Eric Mayer

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An Anniversary
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Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of my losing my job, and more importantly, gaining my freedom from the corporate world. If I feel like getting up on a Monday and writing a blog rather than dealing with the memo the manager left on my desk I can do so. Not that I usually operate that way. As anyone who's self employed will tell you, we work longer hours for ourselves than we would for any boss.

For many years I was employed by a large legal publisher. When the publisher was bought out by a foreign corporation (yes, most of the reference books and research materials used by American lawyers, even official state codes, are produced by a Canadian owned international conglomerate) many employees, predictably, were suddenly expendable.

It was appropriate that I spent yesterday morning rambling around beautiful, boulder strewn woods in Connecticut. The day I lost my job I went to a local park, sat on a hill in the thin early spring sunlight, contemplated the glassy water of a pond below, breathed in the clean air, knowing I would never again have to spend my days choking on the poisonous miasma of a corporate office.

To be fair, I couldn't have "known" that I would never have to return to the office. It was merely a hope. Most people cannot remain self-employed, most small businesses fail. Writers left the legal publisher of their own volition, bragging about being finished with the nine-to-five grind, and how many contracts they were taking with them. Before long they came crawling back, beaten, by a world without schedules or benefits.

People like the idea of the freelance life, but few are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. For most, freelancing means a drastic cut in pay. Companies do not compensate outside contractors well. They are not willing to pay someone to merely produce work anywhere near to what they are willing to pay to own someone, to have a person available to do whatever they want whenever required. Despite the reduced pay, taxes for Social Security and Medicare double and need I mention the price of private health insurance?

Then too, there are those who will try to force you back into indentured servitude for their own convenience. The child support authorities never would acknowledge that contractors are paid a lower rate than salaried employees and so have insisted for a decade on support amounts twice what my freelance income should legally allow.

Looking back I am amazed that Mary and I have made it this far, both of us laboring as freelance writers, and nothing but. There is the constant danger of work running out, and from time to time it has. Once due to the harassment of the aforementioned child support authorities. However, we've always found more. In time. Sometimes barely, like the winter when the check arrived a week before the propane ran out. We've suffered from other small business dangers too. A (former) associate robbed us of a large amount of money and absconded into bankruptcy.

Still, it has been ten years now and I think I can safely say, no matter what happens, good or bad, I will never punch a clock again. This in itself makes all the hassle worthwhile. Corporations, in my experience, are sick and dysfunctional places where a few useless power seekers are allowed to make life miserable for employees, who by any human or moral measure are their superiors.

More than that, working for ourselves has allowed Mary and I to arrange our time so that we can write fiction. We work hellish hours, but we set the hours. I believe that we would not be working on our sixth novel now, or even our first, if we were forced to cater to the incessant demands of a regular employer.

The majority of our income still comes from writing nonfiction, but every year the fiction income increases. It's a very significant portion now. The more fiction income, the more time we can spend writing it, and the more income it can make for us. Perhaps in ten years I will be celebrating our being not just full-time writers but full-time fiction writers.



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