At the end of January, I finished up a couple of big contract gigs that had been paying the bills and–rare enough for writers–allowing me to cushion my savings account a bit.
The timing was perfect.
For one thing, I could go to Cuba without worrying about being offline or falling behind on work. For another, I could finally turn my attention to that ever-growing section of my daily to-do list labeled “PITCHES.” And I could enjoy some activities that should be part of my daily routine but which were often relegated to the status of “If I have time” luxuries: reading that stack of books next to the bed and on both sides of my desk; cooking and baking; going for walks.
We’re nearing the end of February now, and I have to say, this has been the most peaceful month I can remember having in a looong time. I haven’t woken up a single day with the frantic, pressured sense of needing to meet a looming deadline. I’ve been writing entirely for interest and joy rather than a set of formulaic project specs. I’ve written a couple essays (one of which is being published in Hub City Writers Project’s 2013 holiday anthology, I found out yesterday), have been mulling a book proposal, and have cleared a good number of those pitches off my plate. My days are more closely approximating my “Ideal Day” (along with publication goals and financial goals, I also write work-life balance goals each year) than they ever have.
As the end of the month approaches, mild worry is beginning to set in. A regular, well-paying freelance gig I enjoyed went belly-up and most of the articles I’ve had sitting in editors’ publication queues have not only been published, they’ve been paid, too. The last big check for the contract gig has been deposited and there’s not a new big project on the horizon to take its place.
When do I push the panic button?
Not yet, not yet.
I’m not taking a passive approach to reupping the bank account, but none of my efforts has panned out yet. And that may actually be a good thing. I’m working hard on crafting the best pitches I can. I’m doing the writing I want to do, the writing that lights me up and feels important, not like an SEO widget maker.
Maybe, just maybe, the anxiety of not having the next big project, the one that feels safe and financially reassuring, is what keeps that fire lit. It makes the work of tending that fire possible.
How do you deal with moments of financial worry? How do you create balance between the work that makes you alive and that you take to pay the bills? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.