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Monday, May 21, 2007

The secret joys of freelancing

You'd be hard-pressed to convince those in need of job security that there is real joy in working without a safety net. Even for those of us who know this is the way forward, it's easy to fall into the habit of worrying — about assignments, about getting assignments, about getting paid for assignments. But there are joys to be found in the freelance life.

Here's a perfect illustration: I had tears in my eyes as I read Patti McCracken's essay in the Christian Science Monitor.

In "A life out of the newsroom – and into the news: Sipping tea with babushkas ... and other scenes from a freelancer's life," she writes how she "walked out of the newsroom and into the news," leaving behind an editing job in Chicago (along with a boyfriend, apartment, friends, car, etc.) to travel the globe helping journalists in developing regions do journalism.
"I am sometimes afraid, overwhelmed, overtired, thrilled, lonely, amazed, inspired, and sometimes a very long way from the familiar. But my days are no longer instantly filed and stored into memory, sorted by years and milestones. Instead, the events in my life are worn like a cloak wrapped around me, the deepening layers swaying with me as I move."

The quest for experiences to share, stories to tell in pursuit of some larger truth are what keep me going. I envy her freedom to explore globally, but also see ways in which I can do that in my own limited space. She writes:
"I have shared an overnight train compartment with a Bosnian soccer team and held my hands over my ears as drunken, lederhosened Germans crooned their way through three countries.

I have had my heart shredded into little pieces by orphaned babies in the Republic of Georgia, and that same heart healed by a hero who doggedly, obsessively, champions their cause.

In Vietnam, I have learned that a man really can transport a six-foot bookcase on the back of a motorbike, that a photo of Ho Chi Minh on the desk never hurts in Hanoi, and that the kindness and warmth of the Vietnamese does a heart good.

And I have learned to take toilet paper with me wherever I go."

And yet in the sharing of stories, words can have limitations.
"I have learned, I hope, that words are sometimes no more than weighted obstacles, and that an unspoken language of shared feelings and experiences is as close as I'll ever come to truth.

Ambling along in a train bound for I don't care where, I still feel the same sense of liberation that I get when I have fallen in love. Holding hands and who knows where it will all go. But isn't it lovely? And please don't let it stop. Propel me onward."

Here's to following your heart.


Jill said...

Wonderful. Thanks, Wen.

Lori said...


Amy Green said...

Hi Wendy,

I am very happy freelancing, but worrying about financial security is a pasttime I like to indulge in every now and then. I think the move from Nashville and other things going on in our lives at the moment have inspired me to do it even more lately. I read this Monitor essay yesterday, too. Thanks so much for your post, Wendy.

Hope you're doing well.


Patti McCracken said...

I've been busy with houseguests these last few days and have just read the post you left on my blog about this essay. So, of course, I came to your blog and am really moved by your response. It brought tears to MY eyes!!
This piece seems to have hit home with a lot of writers/journalists--sometimes we all forget why we do what we do for a living--mainly, perhaps, because it's not an easy living.

A lot of people also wrote, wanting to know where they could learn more about journalism training. Although there are hundreds of good organizations, I think the best place to start is the International Center for Journalists (, which hosts fellowships and publishes a clearinghouse newsletter (on their site) called IJCNet.

Patti McCracken (fellow ASJA member!)

Wendy Hoke said...

Jill, Lori and Amy -- Thank you for commenting. I know you three share a passion for writing.

Wendy Hoke said...

Thank you so much for stopping and commenting. I'm going to check out the ICJ site and newsletter. I'll be checking in to see what you're up to next.