A year without work

3 minute read

I’ve now gone just over a year since I last ‘worked’.

I’m not quite sure how deliberate this has been. The preceding eighteen months saw a couple of disastrous career moves, but my last day of work arrived much sooner than I’d anticipated.

About a month into a three-month notice period, I trekked into work as usual. I was feeling unusually tired, but thought little of it. Then Test and Trace rang to follow up on my positive Covid-19 test.

I’d taken the test a week before, a precaution after Covid-19 swept through my workplace. The hospital lab (I was working in the NHS) had reported a negative result, but I headed home to self-isolate to be safe.

It was quickly apparent who was right, by the afternoon I had developed symptoms. Over the few days I experienced, except for the cough, almost every symptom that has been associated with the virus. I was fortunate, though, that I only had one night of breathing difficulties. I cannot imagine the fear experienced by those who needed hospitalisation.

Fatigue was the biggest problem. Three months later I was still asleep half the day and even moderate exercise would write off the next twenty-four hours. Even today, I feel the after-effects, although I attribute these more to my general loss of fitness over the first six months than the virus directly.

And it put paid to my plans to find a new job. I’d started my hunt and had to turn down an interview and a few recruiters while I was self-isolating. I was, however, fortunate to have a supportive family and a bit of cash in the bank to tide me over. There was no immediate danger, but there was the challenge of finding a job when I spent a lot of my time asleep and lacked stamina.

But it has turned out I didn’t need to find a job.

At some point, I put myself on a freelancing site offering copywriting. I charged peanuts, my thinking was that earning a few quid was better than earning nothing. And, at least, it gave me something to put on the CV.

And I earned a few quid. My perfectionist agonising over every word meant my hourly rate was probably pennies. But one job led to another, and another, and another. I quickly became overwhelmed. So, I increased my rates to limit the demand. But then it happened again. And again.

Without really planning anything, I’ve got to a stage where I’m making ends meet. And that’s largely by working half-days with cheap rates. (Covid-19 has helped too. Our expenditure on restaurants and holidays is not what it was.)

I am not sure what to make of all of this. Thinking back, I always enjoyed writing and, when the opportunity presented at work or elsewhere, relished the opportunity to play with words. But although I’d been paid for a few bits of writing, it was never something I imagined I could live on.

Even writing this, the imposter syndrome creeps in: who on earth would pay someone who writes dross like this? It’s simply laughable to compare myself with ‘real’ writers.

In my more confident moments, though, I think there are two things that stick out for me.

First, I am incredibly fortunate to be in the position where I could do this. Few people could afford the risk of trying it, let alone stumbling into it as I did.

Second, doing something you genuinely enjoy, that you find rewarding, where the senses are satisfied (and how I love the rhythmic sounds and light touch of my keyboard), just does not feel like work. Flow comes easily. Pleasing phrases and passages present themselves. Pieces magically appear.

I have no idea what the future will hold. Perhaps I will tire of trying to pretend I’m a writer (or copywriter). Perhaps I will stumble across a job I cannot refuse. Perhaps someone will rumble me and everyone will find out this emperor is as naked as the day they were born. All I can do is enjoy it while it lasts.