Caged In

Freelancing. Ahh, the good life, right?

Hahaha. Maybe. Some days.

Some days it gives you the freedom to be places you couldn’t otherwise get to during “normal business” hours. Like brunch with a friend or time with aging loved ones. Some days it gives you the freedom to work in your pajamas and avoid traffic or slick roads.

And a big plus for introverted freelancers is that, normally, there are no people in your actual space. Only in cyberspace. Faceless emails and screen names. But no whining, drama, or fit-throwing takes place in the comfort zone of working from home (unless you have small children, teenagers, a spouse, and/or an elderly cat, then all bets on whining, drama, and fit-throwing are off). All client fits, customer complaints, or otherwise unhappy work-related instances happen behind the glowing screen.

The ultimate goal, the infamous five-year plan (or howmanyeveryearsittakesalready plan), is to stop the freelancing gigs and just write. No more checking for work. No more pooled jobs, where if you don’t “keep swimming” you miss out on income. No more making clients and writers happy. Just making this writer happy. *Grin*

I’m blessed in that I have a supportive husband who encourages this plan and cheers me on—albeit he doesn’t know how to read the do not disturb signs. Some may never be able to quit their day job to pursue a dream. I’m spoiled rotten, and I know it. (Even as he stands here and tells me he doesn’t read my blog and doesn’t even know how to access it. Baby steps, itty bitty ones.)

But in the meantime, I’ll keep swimming, editing, and, occasionally, I’ll take up a gig that requires writing to spec.

Which means writing nonfiction to specification. Following someone else’s directions to the letter, dotting each little i and crossing each little t, no matter how insane their wishes may be.

My very first spec job was an informative blog article about the care and keeping of bearded dragons. This required substantially more research than what the job paid me to do, and, in the end, I did learn a lot, but I didn’t earn a lot.

I’ve taken gigs writing product descriptions for a gardening company. They wanted 175 words about each of their differently colored rose bushes. Go ahead. Try that. Put your word counter on. See just how many words 175 is AND make each product description different from the other—even though it’s the same blasted bush in five different colors.

What I wanted to write was “Here’s a rose bush. It’s pretty. It’ll smell nice. Don’t kill it.” Or “Here’s the same bush as item #133, but in pink. It has thorns. Wear gloves when you plant it. Or, live on the edge and don’t wear gloves. Knock yourself out.”

175 words of pure fluffy bull content that, like the bearded dragon piece, took way too long to write and paid way too little.

All the pieces I’ve written to spec (including landscaping articles, pest removal services, medical and legal blogs and all those blasted product descriptions) are now copyrighted under some company’s name—it’s in the contract that writers give up rights to those pieces upon submission. It’s how the content-creation game is played. I’m not even to speak of the specific companies I’ve written for. That’s okay. They can have those pieces because I won’t need them where I’m going.

But I did learn something very valuable. Writing to spec takes pieces of my soul (or at least my creative energy) and those pieces don’t grow back right away. It takes them a bit to regenerate…

Those writing jobs put me in a cage. No creativity allowed. Only the black hole of precise formatting, search engine optimizing, and metadata nightmares. I’m typically a black-and-white thinker and you’d think that I’d thrive under such specific directions and requests, but when it comes to creating something—even nonfiction—I don’t appreciate those boundaries.

After spending a morning or afternoon writing content like that, I’ve got no juice left. My Muse is in her cage and won’t come out and play no matter how many ways I try to unlock the door. She stomps her prissy little feet and whines, “You’ve done gone and wasted the words on someone else. We’ll never seeeee themmmmm agaaain!!!!”

And it takes her a good long time before she’s ready to talk to me again.

The real kicker—when I switched to editing content instead of writing it—was when a company from overseas asked me to write product descriptions.

For mail-order brides.

I left that particular platform and never looked back. And no. I have no content copyrighted under anyone else’s business having to do with the sale of people.

I won’t edit those types of pieces either, no matter what the pay. Good grief. With the close of a tab, I sent that jaw-dropping ridiculous assignment back into cyberspace.

At any rate, I’m thankful for my current gigs. And I’m learning that my creativity works best in the morning hours, so I’m making it a priority to get words out before the gigs take over and slowly cage up the Muse, bar by bar.

About the time I’m ready to turn in for the night, the bars loosen, and she slips out of that cage and starts to tickle the far corners of my brain. Gee thanks, girl. Can we put it on hold until tomorrow morning?

Sometimes she lets me. Sometimes not. I at least try to jot down ideas to satisfy her and not lose the gems and sparkles she points out.

Sometimes I force her back into the cage for the night in exchange for much-needed sleep. But only sometimes. Because if I ignore her too often, she gets even. She stages a jail break during my REM stage and I end up sleep walking in the hallway, holding the hand of an aunt I haven’t seen in years, or dreaming of thorny technicolor rose bushes floating above my head in hi-def.

Do what you need to for your day job, but let the Muse out to play once in a while. It’s not worth your sanity to keep her caged…

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog and the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.