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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Hayden

Am I crazy?

This post is way too long, I know:

Today I turned down a $1,000 writing assignment. It probably wouldn't have been that bad, but it was for an editor I've worked with in the past and would prefer not to work with again. It took me three days to respond to the email while I contemplated my response; I could really use the money. I've gotten fewer assignments lately, my once-steady copywriting gig has dried up since someone new took over, I've been more depressed lately and therefore working less in general, and my husband left his cushy job in September and our income has decreased by thousands per month. So, yeah, I really could have used a grand. Even at my financial peak, $1,000 would have been a lot of money. This is not the first time I've turned down an opportunity, but this is the first time I've turned down a whole band. Am I crazy? Am I an idiot? I'm still asking myself those questions.

As of right now I am also drafting another email requesting to withdraw an article that is in the middle of the editorial process with a different publication. I am withdrawing because I don't like the direction the article is going. The process had already been slow (and slower than promised, seeing as I first pitched this in February) and after politely nudging them yesterday and getting an update, I would like to go elsewhere. My contract for this particular article is vague in terms of the protocol for this, so I don't know how it will work out. I'm fine with no kill fee and with returning the half that I was already paid, if need be. But I've never withdrawn an article halfway through, especially not one that's on a topic I've wanted to write about for quite a while (black women and hiking). But this place isn't in line with my vision for the story. I could feel this early on, but now I'm listening to that inner voice: This isn't what I want. Or at least, this place/publication isn't where I want it.

Then last year, I was all set to be interviewed on a brand new podcast. I sent the host my written story as requested, and she got back to me with her notes and changes. In a couple areas it felt like she was making my story into something it wasn't, and in significant ways. It was a sensitive topic and I didn't like where it was going. Sure, I get edited all the time, but I like to remain authentic—especially in a personal story for a podcast. So I wished her well, but said I felt like this was going in a different direction than I intended and I politely removed myself from consideration. Could I have used that exposure? Of course! Did the podcast sound cool and unique and interesting? Yep. But I didn't want it to go down like that.

Yes, I recognize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to turn down opportunities. I am married (for now, anyway) and I am financially comfortable. At this time I don't have to worry about trying to put food on the table solely with my writing. This is something I try not to take for granted, the fact that I get to be picky when so many others are struggling. But I have done my time with dead-end jobs and work that makes me absolutely miserable. I do not want to return to that unless I have to. And now that I have built up a portfolio for myself (albeit a modest one) I can say no sometimes to writing for free or writing for people whose vision for my work does not align with my own. Do I always agree with editors and podcast hosts? Of course not. In fact I often don't, and I deal with it, keep my mouth shut and get paid. But when something is unequivocally not what I want and isn't being true to myself, it disturbs me. And I don't want to feel it anymore.

I've wanted to stop working with that editor (the $1K one—it hurts to even type that dollar amount) for a while, and I'm finally being true to myself. And at the other place, I'm risking burning a bridge—and possibly even legal repercussions—by withdrawing my piece but again I'm being true to myself. Same with the podcast (fortunately I ended up being a guest on two other podcasts, so it worked out). Part of the reason I am freelance is, well, so I can be free. I'm enjoying this while I still can. And I'm feeling the effects; I don't want to pretend that I'm not: I am aiming to teach one class this fall (for youth) and do some substitute teaching as well to help supplement my income. And I hope that a business idea I'm working on will also be fruitful this year. But I'm also making an effort to do the writing that I want to do. The work doesn't always have to feed my soul, but I don't want the work to hurt it either.

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