Eek – it’s June, the halfway mark of the year – horrors! It always gives me such a nasty start when I realise another year’s half over, particularly when I feel I haven’t progressed. In fact, this year I seem to be doing a nice line in professional regression, and the consequences are now starting to show. My freelance work – you know, the paid stuff – is really on the skids, and it’s one of the reasons that a longed-for overseas trip (for an informal reunion with a whole bunch of my college friends) is now off the table. I can’t go for a number of reasons, some of which are completely beyond my control, but a big one is that my income was supposed to bankroll it, and my main editor – who’s provided most of my work since I began working as a freelancer – has given me a grand total of zero commissions in the year 2010.
The timing of this sudden freelance famine couldn’t have been any worse – there was a reasonable expectation based on previous years that I would earn enough to pay for the trip, and instead there’s just a yawning vacuum where my income used to be. In January, he said there would be work in February, in February, March… on it went until finally I asked if there was some kind of problem with my work. He said no, and then made more vague noises about forthcoming work, but time keeps passing and still nothing materialises. Someone is getting the work, it’s just not me, and because he denies there’s an issue – I’ve asked a couple of times now, so I really don’t know what else to do – I have no idea why it’s all gone horribly wrong. But it’s time to face facts: the dam is dry. For whatever reason, that door seems to have closed quietly but firmly in my face. It’s all very bewildering and concerning, but my main focus needs to be finding a new regular or at least semi-regular source of income.
Part of this is my fault. I made the fatal freelance error of casually relying on this work, it came through regularly, it arrived easily, and I saw no reason for anything to ever change. And yet now it has, and I have not shored up any viable alternatives. I did not prepare for this day. I have also spent the downtime working on my fiction, instead of seeking out other potential income streams. I’ve invested all my time working on something that, I can infer with a reasonable degree of certainty, will never become a viable source of hard, cold cash. That’s the sacrifice, and I am now feeling the hard, cold consequences of pursuing the dream instead of the dinero. Consequence number one: no reunion in France for me.
And it sucks, particularly as I am not getting anywhere with the fiction. I wouldn’t mind being broke, not at all, had I any indication that my fiction writing was getting better, and might one day be worthy of a reader – all the riches in the world couldn’t compete with the happiness that thought would bring me. But there’s no reassurance that I’m getting any better at all. Another competition has just come and gone, and I again failed to crack its lists in any way, shape, or form. Both Llew and Charlotte – very sensible people – have suggested I stop entering these damnable competitions and start submitting to journals instead (I have tried this too, by the way, although not for quite a while), and perhaps they’re right. Certainly competitions aren’t working. But the glaring inference – please don’t think I’ve missed it – is that they’re not working because my stories aren’t any good, and if that’s true, then it won’t matter where I send them.
There are times when I wonder what I’m doing, and this is one of them. What I’m doing not just to myself, but to Llew, too. Because of this path I’m doggedly pursuing, a path that may never lead anywhere, I’m fundamentally affecting and in some sense limiting our lives. We’re a single income family at the moment. The burden of supporting us currently rests solely with Llew. And it’s not fair, is it? It’s not fair that he’s shouldering that responsibility alone while I continue writing into some sort of blank oblivion. We’re missing out on things because of me, and he undoubtedly feels his own options are more restricted because of me too (not that he would ever admit it, but of course this is the case). Meanwhile I write these stories and work on these manuscripts and, despite working long, long hours, to the very best of my ability, day after day after day after day, make no discernible progress of any kind. Yes, this is madness, to be sure.