Choosing Safety

Originally published October 24, 2012, at Creative Dream Journals.

This week, I went for safety.

I’ve been a freelance editor and writer for three years. I like it, and it’s going well, and it suits me in so many ways, including that I get to use some of my best strengths, work from home, and set my own schedule. But financially, freelancing feels unsafe. You never know, from month to month, where the money will come from, what the work will be, and how much you’ll earn. Some months, your income may be zero. I feel more confident the longer it goes well—the more months and years I can look back and say, “OK, I did all right. I brought in enough.” But then I look forward on my calendar into next month or next week or next year, and I don’t see where the money will come from—of course. It’s the nature of the job.

So last month, when a client called and asked me to apply for a part-time, salaried position that would allow me to work form home on my own hours, I thought, “Safety!” I could do this job—I knew I had the skills. What’s more, I believed in the mission of the organization and had occasionally contributed to it informally. It seemed like the closest I could get to freelancing in a salaried position. I imagined how my life would change if I could predict this month’s income, and next month’s, and the month after that. My shoulders relaxed just thinking about it. My mind became easy. I knew that this was kismet—after all, I had gotten the phone call telling me about the job only two days after completing a book manuscript I’d been working on forever, and one day after sitting in a coffee shop and making a long list of my “post-manuscript life priorities.” It was a big deal. The timing was amazing.

So I wrote up a resume and cover letter, ran them by my friends, applied for the job, and did some preparatory work. And then, on the appointed day, I picked up the phone to interview for the position.

An hour and a half later, I hung up the phone and said aloud, “Holy cow.” I texted my friend Colleen: “Holy cow. Interview over. Not sure I want the job any more.” I e-mailed my other friend Colleen: “Holy cow, I’d love to process that job interview with you. Long and short of it: Not sure I want the job any more.” (As an aside, if you ever want to know anything about me, apparently all you have to do is Google “holy cow” and “my friend Colleen.”)

This post is getting long, so I’ll cut to the chase. The interview gave me the sense that the job would be unsafe for me. Not physically unsafe, of course. And not financially unsafe, either—no, that lure was still there. The job felt unsafe creatively. A part-time job, it felt like it would require my full-time focus. It felt like the kind of job that never leaves your mind—the kind that’s always with you, that demands all your resources of energy and attention to execute someone else’s predetermined agenda.

And that kind of job doesn’t support a creative life.

I’ve made a commitment to my creative life—to writing, and to living in a way that nourishes my writing. My freelancing business supports this commitment, not only financially, but also energetically. It suits me. It dovetails.

So I withdrew my application for the job. With all its financial risk, I chose freelancing. I chose creativity. I chose safety.

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