Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New chapter, fresh start

I mentioned in my last post that I was thinking of ditching freelance work (aka ditching the relatively unsuccessful process of taking random, fleeting jobs with blogs, clients and publications that change their minds and objectives like the weather) and finding something steadier and more rewarding within the incredibly competitive publishing industry. I'm thinking editor or staff writer for a successful website or magazine. Regular contributor for a publication that has loyal readers. Writer of my very own column. Something of that ilk. I know people and have friends who primarily write for ONE publication and earn either their entire living or a big chunk of their living off of it. In a nutshell, that's ultimately what I want.

And after years of never quite being able to answer simple questions about the kind of writer I am or want to become, it's such a relief to be able to somewhat identify what I want. 

But I realized that in order to re-invent myself as a writer, I need to start fresh. I need a clean slate.

Freelancing has left me feeling a bit frustrated and unfulfilled lately. I'm tired of scrounging for work and constantly getting laid off. I'm tired of juggling (or feeling obligated to juggle) several writing jobs at once. Ever since I started my job at Waffle House, I've been trying my best to achieve some balance in my life. When I'm not cleaning bathrooms, refilling coffee mugs, scrubbing cheese and eggs off plates, and asking people if they want anything in their hashbrowns, I really value rest, time with loved ones, and writing that feels therapeutic, meaningful, and more up my alley. I don't really want to "work" when I'm not working, which has led me further and further towards the kind of writing that doesn't FEEL like work to me.

I'm not even vaguely suggesting that being a writer isn't hard work and that being a successful one won't take blood, sweat and tears. I'm just saying that my motivation to write about things I don't want to write about and my motivation to juggle handfuls of underpaying and tedious jobs is lacking these days. I want passion. I want drive. I want singular, specific goals to set my sights upon. Otherwise, I won't write. And I think we can all agree that that would be tragic.

So here's what I've been up to lately and what I plan to be up to in months to come:

I recently started writing for Thought Catalog, an intriguing and slightly controversial website that you've probably already heard of if you like the Internet as much as I do. It's a wonderful platform for writers to get their most authentic work out there, and I've been lucky enough to befriend one of the staff writers/producers. I submit my articles to her directly, and she generally gets them posted to the site within 24 hours, even though most new posts take up to two weeks to get published (if they get published at all). Some of my work has been shared on the homepage, as well as the official Facebook page. Only a handful of articles make it that far. I was browsing the Facebook comments on my most recent article last night and was brought to tears with the way it was being passed around. Over a dozen people had tagged friends in their comments, urging them to read and feel inspired by my post (which was an open letter to everyone with a broken heart). In addition to all the sharing, it had nearly half a thousand likes. I'm very new to this platform and have submitted some of the most personal and revealing pieces I've ever dared to write in my life, but I already feel like I've found a home there. I come up with new ideas regularly and hope to someday become a prime contributor, if not a full on staff writer. I will include a link to my Thought Catalog page in my shameless self-promotion corner if you would like to see what I've been working on over there. Time and inspiration will tell if I stick with it!

I've been catching up on my book. I got horribly, horribly behind on it when I started working at Waffle House during their busiest time of year. I worked some crazy hours, and when I wasn't working, I was pretty much sleeping. My poor book suffered, but I'm so close to being caught up now that I can taste it. I don't know if this book will ever be published (hopefully it will!), but at this time, I mainly want to prove to myself that I can finish it. When I do, we'll take it from there.

I want to reconnect with the person I was when I FIRST started writing. I like her goals. I like her values. I like her passion. I like how she started a blog and submitted guest posts to her favorite websites simply because she wanted to. She chose passion over money and joy over stress. I'm trying to be her again, which is precisely why I'm starting over.

I created an official Facebook page for myself, something that seemed a little easier than launching a website. I'm hoping to keep it adequately updated in the coming months as I continue to get published, make progress on my book, and reach other writery (not a word) milestones. Please, PLEASE like me. 

Finally, I am hoping to get my name in print a little more often, which means I will try not to suck at submitting new stories to places like Chicken Soup for the Soul. I will try not to suck at actually reading the creative writing newsletters and calls for submissions that are delivered to my inbox on a golden platter and eagerly await my eyes on webpages I have bookmarked.

I hope you will join me on this journey of re-inventing myself as a writer! And hey, maybe this means I'll actually start blogging more.

<3 Madison      

Friday, January 22, 2016

Family vs. career

So I was on a date the other night (please hold the applause) when my handsome companion and I ventured over to the daunting subject of family vs. career when you live in a place that makes it hard to have both. I disclosed my hopes of ditching freelance work entirely and eventually finding a steady editorial or staff writing position of sorts, and he empathized with how difficult it is to achieve that where we live. Although I don't want to announce where I live on the Internet, I will say it's a relatively small and uneventful town. If you're not a doctor or a lawyer or someone who works for one, it's rare to be considered too much of a big shot. While I'm certainly not saying it's impossible to achieve my goal of being a successful writer and still live near my family, there's no denying that it will indeed be tricky. To be honest, I'm not sure where to begin.

I've always known that people like me belong in places like New York or Chicago. I know I could find countless opportunities to be the kind of writer I want to be in a bigger city with bigger publishing demands. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to be an in-office writer for a popular website for millennials dangled in front of me. Yes, they were based in New York. I wasn't given a solid job offer, mind you, but I was told that IF I lived in New York, I was free to apply. I was even given a list of requirements for the job, and it didn't sound hard at all. Following that experience, I pretty much had an existential crisis for about a week.

Over the last year, my family has really made its way towards the top of my priority list. A plethora of different events cultivated this, but after years of feeling depressed, abandoned and alone, being surrounded by loved ones is all I really want. The thought of living in a tiny apartment in a big city where no one cares about me makes me feel quite miserable. I could never do it. My desire for love will always come before my desire for money, and my desire for happiness will always come before my desire for success. I've had this discussion with many more before my handsome companion, and they all empathize. They all think I should leave this town without looking back and go where the writers go, but at the same time, they all project the overall sentiment of, "But it would sure be lonely, and we sure would miss you."

My older brother recently landed a job closer to home, and he and my sister-in-law are so excited about moving back that it almost makes me emotional. It's been so challenging for them to live away from family and friends as of late, and they don't even live that far --- a couple of hours. But they don't want to make a trip out of every visit. They want to go to more family gatherings, accept invitations to hang out at the drop of a hat, make memories closer to home, and just BE HERE. And I get that. I totally get that because I want the same thing. But I don't know how to reach my writing goals when I don't have the resources and opportunities to do so. As they say, the struggle is real. That seems to be the 20-something motto these days. Many of my friends are in similar boats filled with big decisions and difficult compromises.

I guess this issue really boils down to what is most important to you. Some people will choose adventure and opportunity at the expense of family time, and others will choose the exact opposite. I wonder if there is a happy medium. And if there is, I wonder if I will ever find it.

Until then, I choose to believe that I can have my cake and eat it too. It's my cake after all.

<3 Madison