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   Paul D. Storrie

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Freelance Follies

There’s an old Styx song titled “Too Much Time on My Hands”.  For those of you who are too young to remember what Styx is...well, it isn’t all that important to the discussion at hand.

A lot of fans are interested in hearing all the gory details of being a comics creator.  Probably because a huge number of them play with the idea of eventually becoming one.  For those of you in that boat, I’ll pass along a bit of advice that Vertigo Editor Heidi MacDonald passed along to me several years back -- “Run away.  Get out now.  Don’t do it.”  A wise woman, that Heidi MacDonald.

The reasons I pass along that advice are twofold.  One is entirely selfish.  The fewer of you who battle your way into the ranks, the fewer I have to hunt down like dogs to eliminate competition.  The other is entirely altruistic.  There are a lot more pitfalls and frustrations to being a comics creator than you can possibly imagine.  Sure, there are rewards to make up for them but the pitfalls and frustrations tend to get glossed over.  

I’m here to tell you about one of ‘em.  An insidious and seemingly harmless one.  A stealthy, sneaky, deadly...well, you get the picture.  So, what is it, you ask?

Jump back to that first line, my friends.  While many complain about being too busy, having too much to do (okay, pretty much that’s just Brian Michael Bendis and Paul Jenkins these days), the opposite condition can be just as detrimental to a freelancer.  Primarily because we are a creative lot.  That means we get really good at making excuses.  Excuse me, justifications.

As a freelancer, you get up when you want (provided there aren’t family matters to deal with), you work when you want and you knock off when you want.  Seems like heaven, doesn’t it?  

In my personal experience, however, the biggest problem I run into is that I’ve got too darn much time.  Plus, I’m the only one determining how I use it.  Let’s say, for example, that I haul my butt out of bed around 7:30 a.m. and grab myself a shower and some breakfast.  Maybe do a little reading over breakfast (a habit that I got into way back when I was in elementary school).  So 9 o’clock rolls around and I’m thinking about work, much like the average Joe working the proverbial 9 to 5.  Except I’ve got no time clock to punch.  I’ve got no boss whose going to be hovering around my cubicle, waiting to see just when I decide to show.  There’s just me and I’m a reasonable kind of guy to answer to.  (Okay, that’s not entirely true, as the people I’ve supervised in my 9 to 5 jobs can attest.  I’m kind of a pain and a stickler.  It’s just that all that goes out the window when I’m just answering to myself.  So shoot me.)  

Anyway, I’m reading away and realize I’ve only got five more pages to the end of the chapter.  So I give myself leave to finish it off.  After all, I’ve got all the time in the world.  All 24 hours in the day are mine to do with as I please.  Then maybe I finish off that chapter and am really getting into the book.  I decide to let myself go one more before quitting.  What’s the harm?

Except now we’re looking at 10 o’clock.  Time to crack down, boot up that computer and pound the keyboard.  Boo yaa.  

Of course, once the computer is humming, I’ve gotta check email.  After all, something important may have come in from an editor or an interviewer or an adoring fan.  It could happen!  Then, once the email is checked (and sometimes answered), I might as well check the daily comics news sites, right?  A quick trip to Comics Continuum, Comic Book Resources and Newsarama only keep me up to speed on what’s moving and who’s shaking in this wacky comics industry of ours.  All to the good.

Only now we’re looking at 11:30 or noon.  Suddenly, the morning is gone.  Usually, my growling stomach will remind me of that around lunchtime.  Still, I’ve got all the time in the world.  All 24 hours in the day are mine to do with as I please.  I’ll start pounding that keyboard after quieting the stomach.  Well, that and reading a little more over lunch.  Maybe just a chapter.  Then back to work!  Okay, not so much back to work as to work.  

All well and good, except on the days that I realize I need to get something mailed.  See, I’ve found I can shave a day off mailing time by dropping it at the main post office.  No problem, though.  Quick trip to the post office, zip back home, then back to work!  Well, to work.  Still, not a problem.  I’ve got all the time in the world.  All 24 hours in the day are mine to do with as I please.

Then sometimes while I’m out, I remember a couple other errands that need running: some groceries need to be picked up, the car needs washing, I could use another pair of jeans, that kind of thing.  Oh, and I should probably stop at the bookstore.  Seems like I’m almost done with that novel I’ve been reading.  Huh.  Can’t figure it.  I just started the thing yesterday.

Anyway, home by 3:00 and rarin’ to go.  Just need to take a second to look through my mail, which has arrived while I was out.  Probably should check my email again too.  Just in case an editor sent me something.  Or someone wants an interview.  Or I got something from an adoring fan.  Then back to work.  Well, sorta.  Still not so much back as to.

Then, it occurs to me that the whole editorial communication thing is a two-way street.  Maybe I should make some calls and send some emails.  Or maybe my phone rings and it’s one of my freelancing compadres wanting to discuss the latest news, ask advice on a sticking plot point or discuss how frustrating it is that sometimes it seems nothing gets done.  “Weird,” he says, “because I’ve got all the time in the world.  All 24 hours in the day are mind to do with as I please.”  All I can do is agree.

Bizarrely, by then suppertime has rolled around, which knocks down another hour or two, depending on whether I’m eating at home, getting together with friends, watching the news or reading as I eat, that kind of thing.  Then, back to work.  Well, sorta.  Still not so much back as to.  Not to worry.  (I’ll spare you the refrain this time.  I think you can guess it by now.)

So, by the time 8 or 9 at night rolls around, it begins to seem a little too late to be starting something new.  Fresh start in the morning and all that.  And maybe Buffy is on.  Maybe another pal calls.  Maybe a friend stops by.  
And, as midnight is getting near when it occurs to me -- I’ve got a column I’ve promised to an online website.  One that has to be done for tomorrow.  

At that point, I usually pound my head on the desk for a bit.  Quite refreshing, actually.  Really wakes you up.  Even when you want to be asleep.  I like to get at least 6 or 7 hours of the stuff when I can.  I rub my eyes, glare at the clock and think to myself that I don’t really have to get up first thing tomorrow.  I’ll just sleep in.  Sure, I’ve got some deadlines coming up but, after all...

I’ve got all the time in the world.  All 24 hours in the day are mine to do with as I please.

That, my friends, is one of the major pitfalls of freelancing.


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