Last night, after a particularly vigorous make out session with my business partner (heh), he looked up and stared off into the distance, which, as it were, was the sort of scuffed up, bare-as-hell corner of my room.
“What?” I asked. Was it my stupendously awesome performance in the sack? How much he loved me and wanted to carve a sculpture of my torso entirely out of watermelon? Was he adding to the list of reasons why he thinks I’m the greatest short, tattooed, dykey broad this side of Nassau County? My awesome — no, seriously, ask him, it’s awesome — performance in the sack?
“Oh. Sorry. Nothing. Just thinking about the work I have to do.”
Yeah, right. It was totally my awesome performance in the sack.
Being freelance is a strange mix of emotions. Fear, ‘cause you’re never sure if your present project will be your last. Frustration, because you know that you’re able to do really solid work if you were just given a chance. Self-pity, ‘cause you realize that you haven’t eaten anything that didn’t come with a powder packet in at least a week.
But mainly, at least for me, it’s the fear that I am being lazy.
I’ve said it many times, in part because it never ceases to amaze me, and in part because I really like to brag about it in order to justify my paltry bank account, but doing what you love means that your job permeates through everything that you do. I’m thinking about work while at stoplights on my bike, while watching Jeopardy!, and, yes, even after a completely exhausting game of coed-naked-combat-charades. Even if it’s just to write a blog post, or to help a friend edit a story, writing is on the brain nearly as much as food and sex. Honestly.
When there is no actual work to be done, leaving me with a free afternoon to skate around a parking lot or download more Diplo from Skreemr, I wind up going to that shady spot in my mind where I wonder: why am I not writing right now?
I’ve always had a somewhat excessive fear of inertia. It’s why I job hopped every year or so when I was working as a secretary, and why, after dorm life, I refused to stay in any apartment for very long. Stagnation equals death. And it’s almost as if I’m afraid that underneath this ferociously fighting, tenacious exterior lies a Sleeping Beauty on Quaaludes. As if I’m not actually ambitious, but really just a lazy vehicle running on the fuel of anxiety. Panic is my petroleum.
Moreover, in “real” jobs there is usually a boss, or a “higher up,” who is dictating what you should do and when. Work, for me, was often no more than drudgery, a seemingly endless string of days broken up only by visits to the coffee maker or the ladies room, where I’d sit long after my stream finished trickling, checking my text messages or sighing until I had been gone long enough that my boss either wondered if I was pregnant or suffering from an intestinal ailment.
Not having someone tell you anything other than the specifics of an assignment and a deadline means that you — yes, you — are the one who figures out how and when to get things done. There are no progress reports, no meetings, no “team building exercises” (unless you count genitalia jujitsu). When you are in charge, you can choose to wait until the last minute to feverishly churn out copy, or work slowly and steadily all along.
So there really seem to be two options for the freelance worker: embrace your freedom or constantly breathe down your own neck until you can’t sleep and are relying on over-the-counter slumber pills and a steady soundtrack of Aphex Twin to just get you through the fucking day so help me God.
And when everything has been handed in and the final check issued, I personally am still not able to relax. At all. I can’t so much as bike to get groceries without feeling like something — something — is missing, or off, or just wrong.
Was that the last client we’ll ever have?
Why am I not writing something on the side?
Who can I contact to get us more work?
Am I not holding up my end of the business bargain?
And so on and so forth until I have to dose myself some Simply Sleep and flick Windowlicker on repeat.
The definition of sloth is “a disinclination to work or exert yourself,” and it comes from a Latin remix of a Greek word — akedia — that translates into “the absence of caring.” As one of the seven deadly dwarves, Akedia is believed to lead to God’s wrath. I have Lust, Envy, and Pride pretty much on lock at this point. God’s wrath apparently includes really bad hair and a severe ant problem.
This paranoia might be one of the pitfalls of determination, though, or so I’ve been told. Often artists and freelancers of all kinds live with the self-perpetuating phobia that the conclusion of a current job will be the conclusion of their career as a whole. The fear I have of sloth is, actually, pretty good motivation to continue to look for work, refine our portfolio, and try yet again to craft a halfway decent story just for shits and giggles. So I suppose that, until someone calls me a lazy bum and brings photographic evidence to back it up, or I can’t retort to “Get a job!” with “Goddamn it, I’m trying!,” I should just sit back, relax, and let lust be my primary candidate for God’s disapproving bass-and-snare.
They don’t drink, which is another similarity I share with them. (They get refreshment by licking leaves that have dew and raindrops on them.) And they mate upside-down. Ahem.
AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. I will tell you the “Why shouldn’t you have have sex with birds?” joke if you write to me.
Donations are welcome, gratitude and swooning will ensue.
Links of interest:
Sloth for the wicked.
Sloth for the Natural Geographic subscriber.