travel, writing

Dispatch from a Dry Spell

One of the upsides of freelancing is that, with multiple income sources, you don’t take too big a hit if one client falls away. The downside is that, when multiple clients go silent at once, it can really mess you up. You don’t get a pink slip, you don’t get two weeks notice, and you certainly don’t get a severance package. All you get is silence, then more silence, then more silence until you find yourself checking your savings account to see how many months you can hold out if the work doesn’t pick up. 

This is not an inspirational post about bad times turned to good, not today anyway. I’m writing now from the messy inside of a dry spell, because I think there might be something useful in writing honestly from the I-don’t-know. I feel there’s little credibility in waiting until my faith proves itself sometime next year to write a piece about how it all turned out right in the end. I want to bear witness to the raw insides of a hard, hard time.

I want to write for a living. When I started working on freelancing sites five years ago, I picked up a little bit of writing work, a little bit of editing work, and lots of transcription work. And the transcription work has paid my bills while I took my sweet time nervously picking at my writing. And because my work wasn’t bound to a particular office space, I’ve been able to travel and collect some cool experiences that might one day serve my writing. As long as the transcription work was keeping me busy, I didn’t feel any sense of urgency to get more writing work. In a sense, I had the luxury of aspiring to a writing career while also lurking in the shadows of my insecurities. In the past year, the transcription work has all but disappeared. I think that’s due to improvements in AI transcription technology; but, since layoff slips are not part of the freelancing game, I have no idea why I stopped getting the transcription work.

I’ve had to make a decision this fall. Either: give up the travelling, take work locally, and commit to a fixed address; or: continue with free accommodations through itinerant housesitting but risk not getting enough new freelance work to sustain me. I chose the latter, and quickly was able to line up house sitting gigs for this coming winter in the UK and Cyprus. That’s my living costs covered. A winter of freelance work doesn’t get lined up quite so readily. By committing to being outside Canada for the winter, I’m also committing to hustling for new freelance work to replace the old work that’s fallen away. 

The full truth is, today at least, I’m feeling optimistic. I spent Thanksgiving Sunday loud-crying while singing an old gospel song that came to mind: “When I think I’m going under, part the waters, Lord.” Two days later, I found myself sitting on the toilet and literally screaming out my desperation. I couldn’t have written this post in that week. I’m not out of the rough patch in any long-term sense, but my work has taken a few good turns this past week. My work has taken a few good turns in ways that make me believe my decision to push through the hard time is a valid decision. The reason I’m able to write this blog post is that, at least for today, my mind is not an anxious swirl of frantic problem solving. 

I’m writing from the middle of my dry spell, because I want to bear witness to what this feels like. I want to be honest and say I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but I’m choosing to believe it’s a time of refining and course correcting. I’m choosing to believe this will turn out to be the time I got clarity on how I want to live and work. I’m choosing to believe that this will turn out to be the time when desperation pushed me to make audacious choices that proved to be transformational.

I don’t feel any of these things I’m choosing to believe in. I feel uncertain. I feel exhausted from too many half-slept nights. I feel like a mooch among friends and family. I feel that my fancy social media activity is making a farce of who I am in real life. But I’m choosing to believe in my decision to keep pushing further in and further up. Lord help me.

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