Monday, December 13, 2010

My Own Worst Frenemy

The single greatest and single worst thing about being self-employed is having total ownership of my time.

Back when I had a full-time day job, I prided myself on not taking it home with me. I got my work done between the hours of 9 and 5, then I hightailed it out of the office and went home to my nights of housework and Must-See TV and whatever else occupied the post-5pm hours of my (very non-industrious) 20s. I barely turned on a computer outside the office because, after staring at a screen all day, every day, why would I have spent my free time doing the same thing? The thought of working outside the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 realm was abhorrent to me.

Enter 2010. This week, my schedule looked like this: Monday, work from home. Fit in a little housework, a little fiction writing, a little reading here and there when my deadlines allowed. Pay for it by working straight up until 7 pm-ish. Tuesday, work from home between 10 and 2:45 while kid at preschool. Wednesday, ditto Monday, only leave a little work unfinished and vow to get it done by end of weekend. Thursday, work at (design firm) office from 10 to 5. Friday, fit in work around mommying wherever I can. Drop kid off at in-laws long enough to squeeze in design client presentation. Saturday, unplug. Sunday, reluctantly drive out into the cold for pre-church story interview. Feel guilt over Wednesday's unfinished work that did not, in fact, get done by end of weekend.

Then blog about it all at 1:30am while, of all things, procrastinating on the WIP.

And thank God and my lucky stars that this is my life now. If there's one lesson I've learned in my career so far, it's that no job is perfect ... not even one where I'm making up the rules. Sure, maybe as I get better at this freelance career thing I'll find ways to fit more work into the 9 to 5 hours and less in my free time, but if not, I'm not too worried about it - because I'm able to fit free time into my 9 to 5 hours.

That's a beautiful thing.

Maybe back in the day I didn't physically take work home with me, but the 9 to 5 drone numbed my brain and zapped my creativity - hence the nights of Must-See TV. Plus I carried the stress of my job on my shoulders at all times. Now, I definitely wouldn't say my career is stress-free (especially on those rare Sunday nights when I'm sweating till the wee hours over a Monday morning deadline), but I have built-in mechanisms to deal with the stress.

Like taking a time-out for a cup of tea in my own living room in the middle of the workday. Or snagging a day off for a play-date with my son without eating into my measly two weeks' vacation time. Or choosing to go light on assignments one week because I'm busy or tired. Or writing, because I love it so much I can do it all day and still look forward to opening the WIP at 11pm when the house is finally quiet.

Yep, I can be my own worst frenemy work-wise. But I love my work for the first time in my career.

Photo courtesy Scott Cranfill


  1. I can relate to this! I'm not self-employed, but I work in an office three days a week, from home two days a week, have upcoming deadlines for my book contracts, and have a two-year-old. I love my life - but I've had to learn how to juggle!

  2. Juggle is definitely a good word for it. Sometimes I think about how many different things I should be doing at a particular moment and just feel ... frozen. Then, somehow, I power through them one at a time.

    Good luck with everything you have going on!

  3. Thank you for sharing the woes of being a self-employed writer--and the fact that it's still worth it. You articulated my struggle perfectly! But like you, I wouldn't trade it fir anything :-)

  4. Hi Cheryl,
    Yep, I'm sitting here at my desk getting ready to move on to the next assignment and feeling oh-so-thankful I'm able to do it with my fuzzy slippers tucked in under my own desk. :)

    Have a great week!