It’s a scary thing, putting yourself out there. You’re a blogger, a writer, an artist, a hopeful freelancer looking to express yourself, garner an audience, get feedback on your work and maybe earn enough money to pay the bills. But you’re also riddled with insecurities; what if no one reads your work or, conversely, what if someone does, and they rubbish it? What if you can’t get enough work to sustain your burgeoning career as a writer?
Okay, I confess. It’s me I’m talking about. A newbie blogger and aspiring author, desperate to ditch the dismal and depressing day-job and write content for a (modest) living. I also suffer from anxiety disorder, and have a tendency to imagine the worst in every situation. The glass is not even half-empty for me sometimes, but instead is smashed into a million shards on the ground while I stand there barefoot and blood-stained. However, I know that I’ve got to get out there, promote myself, and fly my own flag if I have any hope of getting noticed. Essentially, I’ve got to learn to hustle. And I’m not talking 70s-era disco-dancing!
When you’re low in confidence and high in anxiety, any situation in which you’re required to put yourself on display can be terrifying. Whether it’s in person, or via the less exposing but potentially more confrontational medium of the Internet, exhibiting yourself and your creative efforts to others is an intimate act. You’re basically telling a bunch of strangers, “This is what I think, what I feel, what makes me tick. These are the things that reside in my head.” Moreover, you’re asking them to like you, and to offer you validation. That’s a pretty petrifying prospect.
I’ve been blogging for just over four months now, and it’s been going far better than I ever anticipated. Through a few carefully placed hashtags on Twitter and involvement in writing memes, I got a little buzz around my blog and gradually I’m starting to build a name. But a blog is a free platform. Don’t get me wrong; I love blogging, but it won’t pay the bills. And now that I have developed a ravenous taste for writing and creating, that’s what I’m looking for; a way to spend my days creating content and being paid for doing it.
So now I am, to use what I recognise is an out-moded and insulting nomenclature, ‘whoring’ myself to all and sundry. Got a bit of copywriting you need doing? Send it my way; I’ll tackle it over the weekend. Need that pdf-data transcribed into an excel spreadsheet? Sure, I don’t need that much sleep anyway. Got a couple of quid to spare? Why not buy my book, now available on **insert platform here**? I’ve joined a website where employers post their writing/editing/data entry/administrative needs and within a few seconds a horde of desperate freelancers descend like a swarm of mosquitos to bid for the job.
These forays into freelance admin jobs, and the submissions of written work to non-paying clients are tasks not intended to subsidise my life right at this minute, but rather to establish a name and reputation so that when I do bite the bullet and quit my day-job, I can do so with at least a small semblance of security, or at least enough confidence to rest assured I won’t end up starving and homeless within the first 6 weeks of receiving my final paycheck.
My tentative steps into the world of bidding for work, pitching ideas for articles, and getting into self-publishing my erotica are not earning me very much, if any cash at all. And at first, I was disillusioned by that. I may be an anxious paranoiac, but I’m also a fiction writer and, as such, a fantasist. When I published my debut book, I’ll admit I held hopes of hitting the Top 100 list on amazon and of being courted by eager publishers vying to work with me. But the world doesn’t work like that, not for the vast majority of us at least, and so I’m learning to temper my expectations and trying to remind myself that every step I take is leading me further along the path.
Even when I face rejection emails and stagnating book sales, every stumble I suffer on my journey is an education in how to keep my chin up and not get dejected, how not to take rejection personally, what to do and what not to do next time. And, importantly, they’re a reminder that I need to keep right on hustling, focusing on that “next time”, and fighting the urge to pack up my toys and just go hide under a blanket.
The Tao Te Ching reminds us that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”; how else then can I expect to make any progress on my journey unless I can find the courage to poke my head out the front door, shout “hey, world, here I am”, and start hustling my way down that road? As the old Van McCoy song says, “Do it!”