I don’t give up. Okay, I lie, I give up all the time: right of way when driving, arguments after midnight, games of Scrabble. Just eating a meal for me requires a safe word. I often give up, and I kick myself for it, but I don’t ever give up a job unless it truly feels wrong. And by wrong I mean morally and financially, not just, “Oh, man, it’s sunny out, I’m not going to write this press release.”
So when I found myself telling the publisher of Design Business Review, “I’m sorry, but I have to give up my masthead,” I was kind of shocked. Proud of my self-awareness and forethought, but mainly shocked. And a little sad, too.
The reasons why I stepped down from Editor In Chief to become just a lowly contributor are many, but mainly it can be boiled down to two things that make the world go ’round: time and money.
For one, driving my mom to the doctor, sitting through the drip-drip-drip of chemo, taking care of my mother’s pets, my mother’s house, my mother’s car, my mother’s medication, and my mother’s quirky obsessive compulsive tendencies, as well as fulfilling all of my paid professional obligations for Ministry of Imagery, requires twenty-five hours of a twenty-four-hour day. Although we’re still starving and struggling to find new clients, we’re working on several projects that require a ton of concentration, and one in particular that calls upon a fair amount of time. I don’t have the spare seconds of silence that are needed in order to interview people, transcribe the responses, and organize a second issue of a magazine in accordance with the feedback we’ve received, especially when I might have to go from copywriter to floor sweeper, dog groomer, personal assistant at any time. I can’t take conference calls very often because my schedule fluctuates like Oprah’s waistline. I can’t make meetings unless they’re the kind that keep me from drinking.
Secondly, DBR is a fledgling publication, which means that the return wasn’t going to be an immediate financial gain. As a company, MOI has decided to be hesitant about doing work for free or lowered rates. Early on we fell into the trap of being taken advantage of because we didn’t know how much to charge, or that work trades sometimes aren’t worth it, or that usually when you ask for a number — even if it seems high — you can find a way to get it, or get close to it. DBR is a beautiful portfolio piece, and an acrobatic routine for my ego. Moreover, it was founded by people we respect, and created with the help of people we look up to, we were able to speak to designers who established the companies we revere. But it didn’t feed us, and continued effort on the project most likely won’t lead to a huge pay day, at least not for quite some time. That’s the new publishing media. It’s slow going, even if the going is good.
For the record, items we are still waiting on as a result of our work-trades: a painting of a feather, a pair of underpants, two dinners, a lunch, a breakfast buffet.
And any of our spare time should be going to side projects: Simon’s fiction and blogs, this blog, and my personal narrative blow-by-blow of my mother’s terminal illness and her treatments. (It’s going to be humorous. ‘Cause cancer is funny, whether or not we admit it. Like the fact that she was nervous about taking so much Tylenol at first because the label says may cause liver damage, until she looked up from the bottle laughing and said, “But I already have cancer in my liver.” Okay, maybe you had to be there.)
It’s hard to know when too much work is actually too much work. Nowadays, a lot of us have two or more jobs, and families, and social obligations, it’s become the norm to be stressed or burned out. How often do you hear your friends or colleagues say, “Jeez, I just wish I had more to do!”? I’m the type of Type A that likes being pushed to the limit, and when I’m under emotional duress I actually enjoy being able to focus on a slew of different, pressing tasks, especially if they could pay off in some way. As a freelancer, I feel as though turning down a job is turning down an opportunity, it’s rejecting a chance to keep busy. I also fear putting off the chance to foster any potential long-term business relationships or, worse, missing out on an eventual paycheck.
But I simply don’t have enough self to make this happen, and to commit to the magazine, no matter how rewarding it could potentially be, would be selfish. I know that I’ll do a shitty job. It would be that dead weight to my professional load, and not only would I do work that I couldn’t be proud of, but I would also let a ton of people down. Not just people, friends and mentors. So, in that case, I had to do the hardest thing and say enough. I may feel weak and pathetic, but at least I know that I’m bowing out while I’m ahead. No Mike Tyson-like comebacks or face tattoos planned for the immediate future, but who knows.
If any of you are looking for a (for now) unpaying, fun stint in digital and print publishing, let me know. I hear there’s an opening at Design Business Review for an Editor In Chief. AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com.
And if you’re in the market for some copy — press releases, bios, text for your website — you can hire us. (Payment in underpants expected in full, up front. Heh.)
Thank you to all of you who donate!