I've been plugging away at this self-employed freelance writer thing for a few years now, and I'm proud to say that I'm now very, very successful at it. Almost too successful, in fact. Because I now have so much good-paying work being offered to me by many different clients that I've spent the past 2 weeks working 12-18 hour days. Not to mention proofing galleys and audiobooks for my published novels on tight deadlines for my book editors. It's grueling, but rewarding. And not just financially. Having people come out of the woodwork completely unsolicited offering you good money to write for them sure is a confidence booster.
It's odd, though. Even though I'm thankful for the success, in today's troubled economic times I can't help but feel a little guilty to be doing so well. (Especially when I was struggling myself not that long ago.) I know lots of unemployed writers, many of them former newspaper reporters and magazine/book editors who've lost their jobs in publishing, some of whom had been working as professional writers for 30 years or more and now don't know where their next meals are coming from. Plus there are tons more writers who struggle to write on the side while working day jobs they hate (if they're lucky enough to have day jobs at all), and they seldom make more than the price of a Chinese dinner for their writing---if even that much. But for me, this year has been a banquet, and it keeps getting better and better.
But then again, it kind of follows my longstanding pattern of going against the grain in life. In the late 90s, when the economy was on a tear and people all around me were making money hand over fist, I was barely getting by. I worked staff writer/editor jobs that paid a pittance when I was lucky, and waited tables/worked in retail when I wasn't so lucky (staff writer/editor jobs are the last hired and first fired even in good times). I did freelance writing on the side, contributing articles to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, and numerous magazines, but the pay for that was low and intermittent, though it helped me build a nice portfolio of clips. Plus I was living in a big expensive city, I was single, I had massive student loan debt (now mostly paid off) and a low/mostly unstable income. I had friends from grad school who had originally aspired to be writers choose different careers because they didn't want to live hand to mouth; they made more money than I did but weren't necessarily happier. But I wanted to be a writer, dammit, and I swore I'd never give up the dream. Seventeen years later, I still haven't, and now I'm the envy of many of those friends.
But I'm still not satisfied. I won't be until I have a book on the New York Times Bestseller list. Then two. Then four. Then all of them made into films. Then, I want my ultimate childhood fantasy fulfilled----I want one of my plays to get a successful run on Broadway, preferably to include a Tony (maybe even a Pulitzer, but one thing at a time).
Okay, okay, maybe I'm getting carried away now. But the thing is, even though this recession and job market are brutal for a lot of people, I'm doing better professionally now than I've ever done in my entire life. I'm thankful for it, I appreciate it. And I'll keep right on working my ass off. I've only been doing it for seventeen years now.
Gotta go, deadlines await.