Recession Obsession

So a little taste of the Great Recession hit home this week. A relative works for a company that announced it will be cutting thousands of jobs soon, and she has no guarantee she will be spared. And one of my clients called to say it was cancelling a book I was working on. All was not lost – they would still pay me half of the contract fee (I had already written 75 percent of the book, since the first draft was due in less than three weeks), and there was a chance they might want the book done later. Maybe next year. Maybe….

That one contract was the biggest I had lined up for the year, and among the biggest I’ve ever had. That one book was worth about five of the shorter ones I’ve been tapped to do this year, and publishers seem to know they can get folks like me to write for that chump change, because if we don’t someone else will. Of course, that attitude is not just a reflection of the bad times;  in 15 years the fees paid in my area of expertise have, for the most part, not gone up a dollar. Other costs may rise, but publishers count on the fact that there’s always some sap looking to break into the writing biz, looking for that byline. The fact that I’m good at what I do, maybe better than a lot of other writers doing the same thing? Doesn’t really matter.

So why not get out of this field, if it sucks so bad? Someone said as much this week. Maybe this was the time to try something new, start networking, expand my horizons. Well, I’m not so sure this is the best time for that, since opportunities that pay anything decent to writers seem to be shrinking (though plenty of websites seeking “content” will love to pay you one cent per word. Right. 10 bucks for an article only a few hundred words shorter than some of the books I write, and that pay 50 times as much. I like that math…). Another problem is of my own doing: As I’ve seen the publishing world move from paper to online, I have not added any skills that would make me marketable. Putting together this blog with a cut-and-paste template doing all the work does not count. So I want to do something new, know I need to test new waters, but I feel unequipped and daunted by the economic environment.

And just a little scared by the uncertainty of the new. My god, I have  enough Crisis and change and possible trauma on tap for the rest of this year; do I have to add retooling my career on top of it? Doing this job that sometimes frustrates me, but that I know I do well, was supposed to be the one bit of security, emotionally and financially. Now it is neither. The emotional, I guess I can address with more therapy or drugs or long talks with friends. The other – well, no money coming in is no money coming in. And I don’t see sunny skies on the horizon any time soon.

I will admit this: I am in much better shape than many people. I still have some work. I have some savings, though that will take a hit as we move, buy a house, try to live on one income (though dwindling…) for a minimum of three months. At times it just feels like there is a self-induced craziness at work here, trying to do so many things in this climate. I try to think back to that optimistic post of just a short while ago: the karmic test that I will pass, one way or another. But  some times, it’s hard to remember I was the person who wrote that.

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~ by mburgan on March 14, 2009.

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