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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Discipline for Self-Employment

The month of August has mostly been a bust for me in terms of writing.  Oh, I've gotten maybe 2500 words down on paper, but considering my goal for August was 10,000 words, that means I've only met about 25% of the goal.  And considering my brain is firmly locked in "business" mode, I'm unlikely to get beyond that 25% before midnight tomorrow.

But that's okay.  Like the human body diverts blood to areas of the body that need it most in a crisis, so to, do we instinctually know when we have to set something aside for a time to focus on something else.

For me, the crisis at hand is career.  I've got to get out of my field, out of healthcare, out of the unhealthy environment in which I work.

But change does not occur quickly.  So a change in day jobs is obviously a long term plan.

But in the meantime I am left with two other big areas of life that I must consider:

1.  How can I set realistic goals for building my writing career?
2.  What other freelance opportunities can I use to slowly build up my own business over time and provide an additional income?

While it is certainly stressful enough trying to find time simply to write your books, authors can't stop there.  We must be our own marketers, editors, and many other things (unless you have the money to hire people to do that for you or don't have a writers' co-op to help you to trade skills with). 

Even if you are considering some other line of freelance work, those same rules apply.

I am admittedly confused about the direction my career path should take, despite the fact that I've been in prayer about it for some time.  While there is a whole lot I do NOT know or understand, there are a few things I do know:

1.  I do not want to be placed in a position where I must rely on my writing for income.  While I feel I write too slowly, neither do I think the process can be rushed. I always want to be free to let a story ferment for as long as it takes so that it will be the story I want it to be.
2.  Whether writing or some other freelance business, it is an inescapable fact that if I do not have the money to pay someone to design a website, I must learn to create one myself.
3.  Likewise, I am going to have to educate myself on things I don't like: how to start up and run a business, all those boring legal requirements, tax information, etc.  Not only that, some of the freelance opportunities I'm considering pursuing will also require some re-training.
4. I can expect to remain exhausted for the forseeable future.

I don't know about you, but to me, that sort of sounds dreary and depressing, especially considering that all these things must take place in addition to being plowed under by the day job each day.

BUT--there is good news in all this.  One of the reasons I have not given careful care and consideration to freelance work is because I doubted whether I would have the self-discipline to put in the hours required--to put my nose to the grindstone.

I believe I have turned the corner on this issue and honestly feel that I have reached a point in life where I can.  Case in point was yesterday.  I am on a rare full week of vacation this week.  I don't know about you, but the temptation while on vacation is to sleep in, get up, lolly-gag around, take a nap, lolly gag some more then go to bed.  In other words, fritter away the hours in nothingness because it is such a rare change from the usual pace of life.

But before my vacation started I wrote down a list of 23 things, mostly career related, that I needed to start researching this week, and I knew that I needed to work on them a little each day so that by week's end I would be in a better position to begin making some decisions and career investments.

And you know what? I have exercised the discipline required to do the work.  I may have been on "vacation" from the day job, but I literally put in 8-9 hours yesterday beginning my investigation into various career areas/small business matters I've needed to do.  Five years ago, you couldn't have gotten me to do that.

I haven't got a clue what my future holds, but if it does include freelance work, I'm more equipped than ever to begin heading in that direction, even though it will be a hard slog.

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