Looking Back, Looking Forward
October 21, 2016. That's the day I drafted the last blog post I wrote on this site - indeed, it's the last time I looked at the site for a long time. I had just posted about making the second issue of my lit mag, Hapax, a labor of love. I had also been in the process of submitting works and publishing. If I look at my current CV, there is a long gap between then and now, gracefully punctuated by a few small activities.
As you may know, my relationship ended in 2017 and I had to change everything. I got a new job, moved twice, started a new relationship, and adopted a new cat. Between the end of 2016 and the end of 2017, I became depressed and unmotivated. I finished my degree in December and continued writing a novel, continued sustaining the guild and my online relationships, and that was about it. I lacked the confidence to do almost anything. There were bright spots in that time, accomplishments and celebrations, highs in my relationship, but also a lot of lows.
After settling into my new job and new living situation, I became obsessed with working. I wanted to make up for all the time when I hadn't been productive, particularly in that lost year. Finally, in October 2018, I began to take language lessons. It proved to me that I could make time for other things besides work (even though I use language skills at work). To be honest, I went a little crazy, but I learned a lot.
The biggest lesson was how to harness my previous experience and education. Everything I had studied in the past, from business ideas to freelance development, to being creative and setting goals, became relevant. I feel blessed because I use some facet of what I learned every single day - from Latin verbs to reading and understanding statistics to web design and more.
Finally, I decided I wanted to write again. I've developed a daily practice of writing and being creative, squeezing time from my carefully-managed schedule in order to write. I'm happier now and I have a lot of works in progress as well as some publications past and future to look forward to. The last part of getting back to writing was restoring a public face to the world. That means resurrecting and polishing my website, my Twitter, and, of course, this blog.
It hasn't been easy or perfect, but I think I'm ready to continue creating. I hope to update this blog at least once a week. I'm planning to do Campnanowrimo next month to generate work. And I want to continue engaging with all of you. Thank you for supporting me for the past few years and being patient with me. I hope to talk soon.
Freelancing: the First Victory
I've been focusing recently on the negatives until I took a freelancing class that encouraged us to focus on the positives. I think that I expected to start up a business without (much) suffering, when really I should be celebrating the fact that I have any work in the first place.
Yes, there have been times--a lot of times--when I have been afraid to fail, and that's stopped me from doing anything at all. There have also been periods of inactivity where the length and growing list of "I didn't think of this but I should do it" to-dos has paralyzed me. I still have a long list of tasks. But that list is actually saying something.
It's not saying, as I thought it did, 'here's another line of tasks you must do for free that will never pan out.' It's saying, 'you know what you need to do to grow your business, and you didn't know before.' In short, it's giving work that will someday pay off with clients.
Many freelancers report that the first six months are completely unpaid. I started Sky Tango Freelance in July 2015, so I can report that my first nine months have been unpaid. But compiling the vast amount of skills I learned in my personal annual report has shown me how much of that has been productive time. If it were easy, we wouldn't pay for it. We wouldn't need to pay others for it. And everyone would be doing it.
It's not easy, so getting started puts you ahead of the pack.
No one likes tax time. At best, it's yet another reminder of the grown-up world. At worst, it's the devil coming to take even more of your money than you already gave him during the year. I, however, have a bittersweet relationship with taxes.
My childhood had four seasons: summer, fall, winter, and tax season; my father is a licensed tax preparer. He built this small business while working full-time as a firefighter. It's true that a fire station has a lot of downtime, especially for the person manning the ladder truck, which typically responds to fewer calls than the standard engines or ambulances. Many firefighters do, and thrive on the long shift schedule, which is followed by several days off during which they can grow their other business. Their contacts and reputation as blue-collar heroes help. But that doesn't make it pleasant.
The increased income helped our family relax, pay for big ticket purchases, and make ends meet after the spendy holiday season. However, it also meant high tempers, overwork, stress, and reduced family time. My father worked (and continues to work!) so hard during tax season that he set a standard that seemed nigh unreachable. Many of us have had a ten or twelve-hour video gaming session at least once, or a binge-watch of a show that keeps us at our computer. My dad regularly worked ten or twelve hour days at his desk. We used to joke that the only thing that could get him out of his seat--besides dinner, which my mother insisted we eat as a family--was a fire!
Nowadays tax season is heralded by some wordsmithing of my father's business to client communications, fielding computer upgrade questions, and stealing all the new promotional pens for my personal use. I don't feel a January dread the way I used to, but I still understand that travel in either direction and quality time get eaten up by a business that could kick any standard, big-box tax firm's ass in turnaround time, quality, and price.
However, as I went to tally up my itemized deductions this year, I realized just how much time and money I had spent last year on charitable giving, volunteer work, and donations. I donated to eleven nonprofits, volunteered my time for four others, and assisted other crowdfunding and Patreon efforts that aren't tax-deductible. I also bought products from the nonprofit organizations I support, and used Amazon Smile to give to a nonprofit of my choice.
What I learned: if you keep giving and doing what you can throughout the year, you'll have something to feel good about when tax season comes. Reflecting on my contributions gave me a sense of purpose and direction for the yet-unused time and money in the year to come.
Even if you don't acknowledge tax season as a real season.
Seriously, my dad is awesome and he works with clients in any state. I am also available to hire as a freelance writer and simple web designer.