Monday, June 28, 2010
Downsides of Freelancing, or the 1-Day Weekend Experiment
My ass hurts from sitting. I'm shocked that I don't have carpal tunnel like my sister, and that my glasses prescription hasn't changed in a few years, because there are times when the screen flickers and everything goes Gaussian blurry. When I'm profiling grocery store shelves, scrolling the product rows for baker's yeast, my left-hand pinky and index finger swipe the air instinctively. Ctrl+f. Find: Fleischmann's. I self-narrate events in blog post voice. In April, I stowed my computer in a closet for 48 hours to drive around Picos de Europa, and when I got back it was dead. I wasn't surprised.
Freelancing is cool. I can type an hour, read The Golden Spruce the next, then get back to work. I can play geography quizzes and read the NYTimes site during the middle of the day without intoning the phrase "time theft." I can spend a year traveling through five South American countries and still pull in a solid 30k.
What I can't do is stop. I don't work all day, but I do work every day, especially since joining the Matador team. The multi-project fluidity of my freelance lifestyle means there's always something to do. There is no downtime, only different manifestations of work. Research becomes writing becomes uploading becomes editing becomes publishing becomes promoting. And on.
But the part that freaks me out is the new habit I seem to have of turning even potential downtime into work time. When assignments from Korea have ebbed, and my Matador duties are crossed off (for the day), there's still more--planning a next book with Park Kyubyong, zeroing out my Google Reader, blogging here. Each minute, monetize. Not that I do all these things simply to make money, but the mindset is similar. Produce. Progress. Maximize.
On her blog Cuaderno Inedito, Julie Schwietert asks, "What if the Internet crashed today?" She uses the question to imagine pursuing projects in the "real" world, more closely, humanly connected with colleagues and communities than the Internet can ever allow. The prospect excites her. Right now, I'm taking the question in a different direction, but one equally exciting to me. If the Internet crashed today, I would...
I would go outside. Take mate to the park. Ride my bike to McKinney Falls. Fix my bike. Paint the living room "Balmy Seas." Go to a movie. Play frisbee golf at Bartholomew. Volunteer. Take a Spanish class. Work in the yard. Read an entire book. Locate the best draft beer bar in Austin.
Those things sound fun. So I've decided that every Sunday, my Internet will crash. I will shut off my computer Saturday night and won't touch it till Monday morning. It will not die--it will be fine without me. And vice versa.
This will be my 1-day freelancer's weekend. I will look forward to it all week, and then I will spend it frivolously.