Mistress of None
I read another one of those well-meaning blogs full of advice for writers tonight.
I know, I know … it’s one of those trainwreck things. Can’t look away.
It asked me (all earnest-like) to re-examine why I started freelancing in the first place. The object, I guess, being to see whether I’m cranking out magazine minutiae because I desire to make a living (apparently, a bad impulse) or whether I have a “true passion” for the creation of purple prose. (In a word, eccccch.)
So I’ll confess, at the risk of being poked with soft cushions (“She must be made of harder stuff!”), the shameful truth here. I started freelancing ….
…because I’d sent out 150 resumes over a three-month period and gotten no responses whatsoever. There it is. That was the reason, some 17 years ago. And it’s still pretty much the reason. I’m getting rather weary of being told I’m supposed to feel a higher calling. It’s something that plays to my strengths, and yes, I enjoy it, for the most part. But seriously, the nobility of the craft stuff is a little disingenuous, given that the general public lumps journalists in with ambulance-chasing lawyers as some particularly odious mutant variety of slime mold.
Also, given that the pay scale is somewhere well below ditch-digger and deep-fry-station jockey.
That’s been the main problem (and chief source of my kvetching here) lo these past few years. Where once I could make a marginal living as a freelance writer, now I seem to be working four times as hard for a quarter of the pay. The assignments are fewer and farther between, with magazines either going tits-up in a snowbank, or bringing all their content creation in-house as a cost-cutting technique (finding out your editors can’t write? Priceless).
The pay scales are in tatters, with editors apologetically offering fractions of what they used to pay.
And, of course, waiting for your cheque is pretty much like awaiting the Second Coming. Any minute now.
So given that the Real Job prospects are slimmer than ever — I am STILL reeling in disbelief that I couldn’t even get an interview from the Ontario Equestrian Federation for a communications coordinator position, so really, what’s the point?? — I have recently had to explore various other income opportunities.
Since spandex and I have something of a conflicted relationship, and my ability to hold my breath underwater is average, at best, I have not availed myself of the mermaid opportunity (see above). Though I am finding myself in oh-so-flattering breeches (the most expensive pants you can look like hell in) rather more often lately. I figured I had better make some attempt to resurrect my comatose coaching career.
Yup, I’m an Equine Canada certified coach. (To be fair, it was called the Canadian Equestrian Federation back when I first gained my little frame-able certificate back in the mid-1980s. I have no idea where the certificate went. Maybe my mother has it. I was the first person from the Windsor, Ontario area to gain CEF coaching certification. Woot, me.) It’s been hard to concentrate much on coaching the past few years when a) I’ve had to move around a fair bit and rebuild my clientele from scratch each time, b) I’ve gotten rather disenchanted with the all-too-frequent revisions of the national coaching program, which seem to benefit no-one except those collecting the multiplying fees, and c) I’ve also gotten rather disenchanted with standing in a meat-locker-temperature indoor arena in February, getting coated with a quarter-inch of filthy airborne footing while my fingers and toes linger dangerously close to necessitating amputation.
But it’s an additional, if erratic, income source, when I can scare up clients and when the weather cooperates and their horses aren’t lame. And like freelance writing, it comes with a fair bit of scheduling freedom, and I can cherrypick the clients.
A recent internet ad has yielded a trio of new students, which is a good start, even if winter is hurtling towards all of us intent on putting the kibosh on much of the riding activity. It has at least meant that I can purchase a couple of bags of feed and shavings.
Also, I used the power of the Interwebz to hang out my shingle as a critter-sitter. I’ve resisted this one for a while precisely because a good friend of mine is quite successful at it; she’s actually making more babysitting beasties and watering plants, than she was at her former corporate drone job. I have not wanted to step on her toes, but finally figured if I focused on environs that would be awkwardly distant for her, I could in good conscience give it a go. One gig thus far, briefly mentioned in my previous post: I took care of two exceedingly geriatric dogs, aged 13 and 15, for a 10-day stretch, in their owner’s home. Apart from the difficulties of coaxing them to eat, and the ever-present peril that one or both of the little furbabies might wake up dead in the absence of their habitual humans, it was simple enough, and it came with better TV than I have at home, so … win/win. Would like to do more of that.
I actually got quite a bit of writing done while I was there, too, though I’m not sure I was really providing all that much companionship while I was at it, since it wasn’t crystal clear that these mostly-deaf, mostly-blind canines had really registered I was not their usual caretaker.
And I’m continuing to muck stalls other than my own, though I did decide that one of my two jobs had to go; it was a combo of too early and too anal. I’m back to weekends only, apart from right now. I’m pinch-hitting for eight days while the regular barn manager is cavorting in Cuba, and bloody ‘ell, is it making me feel almost 50.
Another thing making me feel freakishly close to collecting my Sears Club Senior’s discount card: being offered riding gigs that force me to contemplate my own mortality. Never used to do that. Used to throw a leg over any unruly critter I was paid to ride, but … a recent offer to field-hunt a five-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gave me pause, and so did a request to school a four-year-old dressage prospect who is 17:3 hands and “has a bit of a naughty buck in him”. That is a looooong way to the ground for someone like me who don’t bounce so good anymore. It’s a demoralizing reality that I have to be more selective than ballsy these days.
But I do need the money, because my truck has chosen this juncture to come up with a diseased transmission. Maybe I should reconsider the mermaid thing.
I read this issue with a combination of sympathy and giggles. If it weren’t for my long-suffering spouse, I would be in the exact same boat as you, paddling madly upstream with one broken oar. And, since I am substantially older than you, hopping onto a 17+hh horse with a ‘bit of a buck’ is NOT on my ever doing again list.
The state of creative pursuits as bill-paying careers is pathetic. Whether you are a writer, photographer, painter, designer – whatever. The assignments are few and far between and we have all become commodities, our talents going to the highest of the very-low bidders. Sigh.
I love your writing and your humor! Had me in stitches more than once! From one writer to another, Hang in there!!
Refreshing extemporaneous style of writing. I enjoyed the read.