I sort of drifted into freelancing when my daughter was very small, as a way of fitting work around motherhood, and after that it kind of... grew. Sometimes.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, but as all writers know, at least in the early stages it’s something you do as well as earning a living, running the home, being part of a family and network of friends etc etc – i.e. real life. It took me a decade or three – just over three, in fact – to realize that being able to put words together in a readable way was a marketable skill, and a while longer to convince other people that they should pay me for exercising it. Like most freelance and creative pursuits, success is relative, and can be as much a matter of making the right contacts as having the right ability.
But this isn’t the story of my life: just a lead-in to the situation I’ve found myself in over the past few weeks. Not that it only applies to the last few weeks; it’s the way things have been ever since I became established. Though, like success, that’s a relative term too.
I’ve returned to the freelance life since I came back from the dark side. Not that I abandoned it completely; running a small indie publishing house took up 90% of my time for seven years, but the remaining ten percent kept a few things ticking over, and actually generated another strand. And I soon discovered that a key factor of freelancing was still very much the case – it’s famine or feast, and there’s rarely a middle ground. I’ve never really minded, apart from the money factor; the famine times allow me to spend some time writing what I love best but sell least – fiction.
Before I went on holiday it was famine, and seemed set fair to become more so. The theatre reviewing which had been a cornerstone almost since I set out along the freelance road has almost come to an end; policy changes, budget cuts, whatever, at the local paper have taken care of that. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar advertising media (and that’s exactly what they are, whether or not they choose to admit it) seem to be the way to promote a freelance service these days, but for reasons more associated with human nature than technology they scare me to death and I refuse to use them, so my editorial consultancy only gathers clients by word of mouth, and is therefore thinner than it used to be.
Six weeks ago I was beginning to wonder if someone up there was telling me it was time to buckle down and get on with the novel-in-progress. There’s always a novel-in-progress. It was moving quite well a month ago.
Then, as it has so often in the past, everything changed, and our fortnight in France proved something of a watershed. I don’t take a laptop on holiday, don’t even possess any of the dinky little devices that let you borrow someone else’s wifi to check your e-mail, but my daughter can’t bear to be parted from hers, so for reasons unrelated to work I found myself checking mine a few times while we were away.
Three times, to be precise.
The first time, there was a request to write a series of weekly features for a newspaper. The second time, an editorial consultancy client (word of mouth recommendation still works) who had gone underground for a few months resurfaced. And the third time, a small publishing company I’ve dealt with several times asked me to edit the new book by one of my favourite authors.
Then, a couple of days after I arrived home, another newspaper put in a request for another series of features. And the editorial consultancy client submitted a hefty chunk of first-draft manuscript for early feedback. And there were three theatres for review in the diary, though they may prove to be the last. And the novel for editing was waiting.
So too is my own novel. I’ve had to put a couple of non-paying jobs on hold: an author profile I promised the editor of a small e-zine, and reading a friend’s short story. I will get to it, all of it; if I’ve learned one thing about the freelance life, it’s that you never turn work down and you always deliver. OK, two things.
And there’s always time for reading crime fiction. And blog posts.