Nice Work – If You Can Get It

February 10, 2009 at 5:38 am (Uncategorized)

It’s slightly scary times here at DoctorDi H.Q. You see, the GFC has found its way to my door, and it’s left a big steaming turd on the mat. Here it is nearly mid-February, and I’ve not had a single commission. Yikes. It’s getting a little hairy, especially as Llew works in the finance sector and has no job security at the moment whatsoever. Throughout January, I wasn’t remotely concerned. It’s always quiet. It didn’t mean anything. It was business as usual. But I called up one of my editors a couple of weeks ago – and I called him because well before he was my editor, like ten years before, he was my friend, and in November we talked about writing a screenplay together – and he hasn’t called me back. I can’t help wondering if he’s avoiding me because there’s no freelance work. I know I should just call him again, thus nipping my ever eager paranoia in the bud, but I also hate knowing that he’s immediately going to assume I’m sniffing around begging for a bone. Which a small part of me definitely is. You see my problem. I call up,”Hey! How’s that first thousand words for our screenplay coming along?” and all he’s going to hear is, “PRESSURE! WORK PRESSURE! ANOTHER-FREELANCER-IS-HOUNDING-ME-FOR-WORK PRESSURE!” And pretending that I’m not wondering if I’m ever going to see another payday for as long as I live  would be disingenuous. It’s certainly there (I often wish with all sincerity our relationship had never become professional; it has altered our personal friendship in small but significant ways). I’ve also lost my occasional book reviews for WHO, which is a major bummer as I loved doing them. It didn’t pay enough to make it a lucrative job, but it was great anyway. They’ve reduced weekly reviews to monthly (tragically books apparently don’t ‘fit’ the redesign of the magazine), they’ve canned their freelance budget, and, just to make sure we’re really biting the big one here, one of their subs volunteered to write the book reviews free of charge. This ship has sailed. Or sunk. One of the two. 

Boo hiss.

And this is pretty much the scenario across the board. I’ve had it too good for too long – work kind of arrived at nice intervals, a delightful little amuse-bouche keeping excitement high at mealtimes. Ah, I’d think, dashing off another invoice, this is another choice little morsel. The perfect size. Something I can easily digest and won’t regret later. Yes, friends, it was all going so well I forgot to check the final bill.

And then came the G as opposed to the KFC, although it too clogs your arteries and makes you long for something seriously sweet to follow. Damn you, financial crisis! As a freelancer, I am completely vulnerable at times like this, and my income is currently in the toilet. I never crack major money doing what I do, but we’re noticing the vacuum where my earnings used to be. It still adds up to a sizable chunk of cash year to year, if not week to week. I’m missing it already. 

BUT – and there had to be a but – the good news is that this rather bleak fiscal forecast is forcing me to go back through my files and find stories and essays I have already written – work I have already done – and look for those pieces that might have publication potential. I have spent today retooling three short stories and one autobiographical essay. The essay I entered in the ABR/Australian Copyright Agency Calibre essay competition, but I didn’t win (damn shame: the prize was a cool $10,000). I don’t know whether or not it even placed (I suspect not; I certainly haven’t received anything silver-lined in the post), but I still think it’s a good essay, and I’m going to send it out again. I’m also adding to MS #2 at a rate of knots, so all is not lost. I may be poor, but I’m happy. I’m working hard and writing like there’s no tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT: How’s this for weird and telepathic?? As I was clicking on Publish Post, my phone rang, and it was none other – I still can’t quite believe this – than my friend/editor calling in a 1,400 word commission. Yes, I’m serious. And a little bit freaked out.



  1. Pete said,

    Woah, that’s freaky. Was this before you posted or after? And I laughed at the GFC. I was wondering if it was the Ground Floor Cat and then wondering how that linked up with your freelance work – before it dawned on me that it was the Global Financial Crisis. Patient just walked in the door so chat later. But yay re the commission.

  2. litlove said,

    I think you could have rung him up anyway. I can see the problem was that your own uncertainty loomed large in your mind, but you could have called expressing your equally honest regret that business has intruded so much on your private friendship. He might have liked to hear that, and then the conversation may or may not have come around to work – and that would have told you what you needed to know. However, I am a stealth person and like quiet approaches, and I get the vague impression, dear Doctordi, that you like to jump in with both feet! 🙂

    And good that the current crisis has made you look further afield for work and try out new submissions. That sounds rather encouraging and positive. Who knows what may come your way? Bon courage for it all.

  3. Lilian Nattel said,

    Fantastic about the commission! Okay the reality is that things are shaking up in publishing and they are also running scared because of worries about what could happen that hasn’t. So it might be tough for a while. But hang in there. I remember the recession of the 90’s. It sucked but it passed. Don’t be afraid. Just be true to yourself.

  4. doctordi said,

    It was honestly AS the post was being uploaded. The phone started ringing and I thought ‘I’ll just publish this before I answer that…’ – it was truly strange. In fact, the start of the conversation was my babbling incoherently about it. He didn’t know what I was talking about, of course.

    Yes, both feet, in wet cement, that sounds about right, Litlove! And I have told him before that I find it tricky and frustrating now we have this other relationship to manage. But neither of us really knows what to do about it. I certainly can’t afford to knock back the work, put it that way! But I do hope for a day where it’s behind us.

    Yes, Lilian, exactly. Lots of softly, softly, lots of lay-offs, lots of hyper-sensitivity in an industry that’s notoriously under-resourced as it is. But it’s not a money game for me, can’t be, or else I’d never do it, and certainly never do my best work, and I am incredibly fortunate to have a husband who agrees and can pick up the slack.

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