Goodbye Freelance Writing Career

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I’m at the point I think I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that my freelance writing career is over in many ways. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still plan to blog and do this kind of personal writing when able, but over the past years I also supplemented our income a bit by taking freelance writing gigs from various clients. I covered a wide variety of writing assignments: reviewing books, writing promotional materials and press releases, writing children’s books, editing and proofreading, and many other oddball writing jobs.

Now, I find I just can’t do it. Partly due to physical health conditions (particularly my back/neck pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia), but also due to my mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, bipolar type 2, etc.) Sometimes I’m not even sure which condition is really at fault. Is it the CFS making it almost impossible for me to get out of bed and function at all, or is that the depression? Is my back pain causing me anxiety, or are the panic attacks causing me to tighten up and the back pain to worsen? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Much of the time, I really don’t know. But I do know I can’t go on like this forever, and I definitely can’t take the additional stress of taking on freelance writing jobs anymore.

* Art by Maranda Russell

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Life Update: MRSA, Cleveland Vacation, Freelance Writing, and Book Awards!

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Me at the USS Cod Museum in Cleveland, Ohio

As June 2016 draws to a close, I thought I would do a quick life update. Things have been kind of crazy lately between health problems, summer vacations, book releases, editing and freelance writing, vlogging, etc. So here are a few highlights (or low points) of my recent days:

*We went on an actual vacation for the first time in a few years! We went up to Cleveland, Ohio and went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the USS Cod Submarine Museum, the Cleveland Zoo, Cleveland Botanical Gardens, and Lake Erie. I found some awesome driftwood while walking along the beach, drooled over the Michael Jackson and Nirvana memorabilia at the Hall of Fame, rode a camel, and ate way too much junk food!

*My hubby is fighting off another MRSA infection, which makes me afraid we are both going to be passing it back and forth again. Even with all the bleaching and cleaning we do, that stuff is hard to keep from spreading!

*I am proud of the fact that my career in freelance writing and editing continues to expand, with many repeat customers and brand new clients! My favorite projects are those that align well with my natural interests (specifically children’s writing and poetry), but even some of the more technical jobs have been more fun than I expected! These jobs allow me to continue to do what I love to do and work at home!

*My YouTube vlog, Maranda’s Toys & Books, continues to grow! I have been pleasantly surprised to find out I’m not the only nerdy adult who still loves collecting dolls, ponies, action figures, and other things from her childhood! I am even getting some free toys and books to review on my channel which is pretty darn awesome!

*My new middle grade children’s book, “Creepy, Funny & Just Plain Weird: Stories and poems for kids“, has already been nominated for a children’s book award! Fingers crossed that I win! If you haven’t read it yet, please give it a try!

Life Update: Jobs, Kids, Writing & Bernie Sanders!

 

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“YOLO” collage on paper by Maranda Russell

Hello everyone! I’m sorry that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. I hope to start remedying that now. Here is a short list of some of the things that have been going on in my life recently, as well as some of the projects I am looking forward to beginning:

  • For the last 8 months I have been working part-time in an emergency room. During that time I have met some fascinating people, but I have also been witness to a great deal of human suffering. I have always been a sensitive, rather empathic person who feels things deeply and in that way, I feel that this job has affected me greatly. I will be leaving the position soon to pursue other opportunities, but I am grateful for the experience.
  • Recently I have begun to take on more freelance writing gigs, particularly in the field of children’s writing. I have found that one of my true passions is taking the visions of other authors and helping them create great stories for kids. I especially enjoy editing picture books or other types of literature for young readers. Mostly I have been getting clients through online sites, but I am open to offers from other clients, so if you have a children’s book that you would like help editing, feel free to contact me!
  • My husband and I are hoping to start doing respite for kids and young adults with disabilities soon. Ever since we stopped fostering kids, I have missed having children around to play with and care for. I can’t wait to get a chance to have a full house again, even if it is just for short periods of time.
  • My YouTube vlog, Maranda’s Toys & Books, has been growing quickly! Ever since I decided to focus the channel mostly on my nerdy love of toys, books and collectibles, it seems to have found its niche and an audience that is a lot of fun to interact with! For that reason, I will probably be sharing my more serious or personal posts here on my blog from now on.
  • Lastly, this is kind of random…but I’m really rooting for Bernie Sanders! Feel the Bern! Even if he doesn’t end up winning the presidential nomination, I am thankful to see so many younger people step up and show they care deeply about the fate of our country. I think what I love most about Bernie is that he is such a humble, down-to-earth politician. It is truly refreshing to see.

Things I Don’t Understand about Income Inequality

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I know income inequality has become a sensitive issue somewhat with people on both sides arguing for their point of view. I don’t mind people having different feelings about the issue and what can or should be done about it. However, there are a few key things I just don’t get when it comes to the subject. I have heard many arguments that make absolutely no sense to me and would like to share my thoughts on them…

1) First off, I want to go ahead and tackle the elephant in the room when it comes to gender income inequality. I WILL NEVER understand why more women aren’t outraged at the politicians who fight against women making the same amount of money for the same exact work. The arguments I have heard from politicians who voted against this issue were weak at best. I do not see how paying women the same pay for the same exact work affects women who want more flexible schedules or who want to work part-time. You know, some men want flexible schedules and work part-time too….but that still has NOTHING to do with people getting the same pay for the same work and the same level of education, which is the real issue in the first place!

2) I have heard the argument many, many times that “people who flip burgers” shouldn’t expect to make a real living doing it. First off, let me say this argument tends to make people sound like real elitist jerks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people making more money for harder work or work that takes more education. That is fine, within reason. However, I truly believe that ANYONE who works a full time job should at least make enough for the absolute necessities (food, clothing, housing, health care). Yeah, maybe people who work entry level jobs can’t expect a whole lot more than that, but everyone should at least be able to survive and take care of their family if they are out working a full time job. By the way, I’ve had many different jobs over the years and some of the fast food restaurants I worked at were HARDER WORK than the variety of other jobs I have held, including those that are considered more skilled.

3) Why are the people who say that the poor are that way because they choose to be and are uneducated, often the very same people who do everything in their power to refuse help to those who want to pursue education but can’t afford it? If you truly believe that education is the way out of poverty, why vote for people who constantly cut funding for education in all its many capacities? If you believe education is the way out of the income inequality issue, then fund it! Realize that those living in poverty may not have access to the same educational funds you have. Loans of any kind are hard to get (and pay back) when your family lives in poverty. Also, many people struggle with the ridiculous interest on student loans even if they do manage to graduate and find a job in their field. I know this first hand since my husband has a Master’s Degree in education, landed a good job and still struggles to pay back his student loans (and we live exceptionally simple lives, I don’t even own a cell phone!).

Job hunting with autism in a non-autistic world

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I’m currently searching for a part-time job. I do make some money off my writing and art, but let’s face it, it can be hard to make a living off those things alone. I hope someday to do so, but right now we need some extra money. However, hunting for a job isn’t easy for me. First off, I have some health problems. I can’t work long hours, especially if I need to be on my feet for long (due to severe Plantar Fasciitis) and I can’t lift much of anything that is heavy, which has ruled out many jobs. Add to that, the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and the job market is awfully slim.

Although Asperger’s doesn’t make me unable to work, it does cause some real issues. First off, I have social anxiety which can become overwhelming if I work a job with too much forced socialization. Secondly, although I have a great eye for detail (a gift from having high-functioning autism), I am not very good at multitasking. In fact, it can cause a lot of anxiety if I have to do too much at once all the time. I also need a job that is relatively predictable every day. Too much change in environment or job duties can actually induce panic attacks, which isn’t at all uncommon among those with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Then of course you have the problems with job interviews. First off, do I be totally honest about my physical problems and the issues caused by autism? If I do, I know it may ruin my chances of a job. I hate to think someone wouldn’t hire me just because I have health problems and was born a little different than everyone else, but I know it happens all the time. They may not say that is the reason, but they can still choose not to deal with the restrictions I have. Also, interviews are hell for people who feel socially awkward and nervous to begin with. Often, I can’t tell what someone thinks of me when they first meet me unless they directly tell me, so I often sit there the whole time wondering if I am bombing the interview or if I am doing ok. I am naturally bluntly honest, which can be an issue too.

All of this stress and confusion really makes me wish there were job placement services to help people with high-functioning autism. Unfortunately, almost all of the services around here require that you have a low IQ, which I do not have. In fact, my IQ is quite a bit above average, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with issues from the autism. Overall, job hunting feels like an alien world to me. One I just don’t get and will probably always have to “fake it to make it”. Unfortunately, I’m not good at faking things for long.

5 things I love about being an artist

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“Molten Ascension”, watercolor 5.5″ x 8.5″

Since I recently wrote a blog post about “5 things that can suck about being an artist”, I thought it would be good to balance it out with 5 things I absolutely LOVE about being an artist!

1) Getting to work mostly at home, whenever and wherever I desire and in whatever clothing I desire (usually pajamas). It also rocks to be able to listen to whatever music or tv show I want to while working.

2) Making something out of nothing. There is just something so magical about taking a blank sheet of paper or canvas and creating something brand new that is one-of-a-kind. It is especially exciting when I have a great idea in my head and see it taking shape before me. To me it seems to be a tangible way to “make dreams come true”.

3) When people really connect with something I have created and tell me how much they like it. There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing someone say they have “fallen in love” with an artwork of mine or that something I made inspired them or made them happy. I even get all happy inside when people on Facebook like, share or comment on my artwork. (So if you are a FB friend of mine, keep that encouragement coming! It means more than you know!)

4) This might be weird, but I really love shopping for art supplies. It is one of my favorite things to do. Second only to shopping for books. When I get into an art supply store and see the aisles of paint, brushes, canvases, pencils, pens, etc., I just feel so happy, almost like I used to feel as a kid when I got to do “back to school” shopping and pick out all my cool supplies for the coming year. I guess that is the nerd in me coming out.

5) Lastly, when I am in the “zone”, painting or drawing, I feel it is almost like a meditative state, where all my worries, cares and physical problems recede and the “true” me gets to express itself for a while. Even though I have many chronic pain issues, when I create, even the aches and pains seem to take a back seat to my soul and its desire to connect to something on a deeper level. I’m not sure if that is the case for everyone (perhaps it is due to my Aspie ability to focus on special interests), but regardless, I am grateful for it.

5 things that can suck about being an artist

"Beam Me Up God", watercolor 8" x 8"

“Beam Me Up God”, watercolor 8″ x 8″

1) No matter how many artworks you create or sell, there is always this niggling voice in the back of your head asking, “Am I really talented or is all this a fluke? What if my artistic muse abandons me and I never make another meaningful work of art?”

2) There is a point in almost every artwork that I start that I feel it is total crap and just want to rip it to shreds. Sometimes resisting that impulse is extremely hard. Often, even the best, most successful pieces of artwork I have created barely escaped the shredder.

3) The whole Money vs. Love issue. Do you create what you love, even if it doesn’t sell, or do you create what you know will likely sell? I have tried to do both but find it doesn’t work for me to try to create anything just because it is “popular” or will sell. I inevitably lose interest in the project and get depressed because I am not being true to myself. Luckily, my art is selling more and more even though I am following my bliss instead of the dollar signs. However, I realize that my situation is not the same as anybody else’s and some people have to do what they have to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. I respect them for that and hope they can also find time to do whatever feeds their soul.

4) People just don’t realize how expensive professional art materials can be! How many artists get the look asking why they charge so much for their art? I used to wonder that too when I would see a hefty price tag on a piece of art…but now I understand. Most of us really don’t make much profit from handmade things…even if they seem expensive. I’ve also noticed that people are often confused by how much it costs to ship artwork, especially if the object is large, heavy, being sent to another country or the buyer wants special postal services.

5) The absolute worst thing about being an artist in my opinion? When you go through a dry spell and nothing (or at least not much) sells. It can make you want to give up entirely and wonder how people like Van Gogh kept going when they never sold much of anything (of course then I remember that he did cut off his ear and eventually committed suicide – which doesn’t cheer me up much). In the end, I guess it is the passion and the obsession that keeps us going…and hopefully the depression from feeling unpopular even lends itself to a deeper display of emotion that improves our work or adds a new depth to it. At least that is how I like to look at it.