Freelance Failure Experiment – Introduction

I am going to finally “take freelance writing seriously” by courting failure. In the past, I have taken sure things – low paying content mill jobs. I get paid less than 5 cents per word, but my chances of rejection are low. I have realized this is unsustainable, but I also understand that the world of better writing is full of failure. My work will get rejected, multiple times, and I will have to learn to deal with it. That is the point of this experiment.

What does courting failure entail? In my case, it means that I commit to submitting $5000 worth of pitches per week. But I know that I will earn maybe $100 to $500.

The purposes of this experiment are numerous

  1. Even with a 90% failure rate, I should be able to pay rent.
  2. I anticipate failure and continue to work anyway. (Big one!)
  3. To make $5000, I have to take big shots that would otherwise scare me senseless.

The setup is quite simple too.

I will blog every Monday about my plans to make $5000 – where I plan to submit etc. On Friday, I will blog again to demonstrate what I’ve accomplished. I even have a small bar scribbled in my planner so I can track visually how close to $5000 I get. Note: I will only be working on weekdays because I want to be a person with weekends. The regular blogs will help keep me honest even when I’m not sure that anyone is listening.

It starts now.

This experiment is a small piece of building the lifestyle that I want. My larger goal is to be able to indulge my love of researching and writing about it. This experiment should help me build some of the skills and connections that I need to make the larger goal a reality.

Finding a Voice

I have suddenly become remarkably opinionated. I think this is partially due to my newly found time to read the news and browse twitter. But, in the past, no matter how much news I read, I didn’t comment. Now I’m posting all over twitter and facebook. What happened?

I stopped being scared of conflict.

Now I know that sounds a little weird, but I was truly afraid of disagreeing with people. It made my job in program management difficult. A large portion of my job was to advocate on behalf of my customers. It was so hard. One time, my boss sat in on a call with me. He remained silent but waved emphatically at me when he thought I needed to jump in and defend the customer. I wouldn’t have spoken without his presence there to embolden me.

So, yeah, the fear was irrational. Most are. Sometimes I imagine fears are parts of our lost childhood selves that haven’t had a chance to grow up. Like like encapsulated Peter Pans..but holding fears that can still bring us to our knees as adults.

It’s taken me some time to accept my fear of conflict and move past it. But doing so has opened up a whole new world for me. I now think that my opinion is worth sharing. I’ve spent a lot of time honing my critical thinking skills, and I like adding something new to the conversation.

Now that I’m paying attention, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. It’s much easier to “like” or “re-tweet” on social media than it is to propose a different perspective. One of my facebook friends posted an interesting article on student activism last Thursday. I ran across it on Sunday night. At that time, the article had 25 “likes” but no comments. Huh? I read the article. Then I read a bunch of other articles on student activism. (Research is still central to my process; I feel a lot more confident posting my opinion with back-up facts. Thank you, science training.) Then I posted a response. I felt that all the articles that I read, the one my friend posted included, were all casting characters instead of analyzing the situation. The student activists were either cast as heroes or villains, depending on the article. It bothered me. The actual situation only warranted a couple lines, but (assumed) descriptions of character traits ran pages? That was my opinion and I shared it.

But, I digress, while writing about my own experiences is a large portion of this blog, I also want to share an opinion. I’d rather call it a theory, but that’s my background and I think it better describes what I say. So, here it is…

I think that the “likes,” “re-tweets” and “shares” in our internet world are part of the polarization of discourse. I think it’s easier to glom onto one extreme opinion and share it than develop your own mind about it. So that’s what is happening. Extreme views are being shared over and over again without differing perspectives being offered. Social media is the perfect medium for different perspectives! Why aren’t we using it? It’s so easy to quote a tweet and offer a different perspective on the same topic. For example, Fiat Physica posted a great article on how physics training teaches you to break down a problem. I agreed, but offered the counter that physics also teaches people to accept uncertainty and ambiguity – the idea that certain things cannot be broken down (like a light is a particle and a wave – no further break down). It was easy to do.

These are my thoughts of the day – 1) I have seen a whole new world open to me once I released my fear of conflict. 2) It’s much easier to agree (or choose the opposite side) than form your own opinion; I’m so glad that I found the courage to do the latter.

Fear and the Couch Potato

Have you ever played an unfortunate game with your friends or significant other called “what do you want to do?” In this game, you go back and forth saying “I dunno” because you a) really don’t care, b) want the other person to choose because it’s easier, c) are afraid of voicing your weird choice or d) (some reason that I have not thought about yet). The game ends when someone gets exasperated and makes a choice or you both end up staying home.

I mention this game as an example of how difficult it can sometimes be to know what you want to do. It should be a simple question with a simple answer, but it gets complicated. Emotions get in the way. Old beliefs get in the way.

Since I have learned to be more aware of fear (thank you, life coach Noe Khalfa), I have been able to see how it can obscure what I want to do. First, I get scared – this morning I didn’t do the dishes because I was irrationally afraid that this would somehow make me a housewife. Then, I can’t figure out what I want to do – which scares me further. I envision myself becoming a couch potato because I can’t figure out what I want to do.

It’s a cycle.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to break it.

Yesterday I had some success with a simple fear. I am afraid of riding my bike by myself. With others, I am a fearless biker and happy to lead the pack. But I don’t like riding on city streets (even in Seattle) without someone else to watch my back. Instead of staying home (and inching closer to couch potato status), I went for a bike ride anyway. My whole day was improved by going on that bike ride.

Yesterday was like vacation. I felt pretty good!

Today I feel like I need to get to work .That is a bit silly, since I have only had a four day weekend so far (not a long vacation by any standard). But I think that is what is making it difficult for me to figure out what I want to do. My wants are clouded by my belief that productivity is essential to every day. I have a hard time when my boyfriend asks what I did that day and the answer is ‘nothing’. I need to have a list of accomplishments. But I want to be able to relax and follow my heart. My belief in productivity makes this difficult.

The irony is that I’m so scared of not being productive that it makes me a couch potato (but a stressed one). I am so scared of not being productive, that when I ask myself what I want to do, the answer becomes “nothing.” So I do nothing, but I’m stressed about it.

Either way, it seems I need to overcome my obsession with productivity in order to follow my new direction (doing what I truly want).