I have a severe guilt complex. It’s a pretty bad psychological issue I’ve dealt with my whole life and it’s pretty deep-rooted in my childhood, but that’s a whole other story. Point is, when I feel like shit, there’s no stopping me from digging the deepest hole of despair there is and never coming out of it.
This doesn’t bode well for any aspect of my life, but least of all my writing.
I’ve been working a full-time job, on and off, for almost two years now. At first I hated it, be it the idea of giving up eight hours of my day to focus on something other than freelancing or just the particular job I was working (I write news for a BuzzFeed-style mainstream entertainment blog). Two years in, though, I’ve grown an appreciation for the job and I genuinely love everyone I work with. Plus, it’s a full-time music writing gig. Those are fucking rare. So even though it’s not the kind of music writing I set out to do, I still get paid to go into an office, read music blogs all day and report on artists I like. Sounds pretty rad, right?
But I can’t quit freelancing. Nope. Can’t do it. I liken it to an addiction because it provides a rush and constant excitement that a regular gig just can’t give me. The pitching, the waiting, the approval — I thrive on that kind of stuff. It was the kind of writing I became good at for years and yes, a competitive gene in me kicks in a little. Not competitive in the sense that I want to beat others or stab others in the back to get assignments, but being competitive with myself, always trying to prove that I can write more or for new publications. Freelancing created goals for me and seeing other great writers I admired doing bigger and better things just motivated me. My main goal at my day job is to achieve a certain number of posts per day and to see how many Oreos can I eat in one sitting. Slightly less ambitious.
The problem with spending my days writing is that the last thing I want to do then is go home and write more. Factor in my commute and time to eat and catch up on Top Chef and that really only leaves me with three to four hours a day to do freelance work. Did I mentioned I don’t deal with stress well?
Here’s where the guilt complex comes in. When pressed for time, the first thing I do is procrastinate. I don’t know why, I wish I could cut that out. But anyway, whatever time I have left I rarely crank out work I’m proud of. I end up with a lot of rushed pieces that I almost cringe at when I send because I fear the look on my editor’s face. But alas, there are deadlines and I try my best to stick to them. Thus, leading me to the guilt. I feel bad because I felt like I could’ve done better. I feel bad because I could’ve skipped that Skype call with my boyfriend to work on my piece a little longer. I feel bad because I know I can do better. I. FEEL. BAD. PS my boyfriend can attest to said guilt problems. There have been many phone conversations that have involved the phrase “I feel bad…” and have ended in me just sobbing uncontrollably. Hell, that’s why I’m currently writing this blog at 3:15AM when I have work in less than seven hours.
The obvious answer would be to quit freelancing altogether because, well, this is just stressing me out, but it’s not that simple. I love freelancing. That excitement I mentioned earlier, that’s a huge part of why I still love writing in general. When I do write something I’m proud of, which I swear I am still capable of, that feeling is above and beyond better than any other feeling in the world. Every month, when the magazine I write for comes out, I run to the box on my way to work, grab five copies, run to my desk and spend several moments savouring my pieces. That thrill will never go away and I would never want to give that up. Perhaps it’s selfish, but I feel like it’s worth the struggle to try and balance it all out.
I’m sure there are others out there who deal with similar types of situations and I don’t want this to come off like I’m ungrateful for my full-time gig or freelancing. Again, I love my job and I wouldn’t be applying for a promotion if I didn’t have longterm plans of staying there. And to any editors who may stumble upon this post, I only pitch and accept work I am truly excited to work on. If I take on too much, that’s my fault, but by no means is this me asking anyone to cut me off. An editor once e-mailed me and asked if I was okay because of a stressful tweet i posted and I was totally embarrassed.
I am allowed to be stressed, though. Stress is normal. It’s freelancing, it’s not meant to be easy. This is just me simply working out my inner struggles in the form of a blog. This post was not meant to yield any wisdom or answers so much as it’s just be thinking out loud. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about these problems and it sure as hell won’t be the last.
I will be working out these issues for a very long time and if I need to binge eat Oreos and cry it out every now and then, then so be it. I’m lucky to have supportive people around me who deal with that shit (and provide me the Oreos) when I need them. And on other days, I will be completely fine. Let’s hope for the latter when I wake up in a few hours.