The Ego of the Freelance Writer
As any freelance writer knows, the pathway to getting published is full of developmental milestones and learning curves about your own ego.
Only the other week I was shocked to learn that a picture book can takes 3 years to make it to print from the time it’s accepted. What?! I thought I was going to get my manuscript accepted and published within 12 months surely? What’s more, editors often recommend that you leave drafts of your manuscript for 6 months and continue to edit and polish it over time before you even submit it to a publisher.
In the meantime, there’s always writing for magazines and newspapers, right? When you have no published articles then editors generally don’t want to know you. Or, they might take the bait and accept your work, but they want it pro bono. In my feature writing course I was encouraged not to write for free. But then again, there’s also the pressure to get those first few runs on the board, so previous graduates suggested that I should be prepared to write for free…just not to make it a habit.
With the potential of 3 years to get a book published still ringing in my ears, I’ve been likening this whole freelance experience to the developing toddler. You start out fresh and wide-eyed, barely able to string words together in the ‘right way’ and those with more experience help by constantly correcting you. At times you don’t want to hear it, and feel frustrated but ultimately you have to accept that it’s part of the learning process. Then, when you’ve had some practise at writing pitches and hooks you start to become overconfident and a little self-centred. Much like a 2 year old! – In a wild flurry of energy, you send out 6 pitches in one day and think ‘everything I do is awesome!’ Then you get 6 editors who ignore your pitches or give out polite ‘not interested’ vibes. Much like that Uncle at Christmas who grimaces when he’s forced to watch his nieces re-enact Frozen. When no one seems to appreciate your brilliance, you turn into a 3 year old and start throwing tantrums ‘why will no one listen to me?!!!’
Then today, I got an email from the lovely people at Essential Kids to say they will publish my article. For real dollars and everything. Yes! Fairfax is going to give me money for a change. Back to being a haughty, self-centred 2 year old!
Realising how lucky I am to be paid for my first commission, I thought I should give attention to being in the moment. In counselling, I am forever encouraging clients to use Mindfulness to live in the moment, savour the emotions, sights, smells….well just as I was enjoying my little win, I caught a waft of the unmistakable eau de parfum of puppy poo.
I was blissfully unaware that the dog had crapped in front of the robotic vacuum cleaner, and there was now a rather large skid mark on the carpet. ‘Oh Mister Hart what a Mess!’ was the first thought I had. Then, I began to feel jealousy for those contestants on The Block who are designing their own carpets. I need to move house.
We are so quickly brought back to thoughts of ‘I want’, ‘I need’ and ‘I’ll be happy when…’ Mindfulness is hard. Staying in the moment when the moment is unpleasant and telling ourselves it’s not the situation it’s what we think of the situation is hard. It’s even harder when you’re a Psychologist and catch yourself thinking ‘but you tell other people to do this all the time and now you’re not even doing it yourself’. It doesn’t really matter who you are, or what you’ve achieved when you’ve got one tab open with your published article, and another with ‘how to clean dog poo out of a vacuum’ in the search box. Learning really is an ongoing process.
Teach your inner toddler to practise being humble.