A mini-crisis happened this week which might have passed like the proverbial water under the bridge except for my reaction to it.
As I have mentioned before, I pay the bills by writing short nonfiction articles, usually from five to seven a day. I work hard at it. It pays little, and I have to write and submit constantly to generate enough income to keep afloat. Sometimes the constant pressure of the work exhausts me, but I keep at it day after day, knowing that I work not for myself alone but for my sons.
It wasn’t always like this. During the ten years or so in Greece before I left, I had a good, high-paying, well-respected job teaching English as a second language. But when I came to the States with my sons to escape the sinking ship of the Greek economy, I had to start from scratch.
Every day I dream of and work towards the goal of writing my own work, my fiction and memoirs, full time. Instead of waking early, grabbing my coffee, and researching and writing myself into a frazzle for the benefit of an Internet content mill, I long to get up early, grab my coffee, and write what’s really in my head and heart screaming to come out. Eighteen published books and a lot of short stories and there’s still a lot I haven’t had time yet to say. That’s my dream; that’s my goal.
So I had written several articles in the morning, took my customary brief nap, got up, grabbed my coffee and sat down to write more articles, but I could not access the articles on the website that posts the assignments. I went away, did the dishes, did some general cleanup, came back expecting the problem to have been solved, and this time the website was blank. No assignments at all.
I should have been mortified. This was my bread and butter, after all. But I wasn’t. I breathed a psychic sigh of relief. It has been stressful keeping up with all that crappy hack writing. Oh, I do my best and get accolades on the quality of my work from the corporate end of things, but nevertheless the pay is poor and I have to work very hard to keep up.
So I was relieved. In the back of my mind I knew the assignments would return, at the most in a day or so, but for a brief period I basked in the freedom of no work. The next morning I allowed myself the luxury of working on my novel-in-progress at the beginning of the day rather than staying up to do it after all the other work is done between eleven and midnight.
Ah, sweet liberty. At least I had a brief whiff of its clear, clean fragrance. For by midmorning I had discovered that the corporation had changed sites (without, by the way, informing its writers) and now offered the assignments elsewhere. I switched over without difficulty and am back at work.
But those brief moments when I had pseudo-reached my goal, when I tasted the freedom of putting my own work first…
In the past there were times when I was able to focus on writing in the fresh bright hours of the morning. In Greece, for instance, I had the summers between school sessions, and during those times I would turn out a novel, or a memoir, or a series of short stories. When I went to Brooklyn to spend the summer being a caregiver for one of my sons who had had a nasty accident and was temporarily disabled, I managed to wake up early and write 1,500 words or so a day and finish a novel.
Now, though, at this particular stage of the journey, I have to put the hack articles first or I can’t churn out enough to get by. I have to keep reminding myself that it is temporary.
Recently, when assignments have been slim and I am too exhausted to continue with the junk articles, little bits of income have popped in at fortuitous moments from my own work: royalties from Amazon and Smashwords, payment for an article posted on the Science Fiction Writers of America website, other payments for short stories appearing in magazines and anthologies. It gives me hope that the tables will turn for good, that momentum will build sufficiently for me to make a living at the work I love.