I’ve Decided All Freelancers Should Have Imaginary Friends
Try not to panic, this is all perfectly normal. My friends in the white jackets will be here shortly, and it’ll all be taken care of. Until then, stick around and I will explain myself.
If you’re a freelancer, you probably work alone. You might have one of those office share dealies, you might occasionally work in a cafe the way I do, but most freelancers I know spend a lot of the time with just the computer, the empty room, and the cat. Some people like music or television to pretend they’re not alone, and that’s fine with me, but you are still alone. You are all alone, in a room, and no one is making you do anything.
If you are not a self-motivated person by nature, this is a bad situation.
When other people are around, they’re constantly questioning you. What’re you working on, when will it be done, why are you looking at a lolcats again? This is annoying, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like working in an office, but it does, by and large, keep you on task. Now, I’m not suggesting you need someone looking over your shoulder, but when it’s just you and the blank computer screen, nothing is propelling your thoughts forward. It’s early in the morning, you’ve had a cup of coffee, and everything is shiny and distracting. My head sounds like this a lot of the time:
“Ooh, someone’s got a blog post on networking skills. Eh. It kind of sucks, never mind. Where’s that webcomic I like? Oh, and the other one? And the other one? Wait, I don’t get this joke in Penny Arcade. I’m going to look that up. Hah, this guy in the comments is talking about Skittles. I wonder where I can get Skittles. Actually I kind of want breakfast. I’ve been eating eggs a lot. I wonder if Rebecca would give me some more eggs from her hens? I should write her a note about that. I’ll do that now. Since I’m on Facebook anyway, I’ll play my move in Scrabble. Why the hell do I always get all the v’s and c’s?”
Do you remember where that train of thought started? Me neither. That’s because thought is not a bloody train. It is utterly random, it jumps around all the time, it goes in and out of planes of existence, it latches on to stuff that is not important or is very important or is located in the exact opposite sector of your brain to the one you were using a minute ago (my chocolate and politics sectors are on opposite sides. I do a lot of jumping back and forth between those two topics). Thought is not a train. It’s a time-and-space-traveling-device, and it is everywhere and nowhere at once and the only person who can go along with it is the one person inside it. It’s like the Tardis.
I Have Decided the Doctor Who Metaphor is BRILLIANT and I Am Making You All Come With Me. This is What Happens When I Watch the Series All Weekend.
Doctor Who, for those of you who don’t know, was a TV show where a guy called the Doctor wandered around in time and space fixing things that had gone wrong with time. He had a time-and-space traveling machine called the Tardis, and a companion named Rose. That’s all you need to know. Come on, let’s rock this metaphor.
Whenever the Doctor and Rose got into the Tardis, they went somewhere specific and for a specific reason, which the Doctor was always able to articulate. “Why are we going to Dickensian London?” “Because someone is messing with time in Dickensian London.” That’s a good reason, because investigating things that are screwing with time is the Doctor’s JOB. If he didn’t have to explain himself to Rose all the time, I’m betting the Tardis would go a lot of places just because the Doctor got curious about something. The Tardis was like Googling real life. Can you imagine if you got curious about where the narrowest buildings in the world were and you actually got to go and visit them instead of just looking at pictures on your computer screen? GODS, but I want a Tardis. I would never, ever do work again.
And yet, the Doctor always got his work done, even with the incredible temptation of Googling real life. I am tempted to Google in the normal way, all the time, and I never get my work done. The reason the Doctor was able to resist that incredible temptation was because Rose was always there, asking WHY. The Doctor had to explain himself. It’s not embarrassing to use the Tardis just for playing around once in a while, and he sometimes did. But about the twentieth time in a row the answer to the question “What are you doing?” is not “Saving the world,” the Doctor is going to start to lose face, and that is bad for the Doctor’s Cool Factor.
Back to Real Life Freelancing, and Your Own Cool Factor.
My job is not investigating things that are screwing with time. This is very sad, and I hope everyone feels sorry for me. However, my job is writing. So when I hop in my Tardis (my head, for those of you keeping up with this metaphor) in the morning, I have to explain to Rose (my imaginary friend) what the hell I’m doing, and why. And it damn well better be related to writing, because that is my job.
Again, I reiterate: it is fine to do something fun just because you happened to think of it now and then. It’s when you do only fun stuff, only random stuff, that your head stops being useful for actually accomplishing things. If you have to say what you’re doing out loud to someone, or even to yourself, you will start to question whether the thing you are about to do is worth your time. The twentieth time you answer, “What are you doing?” with anything but, “My JOB,” you are going to start to lose face, and it will be bad for your own personal Cool Factor. Yes, that’s right. Just like the Doctor. I TOLD you that metaphor worked.
Say It Out Loud
You don’t have to talk to an imaginary person. I understand I am the only person wearing that particular brand of crazy. Try just talking to yourself. Say what you’re doing out loud. It will keep you from going on random tangents, because those thought-jumps make sense in your unconscious mind, where nothing has to be articulated, but once you start saying things out loud like, “I wonder how many pairs of black underwear I actually have. I am going to go look in my underwear drawer right now,” you will pull yourself up short.
Seriously. Try it. If it sounds stupid out loud, it is probably not something that needs your attention.
“I’m going to go see what the state quarter for North Carolina looks like.”
Sounds dumb, right? I did that the other day. I went and looked up the state quarter for North Carolina. In the middle of writing a PR kit. Why? Because the woman I was writing the PR kit for was from North Carolina, and it was a random thought that floated through my brain. I was at a cafe at the time, so I did not question this thought. That was foolish of me. All my thoughts should be questioned regularly. They should have to determine their whereabouts during the night of April the 9th and they should have a damn good alibi. Because they have a history of going off and doing dumb stuff. Like looking up state quarters.
If I had been home, I would have talked to my imaginary friend about this (my imaginary friend is not actually imaginary. He’s my best friend, I just pretend he’s around and that we’re chatting.)
“What’re you doing?”
“Um. Looking up the state quarter for North Carolina?”
“I got . . . curious. I don’t know. I want to.”
“Oh . . . kay.”
My imaginary friend is JUDGING me. Good rule for life: When even your imaginary friend thinks you’re crazy, you are doing something wrong.
Now I’m going to give you the link for the state quarter to North Carolina, because I know YOU’RE curious now too. But before you do, I want you to imagine your best friend in the entire world is in the room, and I want you to tell them the following two sentences, out loud, verbatim: “I am not going to start work yet. I really need to know what’s on the state quarter for North Carolina RIGHT NOW because some chick mentioned it on her blog.”
Sorry to do that to you, because now I’ve removed your ability to click on this link without feeling kind of dumb about it. Here’s your quarter. Don’t feel bad. I wouldn’t be able to resist either.
Subscribe. My imaginary friend thinks that’s a great idea.