Confessions of an Unemployed Writer

I’m thinking of changing the name of the blog. :0)

It recently occurred to me that my problem this summer isn’t so much that work has dried up (though that has certainly happened; things seem tough all over right now), but that I find I don’t really care that the work dried up. If I cared as this crisis was coming, I would have headed it off. But I didn’t. What’s going on here, I think, is not so much that I am out of work, but that I’m starting to realize I need a break from freelancing, or at least from freelancing as I have known and practiced it for the last half-dozen years.

I remember reading about a fairly established actor who took a break from acting to wait tables, saying it was honest work and the break he wanted from the work he’d been doing. I remember not quite buying that. But I buy it now.

For a long time now I have had a job with great cool points and spikes of lucre. It was unstable but it could also be a lot of fun, and I almost always got to be myself while doing it, which is something that matters hugely to me. But the freelance glitter is looking a little cheap lately, and I am wondering if I have placed too much attention elsewhere, when (as is so often the case), things worth paying more attention to have been right in front of me.

I am the first to admit that I am changeable. It’s why I love writing, because there’s always something new to grab my mind and gorge on until I am sated with the delicious taste of information, and the equally delicious task of distributing and sharing it. But I am tired of freelance goals that are so nebulous and large. Science. Documentary scriptwriting. Things that reach out into the world at large. Lately I am thinking about reaching out into the world writ small. Lately I am thinking more and more about writing for and about Asheville.

This poor blog is always in transition (science blog, college blog, personal blog, music blog, food blog…), because it is a hallmark of my nature that I always am, too. And lately I find I want to constrict my focus into something less floppy and nebulous. Into something that feels more useful, more real, even more local somehow.

Next week I’m applying to be a GIS librarian (a sort of science researcher and librarian) at the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center here in Asheville, where my focus would be North Carolina earth science and local climate. The pay will not be anything like what I ordinarily command, but I’m starting to feel like a holdout, a snob and an idler for not seeking and taking appealing work because I’m used to the taste of a freelancer’s rates and the cachet of her cool points.

I applied to work at my local yarn shop because I frankly found the thought of downtown retail related to a craft I love more appealing than SEO and another conference call. I applied to work at a local organization hiring a writer/producer of science outreach material. I am about to apply for (freelance!) work as a craft book editor for a local publishing house, and have been paying serious attention to a friend’s repeated encouragement to pitch a knitting book to the publisher she edits for. (I am in the middle of designing my first wearables and tote bags, but that’s another story…)

And I’ve always got good old Blog Asheville, which I may well soon bombard with a series of articles on local things I just plain want to write about, like my two favorite West Asheville public gardens (the 1/4 acre Vance Elementary Peace Garden and Christopher Mello’s sculpture garden), local roller derby team the Blue Ridge Rollergirls, and why people don’t swim in the river in town (why????), but only in rural areas where I don’t know that there’s really a significantly different experience. I think about writing about these things and I perk up a bit, though I smell no money.

Only fun.

Is it true that the water’s deeper there by Harrin’s Sand & Gravel by Carrier Park? If you know, speak up or you shall force me to shave legs and don swimsuit and find out for myself and then tell you all all about it…

Maybe summer dragged because it took me two months to realize I had no appetite for anything in my usual workload. I knew I didn’t quite feel burned out, just unmotivated in a wholly unfamiliar way, as anyone who knows me I love and live to be and feel useful, busy and engaged.

I like being an implement. I like producing. I like working all day the in fields of the mindscape, so finding myself lazing uselessly around in its outskirts all summer is not me at all, and no fun. It’s not a rest or a break. It’s bloody uncomfortable and energy-stealing.

I wouldn’t say I’m dropping out. I’ll be a writer until the day I die. It’s my first, best thing and a fundamental part of who I am and how I interface with people and the world. I am, however, open to trying new things.

As soon as I figure out what they are.

4 responses to “Confessions of an Unemployed Writer

  1. Best of luck! Not knowing where you’ll end up has its own appeal.

  2. Just as long as you keep writing, that’s what I care about. I’m selfish like that. (Of course, I’ve hardly written a word lately, so I’ll just slink off now.) I send you big hugs from the Sandhills!

  3. I send you big hugs from Asheville — I’ve been following all your (latest) trials on the blog. Thanks for all your kind words about my writing. Is it SAFF yet?

  4. Good luck with the librarian job, it actually sounds right up your alley.

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