I am scheduled to give a presentation on Freelance Writing at this week’s Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois. I really am pleased to have this opportunity. Part of the presentation deals with why some people choose to be freelance writers.
I want to address this topic from a personal perspective. Perhaps my take on this will resonate with some who read this blog.
I retired in 2011 after a 34-year career working with persons with developmental disabilities. In my early career, I was assigned to deal with the behavior clients. I spent many eight-hour shifts breaking up fights and fending off client attacks on myself. In my twenties, I was able to physically handle the job. The injuries I received healed fast. As my career progressed I was able to work with quieter clients, although no day was ever totally without some kind of issue. The people living in the center had been placed there because their own families could not deal with them. There were some individuals who were without families as well. Anyway, the work was tailor-made for me, as there was plenty of variety in my days. As I neared retirement, I realized I had aches and pains developing that had never been there before. I truly believed that once I retired I could exercise more and get rid of these annoyances.
Now, five years after retirement, I have days when I can barely walk. Standing still is worse. I used to walk five miles a day at work; now walking a half mile is a challenge, not because of a lack of stamina but because of severe leg and back pain. I’m not seeking sympathy by revealing this, merely making a point. At this stage in my life, I physically cannot do the kind of work I did even ten years ago. I need something less taxing.
Sitting at my computer and pounding on a keyboard meets that requirement. Of course, if I sit too long I get a different kind of pain, so I take breaks and stretch and exercise, looking for the balance that works for me.
My physical problems are one of the main reasons I choose to freelance. I still have dreams of getting healthy enough to reopen my judo school, but that’s a story for another blog.
The other reason I choose to freelance is my four youngest sons, all of whom have some type of learning deficit. They range in age from 18 to 22. The two youngest graduated from high school this past June. They, along with their brother Stephen, are all involved with vocational training in the hopes of getting a job.
The job market is tough for anyone, and even more so for persons diagnosed with a disability. Employers are hesitant to even give them a shot. Ken, the oldest of the four, has found a job at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. He wipes tables, sweeps floors, takes out the trash, washes windows, and so forth. He has worked there now for over a year. I take him to work and bring him home the four days a week he works, as public transportation near us is very limited. Ken and I have a system in place that is currently running smoothly. For his younger brothers, I have periodic meetings with the providers that are required according to federal and state regulations for vocational training. For one person it would not be too hard, but when I have to do everything three different times it starts to become hectic. If I had to be at a job a set number of hours a week, it would not work. Some meetings are in the morning, others in the afternoon or even the evening. But since I basically work for myself I am free to set my schedule as I need to.
When you are a parent of a special-needs child, your responsibilities do not end when they reach adulthood. Each child is different, and some become independent earlier than others, while some will never become independent.
My life now is dedicated to helping my sons reach a point in their life where they no longer need me or their mother. We have journeyed what seems like light years to get where we are now. By choosing to freelance I am able to stay on this journey. I don’t know how much further we will go, but we are not yet done with this pilgrimage.
Freelance writing can be lucrative, but that is far from guaranteed. It can be fulfilling to those who have an absolute need to share the stories in their soul. Freelancing can be a way to establish a name for yourself while you finish your masterpiece.
Freelance writing can also be the answer to a prayer, a way to continue to work when other options have faded; a way of working that also provides the freedom necessary to care for more important matters.
For me, those more important matters are not an obligation but a vocation. It’s a vocation that I happily embrace and thank God for the opportunity to participate in. The success I most dearly strive for is the success of my children, their ability to reach goals that they choose to seek out, and the capability to care for themselves, even if they need some guidance from their older siblings.
Time is what is needed most of all. If I had a regular job, the time I could dedicate to them would be reduced. That is too high a price no matter how sweet the paycheck.
So now you know why I freelance. How about you?