Last year, I experienced one of the hardest professional years of my life. I had been running my own communications business for two years while writing fiction on the side and none of it was going particularly well. I was over-servicing clients, never getting paid on time and often not spending as much time writing fiction as I had hoped. Every month was the same - my bank account was empty (as nobody had paid my invoices) and (while I often came very close) I'd get another email from an agent passing on my book. I was desperate for something, anything that could refresh my sense of purpose, and make me feel worthwhile again. I have always tied my identity quite strongly to my work, so my self-worth plummeted.
Then I got an email from a global consulting firm asking if I wanted to interview for a position with them. Now, while every entrepreneur will praise the flexibility and independence of their lifestyle, not many people talk about this moment that so many experience, the moment where you are given the opportunity to turn your back on the shoddy thing you have built and go back to the secure world of the employed. There are many benefits to having a job - company funded medical aid and retirement, paid vacation and a regular, stable income. Then there are the unseen things - a sense of progression within a career, positive feedback, a feeling of being part of something, an HR manager that spots when you are feeling unmotivated.
Anyway, the interviews went really well. I felt smart and capable and knew I had charmed them. As I walked out of my last interview, I ran through the tasks in my head. Sure, some of it sounded a bit dull but I could do it! And just imagine the nice things I could buy and imagine the sweet RELIEF of not worrying all the time. Whatever they had to offer, I was ready to say yes. They had sent me an email before I had even got into the house. My potential manager loved me, and they would love to invite me to one final interview to meet the directors of the consultancy. My heart pounded as I read the mail: this was it, this sense of not being good enough was about to end. Then I got to the end of the email: "For this interview, could you please come wearing business attire." Something in me went completely cold. I had gone to every interview wearing black trousers and a smart top. Sure the pants were high-waisted, kimono style trousers (so cute) and the top had some interesting detail but I looked professional in a modern way. It struck me that they wanted me to conform on a deep level, and that my future was paved with dull collared shirts and slacks made with questionable, flammable fabric. If that is what they wanted to do to my wardrobe, what did they want to do to my mind?
In that moment, I realised I had never truly let go of the corporate 'dream.' I saw it as a way out, or something to go back to when the chips were down. But there was never any other way - the small, struggling empire created was mine and it was about time I started protecting it and seeing its value. I declined the job interview and that evening I toasted to my 'new' business and new life being completely devoted to building my creative life. I structured my days so my creative writing came first.
The funny thing is, the moment I stopped feeling so hopeless and desperate, things started falling into place. My writing career flourished because I was doing it out of love and simply enjoying my time playing with words. More and more, this writing life is taking over my day. I cherish all the hard work and every interaction with my agents, because I know I am doing what I was born to do. I audited my clients and removed any that were costing me too much in terms of time. Because I enjoyed working with the remaining clients, my relationship with them grew, as did my income. Most of all, I am weathering the challenges of a creative career and solopreneur lifestyle with the faith that this is exactly where I am meant to be.