Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner once said, “The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.”
Faulkner wasn’t far off the truth, but he neglected to mention one very important thing: the gift the life of a freelance writer brings with it. It’s not just the freedom to work the hours you want; it’s the opportunity to step into people’s lives, to learn about their business and their passions—not to mention the chance to expand your personal knowledge. Besides, the income may not be guaranteed, or particularly lucrative, but you are essentially your own boss. Don’t want to write about fur trapping in Northern Manitoba, Canada? You can pass. Think interviewing a scientist experimenting with non-opiate poppies might be a blast? Take it on.
Of course, I wasn’t always a freelance writer. Past jobs have included:
Credit Manager for a large insurance company (where I started as a file clerk, worked my way up the corporate ladder to Canadian Division Credit Manager, turned down a H.O. job in Boston, and subsequently met and married my husband); Credit and Office Services Manager for a manufacturer of fan belts and other automotive and industrial equipment (every bit as horrid as it sounds, and perhaps even worse, especially during physical inventory); Credit & Collections Supervisor for a chain of automotive glass replacement retailers (where I became friends with, and worked alongside, some of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure to know); and Sales & Marketing Coordinator for a high-end office equipment manufacturer (which had two advantages: it was close to home, and it offered the dull, drab, mind-numbing dreariness of everyday life that finally prompted me to take some creative writing workshops and courses, and pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a writer).
Now, truth be told, my mother probably would have been far happier if I’d stayed in the corporate, business suit wearing life (also known as “a regular job”). But I think it’s because of my mother that I finally had to courage to venture away from the “known” to the “unknown.” After all, if there’s a superstition, she instilled it into me (even if I hate to admit it).
It goes way beyond not walking underneath a ladder, or not crossing the path of a black cat, or sprinkling salt over your left shoulder if you accidentally spilled some. Whatever dire thing happened, my mother always offered up two platitudes: “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and “When one door closes, another one opens.”
I want to believe there is some truth to both adages, and in my case, at least, when one door did close (I was downsized from the mind-numbing job), another one opened (my first freelance article was published). But I also believe we can at least attempt to foster our own good fortune. And that’s where my personal mantras come in:
1) Do the best job you can, regardless of accolades or material compensation. You never know where something will lead (and if you don’t put your heart and soul into something, you are virtually guaranteed a poor outcome).
2) Always pay a kindness forward. What goes around, comes around (and even if it doesn’t, it’s just the right thing to do).
Most importantly, give yourself permission to follow your dreams. After all, they can’t get far without you.