The freelance lifestyle has many advantages over being an office drone. You can choose your own hours. Don't feel like working? Take the day off. Want to take an extra long lunch? Go right ahead. Your only boss is you, so there's a limited amount of kowtowing involved, and if the boss is being an arse, well, there's nobody to blame but yourself. The self employed pay less tax, because you can deduct many of your expenses from your gross income before having to pay any tax. But you'll often earn less, because you have to pay your own expenses. There's no such thing as paid holiday leave, no paid sick leave and maintaining office hours can be difficult. It's all too easy to allow work to seep outwards so it consumes every waking hour, if you're not careful. The office Christmas party can be a rather lonely affair, and you've heard the speeches before.
Normally, I indulge in hobbies designed to get me out of the house when I'm not working. They're good for maintaining social contacts [and social skills], keep you from retreating into full hermit mode. Last summer I played for the Biggar Cricket Club. Not very well, mind you, but it was some exercise. Outside. In the sunshine. That's three things a lot of writers never encounter in the same paragraph, let alone their lives. I also enjoy amateur dramatics - acting, directing, producing, singing, dancing, etc. But I've put cricket and theatre on hold for the first six months of this year, so I can get the most out of my writing.
As a result, I'm making genuine progress on the TV pilot I'm writing under the aegis of the mentoring project run by the Scottish Book Trust's words@work scheme. My screenwriting MA is gathering pace as it builds toward the final project and graduation. I've been working for several new clients on paying jobs and pursuing other opportunities that don't pay yet, but might one day. By tightening my focus to writing, networking and learning more about the craft of writing, I'm inching ever closer to my goal of making a living as a broadcast drama writer.
On the downside, I'm often unsure what day of the week it is. It used to be play rehearsals that provided my anchor points for the week, Mondays and Thursdays I was always in the theatre. Without that, I'm tending to lose track of where in the week I am. This can cause problems. In the town where I live, the post office closes at lunchtime on a Wednesday. All too often I'll wander down to post a package, only to discover it's Wednesday and I simply hadn't noticed.
Another downside is the need to write consumes all known time and space. For example, I've got complimentary tickets to attend a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London tonight - but I can't go. Too busy, too many deadlines. Classic FM and ITV3 are presenting The Music of Morse, featuring the wonderful bass Sir Willard White alongside Lesley Garret and Alfie Boe. As an acknowledged Inspector Morse geek, I wrote programme notes for the event, which is being filmed for broadcast next weekend. I'd love to have gone, but can't spare the two working days it would take me to get there and back again. Arse.
If you want to succeed in your chosen field of endeavour, you need several attributes. Talent is essential. An ability to learn, absorb and improve your grasp of the relevant craft and skills. A little bit of luck doesn't hurt. But perhaps most important of all, you need persistence. You must be willing to make sacrifices, give up time, money, large parts of your social life, chances to be with your family. You've got to be able to take every rejection and defeat that comes, get up off the matt and try again. You will fail far more than you will ever succeed, you will lose out to others far more often than you will win. Those who get disheartened and give up are forfeiting the chance to succeed. To borrow a line from The Hours' track Ali in the Jungle: Everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you gonna get up?