100% Free

When I graduated from uni, my plan was to complete an additional diploma in teaching. It would only take me a year and secure a strong, financially stable future. I lasted five days. I was out pretty much from the first class when the teacher looked around the workshop space at a bunch of failed actors and said:

'Don't worry. After all, teaching is the greatest acting gig of all time.'

That was the end of that. Instead, I did what all good Arts grads do: find a job in retail. This lasted for a good eight months, until my university teaching load (which I found by a stroke of luck) was big enough that I could just scrape by. Yes, I was having rice every night for dinner, but I didn't want to kill customers. 

I'd give myself till I was 25. Six years. Six years to subsidise myself with teaching work part-time but keep my focus on developing a career in writing. 

I'm now 26. The teaching job merged into a year with Brisbane Writers Festival. It's that time. Is it time to commit to another career, and develop a pathway for myself that will earn greater financial security? Or do I commit to writing, free-lance? In other words, do I go 100% free?

There's not much of a choice, is there? While I'm young, childless, and stupid enough, I've got to give myself at least a year. By the end of that year I may have eaten through all of our savings and be back to rice, but at least I know I've tried. I continue to tease myself. I'll suddenly realise I'm on a jobs site, looking at an annual salary and biting my lip. Perhaps... but of course I wouldn't be my own boss, I wouldn't have direct control over my career, I'd have to work in a team of people not of my choosing... When it gets right down to it, I'm too much of a control freak to settle for anything else.

Most people say 'good on you' when I tell them of my plan. Or 'that's exciting'. It hasn't felt real until the last few days, where my time has been completely soaked up in projects and I keep meaning to look for a teaching load or go into an office that doesn't exist. Perhaps it's scariest because I could 'fail'. In other words, I could get twelve months down the line and realise that I need either a:

  • part-time job that I will never really grow in because I'll continue to be distracted by other projects
  • full-time job that will require me to put writing to one side. Theatre would likely cease to exist for me and I'd try and write a book every couple of years.

In which case, the perfect artist's dream that I had when I was 19, when I so easily stepped out of a Diploma in Education and said goodbye to a comfortable income, is proving a little more difficult to settle with. It requires bravery this gig. It requires you betting your future on yourself. The only thing that's more uncomfortable than doing this is not doing this. If you put yourself in such a situation you have no option but to succeed. Failing, as the cliche goes, is not a thing for which one can aspire to. (That's the cliche, isn't it?)

In other words, Dave, stop writing about it. Just shut up and do it.