Archive for July, 2009

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Why a vacation might be a good idea for Mr. Sanity

July 22, 2009

“She’s turning her life into something sacred: Each breath a new birth. Each moment, a new chance. She bows her head, gathers her dreams from a pure, deep stream and stretches her arms towards the sky. It is here where she must begin to tell her story.” ~ Monique Duval

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One of the hiking trails I adventured.

I’m back from vacation!Given my current funemployment status, escaping the city for a week of hiking, boating, camping and swimming in Georgian Bay was the ultimate treat. Okay, maybe minus the last part. The water is so cold there it’s like a brain freeze in your feet! And when I say camping, what I really mean is staying in a cabin with cable and a real toilet…

But throughout my Indiana Jones adventures, I came to the realization that freelancers really should embrace holidays. Unlike most professions, when you’re working for yourself, it’s easy to hit burnout. Freelancers tend to work longer hours and push themselves beyond their limits. And we’re probably closer to losing our sanity than any teacher I know. I’m sure I won’t be the first or last person to tell you – when you put down the pitches, interviews, writing and re-writings – your world will not end. Your clients will still be there when you get back. And it’s crucial that you recharge your batteries if you want to maintain the quality of your work.

  1. The ‘F’ in freelance should stand for flexibility, not freak-out. One of the reasons many people cite their love of freelancing is because of the flexibility it affords. So why kick it to the curb for the sake of overworking yourself? You might as well return to the cubicle from whence you came, as Shakespeare might put it. Giving yourself a vacation from time-to-time is a healthy habit to get into. Even if you’re not sailing away to some tropical island for a couple weeks, a short-term no-work period or long weekend can do wonders for relieving frustration and revitalizing your spirits.
  2. A change of scenery will perk up your creativity and provide you with a fresh outlook. Sometimes writer’s block can spawn from simply being in the same working environment day-in and day-out. Whether you’re hauling your laptop to Cancun or the local coffee shop, a ‘vacation’ from your familiar writing space can spark inspiration and innovation. Being physically active and outdoors for an entire week instead of doing the zombie slouch in a cramped, musty office space helped me to generate a lot of new ideas.
  3. Sometimes your friends and family could use a little undivided attention. They’re used to your deadpan stare focused on the computer screen, your constant need to surrender to the beeps of your Crackberry, or those late nights you spend frantically typing away when you’ve got a project deadline to meet. Occasionally, they could use a little TLC, without the interruptions of your typical day in the office.

Many freelancers fear taking vacation time because the need for income overshadows the temporary flight from responsibilities. For a busy freelancer, this can take some time management, planning and juggling. But it is possible. Multi-tasking should come easily to you anyways, right?

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One door closes so that another can open

July 2, 2009

Well, my impending lay-off finally happened.  Although you might expect that I’d be crying in my beer about it, I’m not.  I’m actually very happy…elated really.  Sure, financially, it would be better to be fully employed, and the timing isn’t so great (is there ever a good time to get laid off?) but emotionally and career wise, this couldn’t have happened to a better person.  Granted, I loved a lot of things about my job, but I actually love much more what my job did not afford me the opportunity to do.  And now, I finally get the chance to give some of those things a fair shot and spend my time on the things that I really want to focus on. ~ from Brett’s Blog

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If that quote didn’t spill the beans, I’ll be less subtle. I got laid off.

But like Brett, I don’t see this as a negative. I saw it coming (many miles away). Granted, it came a bit earlier than expected. Still, I truly believe that all things happen for a reason.

When my boss pulled me into his office and used those familiar danger zone phrases – not enough work, budget cuts, slow downs – I watched him with a certain level of curiousity. He appeared nervous…regretful, almost. There was sweat breaking across his brow line. His composure faltered, if only a little. He even apologized to me. When I took the news with nothing more than a smile and told him I understood, his confusion became apparent. I’m not sure what he expected. I certainly wasn’t planning on balling my eyes out and marking his final memory of me as some mucous-drenched, sniveling wreck. I was going to go out like an Amazon!

I got a call from my sister after she found out, her voice swampy and warm, like she was completely in touch with a sadness I didn’t feel. And many of my friends who immediately heard the news after I walked out of that office were floored and concerned for my well-being. Touched as I was by their sympathy, I don’t think they understood my elation.

I suppose I’m so calm because I accept this as a new chapter in my life, and a much-needed one at that. I’m no longer afraid to face my career-related fears head-on. Instead, I’m ready for the jump. I’m eager to see what I’m made of. I’m prepared to stop making excuses and go after what I want, rather than allow myself to get comfortable at a dead-end job I abhor. This past year I’ve been in a slump, and only now do I feel like I’m breaking free.

In all honesty, this is the best thing that could’ve happened to me.


I find it especially interesting that this incident came about after I had an eye-opening exchange with freelance journalist Mridu Khullar. This is how it went…

Me:  For the past year since I graduated, I’ve been bored to tears in an office cubicle that makes me want to poke my eyeballs out with a Sharpie. I seriously can’t stand it, my skills aren’t being utilized, and I don’t feel stimulated in the least. I think perhaps my brain cells are dying. You’re pretty much living the life I’d love to have. I really want to pursue a full-time career in freelance writing.

Her:  It’s a tough business, there’s no doubt about that. But really, it’s not as tough as some people make it out to be. There are hundreds, thousands, of people all over the world who are freelancing very successfully and getting work regularly. They’re not all the best writers, but they’re certainly professional businesspeople who treat their work as such. You can absolutely be one of them.

Freelance writer Stephanie Miller also gave me an invaluable tidbit of advice when she said: If it’s one piece of advice I can offer you now: JUST DO IT! You’ve already done a lot of preparation and, besides, you’ll learn along the way. Actually, you never stop learning! Once you SAY you’re a ‘professional writer’, you ARE. You simply have to get comfortable with the idea that you now charge for your expertise. At this point, it’s all about gaining confidence.

Here’s to new opportunities and taking life by the balls.