So I’ve killed this experiment in freelancing early. I’ve taken it into the yard, placed a shotgun behind its ear, and pulled the trigger. Freelance brains and bone are splattered underfoot, and I’m slipping and sliding about on them wondering why I ever thought this was a good metaphor.
There are a lot of ways in which this freelance experiment has not made me happy, but they all hang off the same central problem. With money as the goal, I’ve ended up chasing stats under pressure. Sales made have mattered more than words written. Reviews have mattered more than the stories themselves. Word of mouth has become a goal where previously it was just a thing that happened when I wrote a tale people liked. Books released are products that must sell.
It’s the familiar tension between poncy artiness and practical business. I know a tiny handful of writers who are comfortable sitting in that sandwich. I know a great many more who think or pretend they are, but have really just accepted that they’re playing a numbers game now and they’ll do the best they can with the hand they’re dealt. Fair enough, if that works for them.
It doesn’t for me. Chasing a career writing fiction is too involved and distracting, and ultimately too far removed from having one to offer any joy. Look at my experience releasing The Flesh Market earlier this year. People who have read that book genuinely seem to love it, and are vocal about it too. Yet because it didn’t sell as quickly as previous books I ended up feeling deflated by the whole experience. That’s just backwards, like finishing a marathon then beating yourself up for not finishing first.
With all that in mind, I quit. That’s enough. I have no intention of continuing the push to become a full time writer in any way, shape, or form. I’m trashing the whole endeavour. See opening metaphor for further detail.
That’s not to say I’ll never write full time, or make my living from it. I’m not chasing that goal anymore, but if it comes to me then I’ll consider it at the time.
Instead I’m going to step back and concentrate on the important stuff – for which you may read ‘the things that most gratify me’. The current little trilogy of books will be completed and released, because I’m having fun with them. The 52 will kick off again, because I enjoy that project probably more than anything else I’ve done in the last two years. After that… who knows? Maybe nothing at all. As I’m giving myself a clean slate, I’m in no real hurry to fill it up again. There are loads of projects that might happen. I’ll see if any of them bubble to the surface, but I won’t force them. I definitely won’t stop writing things, but I make no promises about publishing them. Not yet.
This year almost killed me as a writer, because I tried to adopt a commercial mindset that some other writers have had some success with. It was definitely worth the experiment, if only to kill a dream that doesn’t in practise work for me. It’s a ‘what if?’ scenario I don’t have to worry about anymore. I’ll miss the possibility of it, but not the thing itself.
I’m glad I explored it, but I’m also glad it’s over. It clears some space to work out what’s next.
Thanks for joining me on this little experiment! It may not have the cheery ending we might have hoped for, but I’ve really enjoyed your company along the way. One thing I’ve reaffirmed through all this is how much I enjoy collaboration, and you’ve made this feel like one.