On Writing

This week I have mostly been occupying myself with the idea of becoming self-employed. For too long I have toiled in the employment market doing other people’s work and for other people’s gain. If you are someone who has worked in an environment resembling a Chinese sweatshop then the idea of being your own boss will probably sound like cream in a doughnut. For some it’s an unsurpassed level of freedom, being able to set your own hours and run your working life in your own sweet time. For others, it’s a complete logistical nightmare; being snowed under with paperwork and trying to arrange your own accounts for when the dreaded self-assessment comes around. For me, it was a knee-jerk reaction caused by finally losing my patience with the stagnant politics and ‘Eastenders’ style drama that comes from any group of individuals malnourished of intellectual stimulation. It was either that, or go Postal.

For those of you that are content with inputting large amounts of data onto a computer and then catching the soap marathon on ITV2, I commend you. You are the model employee. Now switch off and get back to the latest episode of Downton Abbey, Friday night’s amnesiac party is just around the corner. By Sunday, your brain will have recoiled in horror and conveniently erased the mental torture of the last 6 days and you’ll look forward to re-catching up with the omnibus on Sunday. Lucky you. For those of you that spent all night trawling the internet for salvation and have found this post 3 hours into a mental tangent I assure you, you are not alone.

Stepping into the void and leaving the ‘relative’ security of having a permanent job is scary. It’s like blindfolding yourself in a darkened room full of glass jars, one filled with a wedge of money and the rest filled with a cocktail of corrosive substances. No matter how lucky you are, you’re going to get your hands burned somewhere along the way. Setting up in any field requires more than just the competence to complete the task, you have to be better, faster, more attractive and have larger, whiter, teeth than your opponent. And there are plenty of other bright-white opponents in any field that are willing to pick up the gauntlet.

So, moist behind the ears you naively wander into Google’s search engine and with a meek voice you shyly ask the internet guru, ‘how do I become a freelance writer?’. With a deep-rumbling, earth-shattering sound, an army of web pages and ‘how-to’ pages emerges from the darkness, each one bigger and brighter and more convincing than the last. ‘Become a freelance writer and enjoy your life’, ‘5 steps to becoming a great freelancer’, ‘buy my book or you won’t be a great writer’, the list is endless and thoroughly insipid. You are bombarded with so much information that your brain literally exits the building in a taxi and boards the nearest plane to Godknowswhere.

If you manage to get a telegram back to your brain begging it to come back you might traipse a little deeper into the research of your chosen subject. Here lies the next guardian of the freelancing temple, the ‘market is saturated’ golem. He will tell you that there is no room at the inn and to go back to the call-centre or admin/recruitment hole you came from. He will splice this nicely with news clippings he saved from the Daily Mail about the recession and tell you that the future of all industry is through multi-national corporations and how dare you think you could break out of those chains. (Continued page 2)