Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Most Important F-Word

Speechwriters make our living with words, so we’re not usually at a loss for them. But recently I turned a group of speechwriters into a slack-jawed, inarticulate mess when I threw the F-word into a conversation.

No, not that F-word.

I asked them how they have Fun. “What do you do when you’re not working?” Four in a row had the same response: Startled silence, nervous laughter.

Finally one brave soul said he enjoys fly-fishing, “…though I haven’t had time to do it lately.”

Now, I know our clients are Important People who deserve our best work. But I also know that I cannot deliver my best work if work is all I do. So for me, Fun is not optional; it’s an essential part of my schedule. Just as I boot up my computer every morning, I need to boot up my psyche regularly.

It’s great to have a big hobby like fly-fishing (N.B.: the fish may disagree). But we can find plenty of joy in the smaller, less time-consuming things we do. My own list includes: Playing with the dog. Reading The New Yorker. Singing. Doing needlepoint. Going to the theatre. Watching a baseball game (preferably one my team wins). Hanging out with my sweetheart. Writing something just for myself, not my clients. Laughing.

Incorporating these simple joys into my life makes me a happier, more creative person. And ultimately a much better writer.

Where’s the fun in your life? And how does it feed you?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Freelance on Purpose

Yesterday I sat through one of those "Where are the Women in Profession X?" panels. In this case the profession was speechwriting. Someone asked a question about women freelancers and one of the panelists - an executive recruiter (female) - replied that women "opt out" of corporate jobs because they have babies and rich husbands. My hand shot up the air so fast I nearly dislocated my shoulder.

I have been a freelance speechwriter for over 25 years - and, I should note, I've been a woman for far longer than that. I have awards and an enviable client list, but I have never had a rich husband. Or children.

It's true I didn't exactly choose this life at first. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "Some have freelancing thrust upon them." But once I was in the game, I made the choice to stay. I love it - the freedom to create my own schedule, the range of subjects I get to address. Rather than focusing on one company in one industry, I get to explore many.

About a year into my freelance career, an executive recruiter called about an in-house speechwriting job. My quick "no, thank you" surprised him. Maybe he assumed, like the woman on yesterday's panel, that I was knee-deep in diapers - or diamonds. (Or both. With a rich husband, why choose just one?)  I told him, "I just like knowing that when somebody barks at me, it's only my dog."

I'm not a freelancer by default; I'm a freelancer on purpose. I chose this career because it feeds me. How about you?