It’s been six months since I decided to set up my own business – with two other partners – and to go into freelance writing. Last week, thanks to a cold that would not go away, I found myself reflecting on the months that have passed.
Sickness is a hindrance when you’re self-employed. It hampers progress and interrupts the momentum. Mornings can be difficult when I’m this out of focus. Then I think of this Charles Bukowski quote which helps kick me out of bed,
Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.
So what have I learned in the last six months? That working for yourself requires a different rhythm to being an employee. As it turned out, I discovered in the first month, I did not have a rhythm at all. All my life I have worked in offices. Used to the daily pattern of the 6.30am alarm, the rush through the morning routine: family breakfast, dress my toddler and out the door at 7.30am sharp in order to be first through the nursery doors the second it opens at 8am. A normal work day ensues, then hurry back to pick up the children for 7pm. It didn’t matter that I was less productive one day and more so the next. Nor did it matter if I took a day off sick. I’d still get paid the same. It’s a routine that can very quickly numb the senses and make one lose touch with oneself.
Over the last few months working on my own, I’ve learned a lot about myself. That I write best in the mornings, that working hard doesn’t mean sitting at your desk for eight hours straight, that when you’re working on something you’re passionate about it won’t feel like work, that work never really stops when you’re doing it for yourself.
According to Lewis Hyde (in his book The Gift), he makes a distinction between work and labour.
Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the will. A labor can be intended but only to the extent of doing the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly prevent the labor. Beyond that, labor has its own schedule. Things get done, but we often have the odd sense that we didn’t do them.
Paul Goodman wrote in a journal once, “I have recently written a few good poems. But I have no feeling that I wrote them.” That is the declaration of a laborer…
What would I rather be: a worker or a labourer? And what about you?