Apologies to Tony Christie for the title.
Tumblemoose’s last post was pretty awesome in the slap in the face it gave me. I know (think) he wasn’t writing about me, or even including me, but, if I haven’t fallen right in, I think I am certainly skating all around that career-freezing ice hole identified by The Big Alaskan.
Honestly, I hadn’t thought too deeply about it before now. I do try to be at least a smidgen circumspect in what I say. If not, I would have named the journalist who screwed my career as a novelist when I discussed that sorry affair in my first blogs.
But, truth be told, I am no more than a smidgen circumspect, and I can’t argue with the points Tumblemoose makes. As a freelance writer, you can become very quickly defined by the personal musings you float around the internet. When I think about the content of a good bunch of my blogs on this site, I have to admit that it’s pretty dour/flippant/critical/ranting stuff. I do occasionally drop some shiny nuggets of love and hope into my mounting mire of moans (oo, nice alliteration, Mark), but I think the overall impression I give is that I am a negative, whingeing little bugger.
Is this bad for a freelance writer? On one level, most definitely, and Tumblemoose has outlined exactly why. A potential client researching my online content could be pretty horrified. Actually, if you check out the home page of my website you’ll see I can be trusted not to screw things up, as evidenced by the companies that rely on me to deliver the goods; I can be utterly professional when the need arises. Yet I realise I am perhaps raising a wall in front of that professionalism that many potential clients will simply not be bothered to clamber over. Instead, they will just stare at the coarse graffiti strewn across its ugly façade and run screaming into the arms of another freelance writer who has spent their career construction a dazzling monolith of decorum and respectability, which entrance beckons them in with the cosy gold promise of a Christmas Day morning full of long-yearned-for gifts.
No matter what I’ve done and said, however, I still make my living through words. Would it be a better living if I could go back in time and undo and unsay some of those things? I think almost certainly. Would it be a better life if I could undo and unsay some of those things? I wouldn’t want to find out. I’m a big believer in the Butterfly Effect. Maybe if I’d done or said just one thing differently, I wouldn’t have the family I have today. Maybe I’d have turned left and not right twenty years ago and never met my lovely wife, and our beautiful daughter would never have been born.
I have always detested artifice, and that applies to more than my life as a freelance writer. Generally in life, I like to know who I am dealing with, and I afford the same courtesy to others. I don’t want to project an image I may have to contradict later on. We all have a dark side, and perhaps I’ve allowed mine to cast a few too many shadows across the sunny thoughts we’d all love to be true, but I’m a take-me-or-leave-me kinda guy. Honestly, most people prefer to leave me, but that’s okay.
None of this is meant to negate a single word Tumblemoose wrote. He’s 100% right: a freelance writer can shoot themselves in the foot by committing to a public forum their personal thoughts. Hell, they can blast their professional legs clean off if they’re not careful.
Personally, though, I choose not to self-censor (more than a smidgen). Leaving aside the cold dull facts of that SEO article on the latest abs exerciser that doesn’t work any better than the last hundred, I think the beating heart of freelance writing lies in its creativity, and creativity is never more fired up than when it is powered by a person’s honest thoughts and emotions, for better or worse.
If that loses from my life the more squeamish of individuals, professionally and personally, I accept that’s just the price I have to pay.