“And now we play the waiting game...” - Homer Simpson
Things are so straightforward at office jobs. You show up, somebody gives you some stuff to do, you do it, you eat a little lunch, do more stuff that someone else gave you to do and you go home.
If you're entrepreneurial, you'll find extra stuff to do, sure. But generally, there will always be someone else who will give you tasks to keep you occupied.
There is very little time for existential dread, if you're doing things right.
This is an aspect of freelancing I was not prepared for – the sheer amount of waiting that can go on.
This week, I've sent pitches. I've emailed editors about pieces I've handed in that are yet to run. I've emailed prospective sources to research some ideas that may or may not pan out.
And now, we wait.
It's enough to drive you mad. Because those pitches haven't been approved. Because I don't know if that piece needs any fixing up. Because those sources haven't replied.
So I sit. I browse Reddit more than I should. I check my unpaid invoices and see who owes me what and if anything is overdue (nothing is). I try and think of story ideas and nothing comes to mind.
And I wait.
By now, I at least have been doing this long enough to know the pattern. Some weeks, you barely have time to sleep and other weeks you get sorely tempted to marathon Bojack Horseman for hours on end because what else will you do to fill the time and that show's pitch-black comedy is a pretty decent reflection of your mood.
On the few occasions I've been asked to speak to journalists even younger than I, the advice I give is to get out of your apartment if you're freelancing. Yes, the best way to find stories is to talk to people, but even more pertinently, when things are slow, being alone with your thoughts can be a dangerous game. You start questioning your ability. You lose confidence. You wonder if you will ever sell a story again. Maybe your dad was right about law school...
Journalists are like pro athletes in precious few ways, but there's one key similarity: overthinking can be a bitch.
This is yet another thing they don't tell you about at j-school.