Freelancing & Rest, Vol. 847

TAKE YOUR REST.

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As freelancers, we know that work does not always arrive in conveniently week-sized packages, with conveniently week-sized deadlines, and at times when we can both take our weekends and finish the projects in time to pay bills with the money.

So how do you work within this reality and still pay your bills? A few recent projects have let me fine-tune my strategy, and it’s really quick simple: finish the job, and then take as many weekend days as have accrued. Seriously. That’s it.

Example: if you work Monday-Friday usually, and you receive a job you need to start on a Sunday, that will take 11 days to complete, that Sunday is the first day you need to start counting as accrued weekend time. You work that Sunday, and then the next week, and then Saturday-Sunday, and then through Wednesday. At this point, you have three days of vacation accrued. Take Thursday-Friday. Take the weekend. And then take Monday, because you are still owed a day.

“I can’t afford to take five days in a row.” You can’t afford not to. You are not salaried. There is no team to pick up your slack. You cannot coast for a week and still get paid. To get paid, you need to finish projects, and to finish projects, you need not to be sick in body and/or spirit.

So take the days, and do (wait for it) absolutely nothing with them. I mean this. I just spend two days playing video games for my delayed weekend, and I don’t even mean finishing a video game, I mean bumming around looking at the scenery and learning to video-game-cook, with reruns of Friends on in the background. I am serious. I did nothing useful with my time. (Except mow the lawn. I did that. But it’s a small lawn, so that took me about ten minutes.)

Doing nothing? Was fantastic. At the start of the two days, I felt tired as crap. Very proud of what I had pulled off in the preceding days, yes, but absolutely exhausted. I didn’t want to type. I didn’t want to open a word processor. So I didn’t. I did nothing. And in the background of doing nothing, I recharged. By the time last night rolled around, I actually felt refreshed and eager to start working on a manuscript of mine in the week or so between pieces of the contract project. This morning, I got up, made some coffee, and had the time and energy to be grateful for the life I have.

Contrast that with this time last year, when I was working 16 hour days every day and irrationally upset when people wanted to do things like spend time together (BECAUSE DEADLINES), and I think you can pick a clear winner.

We all have a learning curve, and we all have to pay our dues. I can’t help you with the second one (beyond counseling you sometimes on how to indicate to clients that your time and talents are valuable), but I hope you can use my experiences of the first one to take some shortcuts. We’re in freelancing to pursue our passions, not to wind up in a self-made prison, surrounded by the sound of our own voice saying things like, “I should be happier.”

Take your time off. Remember what time off you’ve skipped and bank it. If there is one piece of advice I can give, over and over again, it is that. Your work will thank you.

Periodic Roundup

My dears,

A roundup of the most recent posts (and, of course, some excellent things from around the internet!).

And what’s happening on the internet lately? TONS.

What are you reading? Favorite books, favorite blogs/TV shows/books? Let me know!

-M

Building Your Perfect Life: It’s Never Too Late (Or Too Early) for New Year’s Resolutions

Don’t save your resolutions for New Year’s Eve. It’s a contemplative night, and one that lends itself to making grand promises and sweeping declarations, but this is usually about as successful as grocery shopping on an empty stomach: you wind up with too many resolutions and a lot of them go bad.

Instead, whenever you see the need for a change in your life, why not take incremental steps to bring that change to fruition, starting immediately? If, for instance, you realize that you’re often stymied in political discussions, make plans to set aside 20 minutes per night to research the issues – starting now, not January 1st. One of my recent ones has been that whenever I find myself feeling ignorant (“Wait, when do you use ‘lay’ and when do you use ‘lie’?”), I’ll look up the answer right then.

There’s a reason we like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s that they’re really helpful. We all have things we’d like to change about our lives, and the idea of making that change ourselves is proactive and awesome. Just don’t let rules get in the way: rules like, “resolutions are for New Years,” or, “I need to fix this all today,” or, “there’s only one way to fix this.” Tiny steps for incremental change will net far greater results in the long run, and a willingness to try new solutions will help you adapt and keep on moving toward your goals! Try it today! (And other infomercial slogans!)

One last word to the wise: if incremental change and many solutions aren’t helping you reach your goal, consider whether your goal is something you need to reach. To borrow an example from a friend’s life: if one is dealing with consistent hip issues, physical therapy is definitely cool, but if you can structure your life to avoid long walks and get your cardio in with swimming, do you really need to do physical therapy with the goal of becoming a distance runner? If you live on your own and hatehatehatehate cooking for yourself, why not try something like nutritional shakes? Think outside the box, and be real with yourself about your capabilities and desires. Too often, we let ourselves make resolutions not only about changes we need to make, but also changes that would be best for…someone else…

So, go on. That one change you’ve been sitting on? Try implementing it today.

 

 

On Loving the Books that Hurt You

Inspired by this post, which drove home so many things.

-M

*****

We grew up getting lost in books. Books transported us away from days we couldn’t fix and schoolyards filled with taunts, and gave us worlds beyond anything we could imagine. We were Alanna and Meg Murray, and sometimes we were Han Solo or the Dread Pirate Roberts, too. We dreamed ourselves in those worlds where we could be kind and strong and courageous, because that was what heroes did, and we learned, too, about the strength of compromise and teamwork and being ladylike.

Because we knew, deep down, that there was an undeniable strength in kindness and civility. We understood that it was true that good deeds could make the world a brighter place, even tiny good deeds, even small acts of courage – just like Gandalf told us.

And we learned that even in some of the books that inspired us, that “ladylike” was a trap: obligatory and devalued all at the same time. We loved Susan and we felt a guilt at loving her still when she showed herself to be unworthy of Narnia. We loved the women who showed grace and humility in all they did, and we tried not to notice how they seemed to get the short end of the stick. How their stories weren’t really told. How their victories weren’t really theirs. How they were so often killed to stoke the fires of someone else’s rebellion. We were fed the same maze of contradictions about what to wear (or not) and when to stand up for ourselves (or not) and we saw free thinking answered with mythical punishments.

Now we’re adults. We’re contemplating raising daughters and goddaughters and nieces of our own, and we want to show them the books that we loved so much – and we’re beginning to realize just how much those books hurts us. We put our trust in them, we walked with them into strange lands beyond anything in the world today where we could witness epic stories of love and redemption and courage…and there, we were told to make ourselves something the world could ignore. For the greater good, of course. We faced the complicated tangle of loving an adventure with all our heart and being inspired by the wisdom of the characters, while being devalued, all at the same time. And we don’t want the next generation of women to be hurt the way we were, so we ask ourselves, do we shield them or do we not?

Maybe we realize that we can do both. We can hand our daughters and friends and nieces the book and say, “The way he treats Susan is kind of crap, but I really loved these. Let me know what you think.” After, we can play frisbee with them, or take them to buy lipstick, or both. Hell, we can stop beating ourselves up for wearing lipstick, and we can model that for the next generation. We can show them that we truly do value civility and compromise by teaching them to negotiate and make sure their own interests are part of the compromises they make, and we can be careful not to shoot them down when they speak their mind and take a stand. We can give them the books we loved so much and new books, books that haven’t even been written yet, that show them new ways to be. We can give them the books we loved…and we can also listen to their voices.

Because if we let them be, the stories we tell can be just as important as the stories we hear.

 

The Problem With Diversity In Media Is That We Haven’t Got It

An excellent post popped up over at Writer Unboxed last week: The Problem with Female Protagonists. I suggest you read that one first, then come back.

Read it? Good.

We seem to be having a problem lately with the perception of diversity in media. Diverse characters (including female characters, which is ridiculous, but we will get to that in a moment) are often dismissed either as token characters, or the whole piece is dismissed as pandering to a high-up leftist cabal that apparently wants white men never to be characters in anything again.

In my entire life, I have seen precisely one person say that men aren’t good for anything, and this is as close as anyone has ever come to saying, “let’s never have white men involved in anything ever again.” Granted, my experience is anecdotal. It’s possible that I’ve simply never met any members of the cabal, and they have, in fact, infiltrated all of the media.

There is, however, a simpler explanation: we’ve gotten so used to everything from our protagonists to our crowd shots being white and male that when someone comes along who isn’t, it grabs our attention. Never mind the statistics – our brains are change-detectors, not fact detectors. We’re seeing that all of a sudden, something is changing. Suddenly, there are women in our books and TV shows. Suddenly, there are people of different ethnicities. LGBTQ people. Genderqueer people. People tackling issues from perspectives we haven’t seen. It feels weird – and, sometimes, uncomfortable.

But the point of writing diverse characters isn’t to show a skewed vision of the world. Not at all. It’s to show the world as it actually is. The world isn’t 83% male (as per crowd shots), or even 75% male (as per main characters). The world isn’t 73% white, either.

All I’m asking of my white and/or male counterparts is this: when we look at a movie and think, “wow, there are no people like me here and I’m uncomfortable,” remember that this is just the smallest taste of what it means not to be represented in media. (It isn’t even really a taste, since we’re so over-represented, but that’s the automatic response our brain has.) And imagine what it feels like not to see yourself anywhere. Imagine what it feels like always to see yourself as the caricature if you’re even included at all.

The point of writing diverse characters, and of featuring works by diverse authors, is not to skew our media toward something artificial. It’s to return media to showing the world as it is.

-M

P.S. Ready to take this one step farther? Check out “We need a decolonized, not a ‘diverse,’ education”