Freelance VS Fear

It’s four am and utterly silent outside while a storm rages within me. The writing job is, like the chair I sat in for over eight hours a day, being pulled out from under me. I rail and pace and study my half-toned abs, awake too early, sipping red wine in my plan to go back to bed, after I find the thing to kick, punch or scream at. Four am is dark, still and warm for February, an intimate pocket of reflection between night and morning.

Four am is the time when the meat of sleep is over and, should you be so inclined, you can rest a little longer in that next stage, which I suppose could be the side dish. I don’t want to sleep and I do. I don’t want that job and I do. I am not angry and I am. It is pitch black dark, no sound of a car engine can be heard and there are shimmering pools of streetlights far below my window. Both things-light and dark are here, as are bad and good news.

I’m exhausted, fried to a crisp. I need a week or two off from the job of writing (that I am so grateful for!). I could get on top of the feeling that I’m sliding into a pit of feeling hard done by. I need to just write my guts out and let this shit go. I’ll be a writer even after this—I write every day at that wretched post, so writing is like breathing, now. That’s the bigger reality. From afar, if I could lift myself up a few miles and look down, would I see that this is all rather benign and wasn’t it always a risky proposition, this concept of a work visa that has to be renewed annually?

Two truths 

It is becoming obvious that there are-in every moment-two contradictory truths. This thing that is happening at me: job insecurity, employers who aren’t sure if they can keep me and have asked me to stay and then asked me to wait for a few weeks to make sure they can offer me a job-that is all the noise, the distracting chatter, the background static still echoing in my head.

What is at the center, past this distracting crisis, is me putting my fingers onto a keyboard and producing my own song. Looking at my core muscles is important, since that is me, not the job. I am steeling myself, training to shatter the stuckness, the inertia, the weight of the world sticking to my ribs. My own foibles, folly and frailty. The place where I am trapped and waiting for a break just now is not unfamiliar. I have had this mosquito buzzing at my ear before, but I am aware this time around. Sort of. It’s all still a jumble I haven’t worked through. Writing about the Non-Farm Payrolls, about US job growth and wages rising, about unemployment of 4.1%. From an island that feels like kin to Greece, I write that 20% is a low estimate of that nation’s unemployment. I type away, badly, on a keyboard about these things, knowing I must empty my desk drawer in a week. It is…hard.  And the joy rising in me is as beautiful as feeling really alive again is.

I haven’t lost my job. It’s right down there, I can see the lights from here. I know where it is- it’s 40 minutes’ drive every day into an office that is clinical, devoid of soul; an IKEA desk and chair and a computer that I switch on, plug into and produce work from. Fear of losing my pay check, losing my ability to pay rent, losing my home, has kept me bound to the pages I produce. In my uneasy sleep, I dream in the sections of the deadline I dread, and greet, again, every day. I don’t even like weekends, like this, since there’s never enough time to recharge, what with ironing my business attire and preparing lunches for the week ahead.

The massive blue, blood red super moon hidden behind the clouds is a herald of changes. The new year is still so fresh that my fearful thoughts of leaving my home and moving in with a friend seem dramatically unwarranted. I’m grateful for the options the company is holding out towards me—working freelance for them—that keep the pennies and pounds from heaven coming around the next bend. I’m also glad for my sister’s wisdom, learned as a perennial government contract worker, that a job ending isn’t something to take personally. No one says I can’t write, they are just sacking all of their writers, but they hope to keep me. That’s nice…ish. But still, I scan the horizon for what next?

My worst-case scenario is that I lose this job, that the option of staying on as a freelancer doesn’t materialize. That fills me with more excitement than fear. I get time to do the work I would rather do! I can finish my neglected memoir Token Yank! I am freed from the penance of hauling my dressed-up, mascara-ed ass in there and that squandered time is mine! I get to write about what I decide to write about at four am or 4 pm.

Write, move your body, write!

I can work out in between assignments; I can clock out, clear my mind and come back when I am biologically freshened. It is so hard to sit and churn it out for nine hours, five days a week… Each session is survival, then weeks pass, you stop being alive to yourself or anyone else. You are deeply tired, then exhausted. I limped in with a broken foot and never sought medical care that was within walking distance. I was afraid I’d loss my place if I took an hour off to see a doctor. Wow. That was what I was willing to sacrifice, what I’m letting go of.

I can make this work for me. Hell, now that I don’t have a broken foot, I can learn to type properly. That would be fun. It really is fun to begin shaking this job off, and I can get paid to write about more than job growth and unemployment rates. Well, either I can, or I can’t, and I’d get to find out what I can do, if I let go of this white knuckled desperation.

It’s five o’clock. The roosters are persistently crowing, as if urging the sun into the inky sky. All is well and so utterly screwed up. A pair of truths, one in each hand, exist in tandem. My eyelids heavy, it’s quieter inside of me than it was, now before the dawn of another Sunday.

It’s hard to know in your bones that you’re going to lose a job that’s paid you decently to write for two years. I got what I needed out of the bargain, and now, fearful or free, my apprenticeship concludes, my work to write better continues.

I wonder how much faster I can learn to type once I quit looking at the keyboard, unsure of myself and the truths I hold in my two hands?

Learn WordPress and Yoast, kid.

What’s true for any writing job is the same truism you’ll hear for free lancing and authoring of any variety- dude, you gotta get some social media skills.I’m on a long distance team with a very patient genius who can post a website page in ten minutes.It’s powered by WordPress , so why doesn’t it look anything like the screen  I have before me? Where are the toolbars and the side menu? Ah- yes that might be Yoast, mightn’t it?

I honestly asked if I could come in on the weekend and ‘play with the assignment’, knowing I’d not likely be much swifter at uploading the same sort of complex page from here. Sure- I can play with hyperlinks…but I knew that  before the tsunami of ‘holy cannoli batman- what’s all that information coming at me!’ came…at me.

Playing with an image editor- I’ve seen a tutorial which came from a video that had waaay more info than this screen now shows. So…here’s how you learn, right? More playing!

learning

Learning is fun, right?

Acing the Writing Job means…

Holy cow, they expect me to write content that’s-what? Based on metrics? And delve into financially dulled data emerging with some fascinating insights that that 6 minutes to read? Ok, sure it’s SEO friendly, that isn’t too hard to figure out, but as the last reflections of sunlight drain from the sky, I blink toward the dark unknown fearing the challenges that must certainly be ahead.

This is the reward of getting a paid writing job! The certainty that uncertainty is around the corner. It liberates the critical broken record that plays in my head- that voice seeking safety at all costs has woken up to demand center stage. Images of my  future self’s failure to learn something are flickering on my mental screen now,before I’ve even made my first day’s appearance. Okay, you’re a familiar lie, I nod, playing the kinder mentor to myself.

The thing I know for sure is that writing is what I’m doing now, to deal with feeling nervous about writing.And I’ll write about learning new techniques, too. I’ll find writing tedious and no doubt write that I’m sick of writing. And then edit that and whine about being sick of editing. Writing is what helps me learn and so what better than a chance to learn more about writing? I can’t know more than I know today, although writing has helped me imagine what a year from today may be. I wrote  about getting through a first year at the job and it worked like a lasso to pull my imagination  into visualizing success.

If I didn’t write, I can’t imagine who I’d be. I can imagine both trial and triumph, success and setbacks in the new job ahead. In crafting sentences that readers can well imagine, I’ll be extending this habit that sustains me. My neighbor told me that the job was meant just for me- a kindness meant to reassure me as I explained how in shock I was. It is, however a possibility. It’s an open door  in a mansion full of words I’ve yet to shape into form.

Getting Those Babies In The Sun

Writing can be too dang solitary. Lots of writers work in coffee shops because being near other people gives them the ability to cop a buzz of energy. I laughed today when I passed the village coffee shop, snickered at the ludicrous image of myself trying to focus on writing there. Since I write non-fiction, maybe this is a stretch toward making new patterns, the following imaginary interaction which is fiction:

The men nod, but fall silent as I enter their domain. I try giving each a respectful flash of eye contact that’s neither so long it might possibly enflame passion nor so short that it appears I’m a shy child. I tip my head toward all seven of them as I say “Yasas.” Their raucous laughter has skittered away, replaced by the void of shocked silence and their eyes flashing volumes of suppressed conversation between them. It’s insane, they begin to mutter. The one with the largest mustache rises and strides out the open door, scowling back at me, his eyebrows twitching. It’s too sunny to sit outside at a table-I couldn’t see the screen in the midday glare and it’s not much better in the corner, so I have to angle my notebook and scrunch down in a position that makes my neck ache even before the woman comes to take my order. There’s no hope of them having decaf, so I don’t even ask.  I do enjoy a Greek coffee but…it’s a small shot that packs a lot of caffeine. You knock it back in six sips and then there’s the glass of water which you could drag out into a half hour affair, at best. It’s not as easy to nurse as a latte. And when the beverage has been consumed, there I am: the Foreign woman squatting in the men’s territory: The coffee shop. The laughter resumes; it’s good I don’t speak Greek because I don’t need to know precisely what’s being said about me. These old timers know all about laptops. People use them to watch porn. Period. That’s the one and only thing they do on them. Ever. And look at me with my nose almost touching the screen- my God what a nymphomaniac I obviously am! Brazen hussy dragging her obscenity right into the last bastion of Cypriot male sanctity- to their coffee shop! Filthy slut.

Yeah, what a charming work day that would be, eh?

This site seems like a better alternative today. Yesterday I entered my first writing contest ( Creative Nonfiction on the topic of weather)and now here I am starting this site because my babies need to see the light of day. I’ll never be as good a writer as I ache to be, but I’ve graduated to the stage where I need to join a community. A single expat American woman living in Cyprus, I’m writing a memoir-a big ambitious first book that’s teaching me how and why I write. I write to connect. I write to learn. I yearn to meet fellow travelers and writers in every nook and cranny of the globe. Whether you’ve put your work into the glare of the light or are just coming to be ready to do that, like me, I’m joining the tribe and I hope to be of some use to you.