So Why Am I Crying?


I’ve been working as a freelance writer since 2011. It’s hard work because every article has to be perfect by the AP Stylebook. It’s frustrating because you can’t please some clients, and because you have to spend years on short, low-paying articles, and it seems that you’re just wasting your time.

I kept working. I kept taking little articles for websites for exterminators, parking lot paving companies, and companies that install walk-in bathtubs. I’m not denigrating that work. The business owners needed well-written content to bring in clients, and the clients needed to learn about the businesses. And I feel good about writing anything that helps seniors or people with disabilities, because I’ve spent so much of my life caring for older relatives with physical problems or Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I applied for hundreds of jobs through websites, the local newspaper, and just walking into businesses. I’m 44. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2004. My ex-husband wouldn’t allow me to work. I know that’s the main reason that I can’t even get my foot in the door for an interview.

I kept freelancing, and over the last six months, I’ve gotten two major clients and one small but regular client. My two major clients are repped by the same editor. After I wrote, oh, 20 articles for him, he offered to double my rate of pay if I would agree to be available for 20-30 articles a month. He asked if he could add me to a team of writers for a particular subjects because he wants his best writers on that team. He sent me eight more articles today.

I can work from home. I can work whenever I want as long as I meet the deadline. There are disadvantages to working at home: you don’t have co-workers, you get used to living in your PJs, you get interrupted by family members. But there are advantages: no commute, no annoying co-workers, no meetings.

Freelance writing is feast or famine. Even with these great clients, I sometimes go weeks without work. If you freelance, you have save your money. Your “boss” tells you that a client has shut down their ad campaign. You get depressed. Then one morning you wake up to a week’s worth of work, and the client has decided to restart their campaign.

I looked at all the orders, and I know that the client likes my work, and I know that they will buy all my work, and I started crying. Not because of the time the work will take (two-four hours per article) but what if I fail this time? What if I do all the work, and the client decides they don’t like something?

What if I screw it up and lose the client?

There’s no job security these days, but I’m in a particularly tenuous position. Many, many days I wish that I could just stand behind a cash register in a department store eight hours a day.

That’s not my job. I applied for this job, got it, and I’m building a career. I just have to keep believing that I can do it.


A ballerina today…and why not tomorrow?


Wells Fargo is apologizing for an ad campaign that appeared to some to belittle kids’ dreams. “A ballerina yesterday, an engineer today.” No, not everyone who studies ballet is going to become a prima ballerina, but there are an awful lot of other dancers in the company. And not every engineer is going to get that elusive “good job” and live a comfortable, upper-middle-class lifestyle. My cousin is an engineer. She’s in her mid-fifties and looking for a job outside her field. She had her own quite successful business . . . until her orders dried up because the precision work she did by hand was outsourced.

“An actor yesterday, a botanist today.” I haven’t seen a lot of of job postings for botanists. I haven’t seen any job postings for botanists. Studying acting can lead to a job behind the camera, or as a set dresser, or working in wardrobe, or screenwriting. What if we encouraged the potential ballerina, engineer, actor, and botanist? Why can’t someone study ballet and botany?

“Get a job with the city or county. You’ll be secure for life.” My mother and grandmother told me that when I was in my early 20s. So I did. And there was no opportunity for advancement. They were already cutting county positions and library hours 20 years ago. Now they’re forcing city employees to retire once they hit 65 even if they love their job and want to keep working. And those positions aren’t being filled by 20-somethings. Those positions are just going away.

I left the library and took a position as a paralegal in a small law office. But there was no health insurance and after paying for my asthma medications out of pocket, I wasn’t making a living wage.

I wasn’t allowed to work during my marriage. I started writing. That was what I had wanted to do since I was a child. After my divorce, I found a job as a copywriter. I take temp jobs, any temp job that comes along. I write books at night. I take care of my 68 year old mother. I wish that she and my grandmother had said “Write.” I wish I had been writing for the last 20 years instead of the last seven. I could be working in advertising. I could have a book published by now. Who knows? All I know is that settling for the “safe” option wasn’t the right thing.

I see a lot of discouraging “advice” directed at writers who aren’t published yet. “You’re not going to be signing your books in a bookstore unless you have the Next Big Thing.” “Not everyone is going to be the next J.K. Rowling.”

So the next J.K. Rowling shelves their manuscript and goes to a vocational college, studies medical office billing, gets a job in a doctor’s office, hates their job, but knows there isn’t any point in starting to write again because they surely don’t have the next big thing.

Don’t do that to young people.

I think it’s time we start looking at our kids’ dreams and talents and helping them find a balance between pursuing the dream and securing a day job. Don’t downplay the dream. Encourage kids to write, dance, paint, study advanced chemistry, pursue an engineering degree, and talk to them about the practicalities of life. Kids have multiple interests. I’ve always loved writing and reading. I also wanted to be a nurse. Why didn’t someone tell me to go to nursing school and write?

Let’s not pick out careers for our kids. If the ballerina isn’t interested in engineering, he or she is not going to put the effort into becoming a successful engineer. Maybe the ballerina also likes the idea of being a veterinarian. Let’s work on those interests. And remember that there’s a difference between an interest and a passion. A passion will follow you the rest of your life. Can we give kids a chance to try out their interests and see if one becomes a passion?

And can we stop bashing liberal arts degrees? I have a friend who completed high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Math because she scored so high in math on standardized tests that the school and her parents basically forced her into it. She got out of high school and decided she wanted to be a librarian. And now she is.

And don’t even get me started on standardized testing. Terrified kids memorizing facts just to get a high S.A.T. score aren’t learning.

Shoving a kid into a career path is no guarantee of success. Taking a job that consumes your “free time” too isn’t living. It’s existing. There are no guarantees of success in anything today. There are no guarantees of security. Kids who are pushed into abandoning their dreams and following a path the path their parents choose may be successful, but a lot of them are also bitter and resentful and they’re taking a totally different approach to raising their own children. I’ve also seen this in someone I know.

Pull that manuscript out of the bottom desk drawer. Maybe you’re holding the Next Big Thing.

Who wants something for free?


I’m so sick of hearing lies about the poor, the unemployed, the people who have jobs but don’t make enough to live on their own or to feed and care for their families without food stamps and Medicare and “Obamacare,” which people in many red states can’t get because their bigoted legislatures oppose anything that President Obama proposes on perverse “principles.”

I’ve had two jobs in the last 5 years where I’ve had to deal with greedy employers who wanted something for nothing. Who thought that because I’m “lucky” to work for them, I should do extra work for free. I should work from home after work for free. I should go to “networking events” in the evening, on my personal time, for free. I should go out in the rain at ten o’clock at night to check on an alarm going off at the business (hello, call 911!) I should break rules and jeopardize my job to save them money.

I don’t work that way.

Being lower-middle class doesn’t mean that I have no morals or that I’m stupid. I’m not going to lie and bend rules for rich people who think it’s their divine right to have everything laid out easy for them. I’m not going to jeopardize my job for rich people who made a mistake and don’t want to have to admit it and spend all of $13 fixing it.

I am not disposable. These people I’ve described seek me out for my skills and experience. Then they get their backs up when I stand up for myself and say NO. You’ll have to pay me if you want me to work overtime. NO. I won’t break the rules to cover up your mistake and risk your supervisor firing me.

I’m tired of being victimized by the greedy rich. I work hard, physically and from behind a computer screen and I deserve protection at work. At will? At whim is more like it.