Today marks the end of my first contract as a self-employed contractor. Much has happened in the last twelve months, most of it positive. The primary lesson I’ve learned is that independence is the right fit for me. I like the freedom, the flexibility, and the respect that comes with being my own boss. In the past, my previous employer had a track record of former employees returning to the company for a second journey. I don’t know if that’s changed in the last year or not (probably less so given the health of the economy), but one certainty exists after my first year: I will not be one of those former employees.
I don’t mention lead with this to stumble through a recap of the last twelve months. I possess a tendency and preference for nostalgia, but this isn’t one of those times. I lead into this because the end of year one almost necessarily indicates a looking forward to year two. It is never a given that past employment guarantees future employment, but I’ve done nothing to shake my customer’s (I love that word) faith in me. The only discussion of renewing my contract has been a clear indication that I’m expected to continue in my current role with the next phase of my project. I’ll be working “at risk” starting tomorrow, which means I could conceivably do work for which I’m never paid. There is little chance of that, though, as working “at risk” is almost a rite of passage when dealing with the molasses-slow contract process of the federal government, but it’s a consideration. I’ll work under an assumed contract until the beginning of June, when I’ll sign a new contract for the following twelve months.
In theory I could’ve packed up my belongings this afternoon before I left work, say nothing, and not return tomorrow. It’s my legal right now that I’ve fulfilled my contractual obligation. I didn’t pack up, of course, because that wouldn’t have been the honorable action. That I wanted to is the reason for my anticipation of what the future could hold.
I’ve known that my
long- short-term goal is to be a professional writer, but I’ve rarely done anything to move forward, to achieve even the smallest hint of success. I have ambitions of being a novelist. I’m in the process of writing my first novel, with the expectation that it’ll be really bad. So bad that I can move on to the next one with all the experience from the first. I just love writing. That’s the reason why I keep this blog. The number of readers checking in here fluctuates wildly between one and half-a-dozen, so I’m not getting rich doing this. I write whether anyone reads it or not because I love it. The writing is for me. I feel alive when I write. I discover what I believe when I write. I understand myself more with every word. And every word moves me closer to my dream.
Over the last eighteen months or so that I’ve blogged, I’ve gained an appreciation for essay and article writing. I have no idea if I can do it professionally, but I want to try that, too. I suspect that my first writing-for-pay will come from that. But I’ll never get to even that entry point if I don’t work for it. I’m not old, but my dream will get harder the longer I wait. Publishers will be less willing to take a chance. I might be less willing to make necessary sacrifices, whether in time or money. These thoughts creep into my mind more often now, particularly as my first contract expired today.
I will continue in my current job for at least the next fourteen months because the money is good. I can use the money to help me make some of the necessary sacrifices when I’m ready to break away from my current career and be a part- or even full-time writer. If I find a writing job, that would offset the monetary sacrifices to an extent, but I have no illusions that I’ll walk into a lucrative writing gig immediately. Without a writing job, I’ll have the instant danger of no income. Either of those possibilities is scary, so building a reserve is comforting and wise. But I have no illusions that my job motivation is anything more than the money. The Money™ is the one motivation I always swore I’d never use again. I did it in the past and I hated it, but I had to do it to survive. The money now offers flexibility, but I can’t let it become an addiction or an all-consuming excuse to keep going.
That doesn’t mean I hate my career now. I’m good at it and there are parts of it that satisfy my curiosity for problem-solving, logic, and intellectual structure. But it doesn’t offer it in the quantity that I need it. My tasks involve those skills a few hours each week. Writing gives me those satisfactions every moment I’m doing it. Even when I’m stuck and it’s painfully slow, it’s still satisfying. I’m happy every moment of the process. So I need to pursue it further. I need to try to make it my career. I’m tired of waiting.