my whiteboard does. After way too long of floating through my working life, I am finally, despite what this desk looks like, getting organized, getting clear, making myself my first priority. It feels a little scary, but a lot like I'm on exactly the right path. I'm not even going to berate myself for taking until age 39 to get here.