Friday, May 17, 2013

Staying True to Yourself

Sometimes, I'm a very spontaneous person. I make snap decisions without really thinking them through. Thankfully, this is becoming rare. I attribute that to wisdom, I suppose, which comes with age (one of the good things).

I recently made one of those snap decisions. In this day and age of instant communication, it's easy to fire off an email without thinking too much, and that's exactly what I did when I decided to inquire about a possible freelance gig.

Here's the thing, though. I don't really have time to do anymore freelance work. But since my husband is graduating from college next month and already has a job lined up (hurrah! Two incomes!), I was playing with the idea of working from home, and wanted to see if I could make a go of it. So, off I went, searching the Internet for freelance gigs in my area of expertise. I came across one with a former contact and immediately shot off an email, despite a little voice telling me, "Don't do it."

I blithely ignored it, of course, and when I got his response that yes, indeed, they could use my help, and that the amount they paid for the service was X amount of dollars (VERY good pay for this work, I might add) I charged ahead. I read through all the documents he sent, further bypassing the little voice (and the growing pit in my stomach) that said, "No, no, no," focused instead on the dollar signs, and sent back an email, saying, "Of course I could do this!"

The next day, he sent me a sample to do to see if my work was up to snuff. By that time, however, a knot had settled in my chest as well as a slight feeling of panic. I had so much to do already. How could I possibly add one more thing to the pile? But then I thought that if this led to me being able to work from home, which is what I really aspire to do someday, it would be worth it, right?

Not so fast. 

I'd overlooked two very crucial elements in all of this. First, I've been doing the freelance work I specialize in  for more than eight years. I'm burned out. The thought of doing yet more of this type of work wasn't appealing, but the money was. I didn't heed my subconscious' whispers of warning.

Burn out was one thing. But then something else even more alarming roared to the forefront.

When would I have time to work on my novel?

It would get shoved even further behind my other commitments. I've already neglected it far too much. This would seal the deal. My dream of being a published novelist, the one I've held for so long, would be that much further out of reach.

I talked to my mom. I talked to my husband. I talked to my daughter. I emailed a few writing friends and asked for advice.In the end, though, the answer came to me loud and clear.

Just say no.

I sent the email to my contact this morning and apologized profusely for wasting his time.

The lesson learned is multi-faceted. One, money isn't everything. Yes, the pay was fantastic, but at what cost to my emotional (and physical considering all my health issues) health and happiness? At what cost to pursuing my passions? I'm trying to make a conscious effort to focus on those passions, not shove them in the closet. Two, it's best to listen to that small voice inside of us. Three, waiting a few days before sending off an impetuous email won't hurt a thing. In fact, it will help you save face later so you don't have to write an awkward apology email.

The bottom line...

Staying true to yourself is the best route to take. I can't tell you the relief I feel at having made this decision. There's a twinge of regret in there, too, because I keep thinking about that money I'm missing out on, and there's also guilt for having put my contact through the whole rigmarole of explaining their process to me. I hate inconveniencing people.

On the positive side, I am super excited to dive into my manuscript edits without this hanging over me. I have another article for America in WWII magazine that I can't wait to research, and a book under contract to write.

My blessings are absolutely bountiful. I'm so thankful to God for giving me all of these opportunities, and I thank Him for pulling me back when I was about ready to stretch myself too thin.

Wisdom. It is a good thing.


12 comments:

  1. This is an excellent post, Melissa, full of wisdom. The only reason age brings wisdom, after all, is that we've committed or witnessed so many more mistakes!
    I almost accepted a job once that fell through at the last minute--and I'm so grateful now, even though at the time I regretted the "loss" of income. But working on MY writing is so much more important to me, and I would feel incomplete if I had to push it aside for other work.

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    1. Thanks, Faith! I had started to panic when I thought of how much LESS time I would have to work on my novel. That told me all I needed to know. :)

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  2. Melissa, excellent post. I think that perhaps it wasn't only the money that made you initially accept the job, but also the validation of having your inquiry pay off with an offer. Congratulations on making the decision to focus on your work! I am loving being able to make money right now on the memoir I am writing for a client, and already thinking what I am going to do for money when I finish it. I got a lead the other day at a networking event for a writer friend of mine, from a person who know someone who is looking for just what I can offer. But like you, I have a couple of half finished books languishing in my folders. I will think of you when the time comes to make the decision between money in the hand versus completing my own work.

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    1. Thank you, Jeanne. I think you're right in that the validation probably had something to do with it, too. I'm just glad I made the decision I did - now I'm pumped to work on my novel!

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  3. Yes, impetuosity can get us in trouble! Extra money is always attractive, but quality of life is so much more important. That Keep Calm and Rely on God says it all, doesn't it?

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    1. J.T., it does say it all! I need to remind myself over and over about relying on God instead of just going full-steam ahead!

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  4. Thank you for the excellent reminder Melissa! I tend to be one of those people who says "yes" to everything before thinking it through. Lately though, I've tried to rein in my people pleasing-ness to what I can handle and what I actually want to handle. Sometimes it's hard but it comes down to priorities and what's best for ourselves!

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    1. Hopefully, it gets easier the more we have to deal with it - and we start to really listen to that inner voice!

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  5. Isn't it amazing? That little voice and how much its quietness really has to say? It's so easy to not listen. So easy to brush off. And yet it's meaning is so LOUD. I'm so glad you had the courage to Just Say No. It's really hard to do! Congratulations on holding tight to the dream, balancing your life, and writing a book UNDER CONTRACT! :D

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    1. Thank you so much, Laura! You are an awesome cheerleader. I appreciate you so much!

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  6. Elizabeth Parker11:26 AM

    Oh, I've signed on to activities against my better judgment. It's awful. That sense of guilt and pressure, warring with resistance and doubt in the pit of my stomach. But I finally read something that makes sense: "I don't want to do this right now. Will I really change and want to do it later? Doubtful. So just go ahead and say no NOW!" That has really helped.

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    1. Excellent advice, Betty. And you described my feelings perfectly. I'm SO glad I said no. I have been working on my novel now and loving (almost) every minute of it. ;)

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