Pretty good words to live by

What I’ve ascertained from 2013, my first year of self-employment is this: it’s difficult. Not impossibly so, but damn is it stressful.

Sure, there are plenty of ups. Like not having to go to an office every day, travelling teaching and performing at festivals, drinking coffees with friends and brainstorming, getting paid to write things, writing things I want to write even though I’m not getting paid to do so, pursuing ideas and inspiration, having time to do some baking during the day, and more.

But it is also painfully isolating, frequently frustrating, marriage-straining, financially uncertain at best, and something I question and second guess at least every other day.

Feel the pain
And the measures are not always in balance; sometimes the frustrating negatives seem to grossly outweigh the positives, and I start seeing a regular nine-to-five through some pretty distorted lenses.

But, then I remember that the ups of a freelance life are really high. And, though the lows are quite low, it’s possible that that’s actually a good thing. That pain is beneficial.

Because the greater the struggle, the greater the value; if there’s no fight involved, then the rewards aren’t worth it.

For example, I used to like the participation ribbons that all the kids got at school sports day, but I also recognised, even when I was eight, that they don’t count for much. You have to actually try hard, and experience the pain and frustration in order to learn and grow, and feel the real sense of achievement that comes with actually accomplishing something. Just going through the motions doesn’t mean much.

Participation is important
But, if there’s no participation there’s no chance of success. So unless you’re earning that participation ribbon by being at least involved, you’re not going to get anything of value. So opting out is not an option.

But waking up every day and getting down to work, at home, by myself, is difficult. And finding the time and energy to do not just the searching of clients and the writing and rehearsing, and the thinking – oh god the thinking – and not getting discouraged when emails vanish into a void, requires discipline.

Discipline is not a strong suit of mine.

So I’m using this new year – and the more-or-less one year anniversary of me being self-employed – to recommit to finding that discipline and nurturing it like it’s a fragile and valuable thing, which it is. And through that process, becoming more productive. This article about replacing goals with systems delineates the whole perspective quite clearly..

So that’s what I’m working on – reveling in the challenges, and having systems rather than goals. The result will undoubtedly be more pain and frustration, and I’m sure some satisfaction and creative output along the way. That’s it: productivity.

And by being productive, I mean in terms of both creative output and in terms of earning money. After just one year those two things already overlap quite a bit, so I theorize that it’s only a matter of time before they mean the same thing.