Searching for that One Magical, Coherent Professional Vision: A Freelancer’s Lament

I’m basically all the dudes in this 15th Century German illustration, who are searching for … something.

I have always been the kind of person who likes to focus on one thing at a time, which is particularly funny because I have also been a journalist for all of my professional life. Journalism does not lend itself to this kind of focus. For the first five years of my career, I was a daily newspaper reporter who wrote up to four stories a day; even when things slowed down once I was at Entertainment Weekly, my days were neither sleepy nor predictable.

After ten years there, I quit to become a freelance writer. Finally, I would concentrate on projects of my choosing, in the quiet of my own home!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

It turns out that being a freelancer who pays her bills, for most of us, means juggling many different projects, different types of projects, and often even entirely different roles within one day. Sometimes I’m a solitary writer. Often I’m a journalist interviewing people. Sometimes I’m being interviewed so that I can promote, say, a book I wrote. Sometimes I’m speaking in front of people about a book, or teaching people how to write or blog, or blogging.

This effectively prevents anything resembling boredom, but I am farther than ever from my dream of concentrating deeply on one thing, having that one magical, coherent vision for my career. I suppose that when forced to choose one word for myself, it is author or journalist or writer. But I’m going to have to sell a lot more books before I’m truly an author only. I wonder if I’ll find myself bored if that ever happens.

What’s your dream single-title identity?



  1. Agreed, the problem isn’t boredom but the ability to focus and recharge within whatever environment. The “solo” writer still needs the structure that an on-the-go journalist creates. It’d be nice to have larger blocks of time to work with, but I find if I’m given too much time I go down some FaceBook or YouTube rabbit-hole before ever getting to the task at hand. Life is funny in the challenges that we face.

  2. Hmm…it probably has to be “author of the most acclaimed novel of the decade.” We are dreaming, right? I am a huge longtime fan of EW, by the way, so you already have my utmost respect. 🙂

  3. I agree entirely, Jennifer. Add in chasing clients for payment, chasing clients for work, financial stuff and all the other non- writing related elements of freelance writing and sitting down to focus everything on finishing that novel seems like a laughable fantasy. Just as I’m a fan of comic fantasies!

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