Summer officially begins today in the United States, it being the longest day of the year. This always seems a little bit unfair to me, like the solstice should be hitting at the height of summer, rather than marking the start, because it’s all downhill from here. The days are only going to get shorter. It will be by bits and pieces and then one day I will look outside the window at 5:00 in the evening and it will be dark and I will wonder where the long days went.
A part of me still thinks that summers should be holidays. That I should be spending the next two months going to the river every day, sitting on the beach, hanging out with friends, eating watermelon. All of these things probably will happen, albeit in very small amounts, but what tends to happen more in the summer is work. I work more because it’s light longer, and thus summers are really just fatiguing. I’d like to say that I’m storing up for the winter or something, but I’m not. Instead, I spend the winter sleeping because I am so tired from the summer.
I’m not quite sure how this ended up happening, how summer turned from the time of year for play to the time of year for work, but it results in a sense of kind of bitterness on the summer solstice. I should be out lighting bonfires, and instead I’m, well, I’m working. Because it’s a Monday, and Mondays are my heavy work schedule days, and we all know that the world will end if I stray from my schedule. Luckily all of my academic friends are working this summer too or I would feel especially irritable that they were out playing while I was slogging away indoors.
The changing of the seasons does seem like a good place to pause and take stock, which seems to be a popular activity on the solstices. A lot has happened in the last year. My circle of acquaintances has exploded, that’s for sure. I’ve met a lot of lovely people (and even started a website with some of them) and my life has been greatly enriched by all the wonderful people I am interacting with. I’ve had Friends In the Internet for a very long time, thanks to belonging to some very well-established Internet communities, but my number of online friends has really exploded in the last year.
I think there’s a lot of stigma about online friendships. An idea that they are somehow lesser or that people who communicate primarily online, as I do, are suspect in some way. I’ve never really understood this; a friend is a friend, after all, and for a lot of people, the Internet is the only way to communicate. I like that I can find common ground with people all over the world, that I can learn things from numerous individuals with very different lived experiences from my own, that I can find people to connect with. And, since I tend to isolate myself in the outside world, the Internet provides a really valuable conduit for interaction with other people.
My career seems to be at kind of a stagnant point right now, and I think that’s because I am so exhausted. I can’t really remember a time that I wasn’t exhausted, although I know that this time existed. I’m working rather a lot for people who pay me and the unpaid work I do for this ain’t livin’ and FWD/Forward eats up most of my free time. This work is important, but I think I need to work more in the next year on finding a better balance before it eats me alive, because I’m not sure how sustainable this level of work is, especially since it means that I have very little time for other projects that I would like to work on as well.
I’ve done a lot of pitching in the last few months, which any writer can tell you is a frustrating process. There are the polite letters of rejection, of course, but worse, I think, are the long silences. The people who don’t even bother to write back with two lines saying ‘Thanks, this isn’t really a good fit for us. Good luck in your endeavors.’ It seems to be increasingly common to just not respond to pitches at all, and that’s been a real source of frustration to me because I feel that it’s really unprofessional. And because it leaves me hanging; a few times I have assumed that the long silence means a no go, and then I get a ‘can you have the piece ready in 24 hours’ and I have to scramble.
It’s a lot of work, making your way as a freelancer, and I think a lot of people don’t realise how much work is involved and how unrewarding a lot of it is. It sounds like a terrific idea, working at home and writing, but the actual execution isn’t nearly so rosy. You spend an alarming amount of time hustling. Making connections that may or may not pan out. Writing pieces that may never be accepted for publication anywhere, ever. Procrastinating by alphabetising the spice rack. Hence, I laugh when people tell me I’m a writer and they say ‘that must be nice’ or ‘you must enjoy that’ because both of these ideas are pretty alien to me at this point. It’s work. There are things about it I love and there are things about it that I cannot stand.
Spending the longest day of the year inside trying to finish a piece for deadline instead of outside celebrating the turn of the seasons and perhaps spending time with people I like isn’t really what I thought I would be doing with myself when I grew up, I tell you what.