January can feel like the pits. For a jobbing freelancer, the New Year is usually a frustrating period of inactivity when only a week before, he was sozzled with Champagne, telling everyone (and himself) that ‘this year will be different’.
It can get so quiet, you can see the tumbleweeds gather apace in Rejection Town (normally a welcome sight) while over there in Commission City, those happy workers aren’t fully back into their work-flow.
For the freelancer, any feeling of despondency or frustration is usually down to three things: the post-New Year reality, the taxman visiting at the end of the month, and no commissioned gigs in the foreseeable future. Or the New Year Blues, basically.
Hopefully you’ll have your tax money dutifully put aside (roughly 20% of whatever paycheque you receive should be immediately placed out of reach), so that’s one less concern, and the writing New Year Resolutions should help you focus on all the targets you’ve set for year 2K7. So that’s more positive.
In fact, the New Year is the ideal time to commit yourself to your new writing goals. You’ve got the time, the energy and the focus. Absolutely no excuse not to put your head down and write. There’s little outside distraction. Fewer emails to respond to, no phone calls being received. Time to get on with the writing. Maybe even finish your new spec by the end of January!
Alas, it doesn’t always work out like this. First of all, scraping the tax money together can be a problem. Yes, you’re meant to put it aside but if a freelancer isn’t lucky to receive a regular wage, then it’s likely that he’s dipping into his tax reserve during the year to help make ends meet.
I spent most of my tax money on Cannes, confident in the knowledge that I had a couple of episodes of Doctors coming to me. 2006 got off to a cracking start. I had an article published in the Writers’ Guild magazine, a commission from the Adrenalinis, and another commission to write an animation pilot. All was sweet, and I figured I’d get one of those Doctors eps any day now. I even got a call from EastEnders asking if I’d like to write for the show.
Doctors had a bit of an overhaul during the year, and halved their writer list (and banked episodes) but I survived the cull on both counts. Phew. But I still haven’t had a commission all year even though the script editor has assured me that my eps are still banked. The post-summer lull didn’t help, not to mention the rejection from EastEnders (the whole experience was a bit like asking to apply for a job, doing a good interview but then not getting the gig. My agent is genuinely flummoxed at the rejection, which is good for my ego).
Thankfully, in November, my lovely agent managed to secure me a three-week stint writing for a computer game. Actually, this emerged in July but it took the computer bods four months to finally give me the go ahead. I was hugely grateful for the work, which I very much enjoyed (it was my first time doing a computer game), and in truth, it saved my Christmas and tax New Year.
It was a curious end to the year. At one stage, I thought I had subscribed myself to too many projects that I wouldn’t be able to cover if they got the go ahead. To my surprise, not one of them got a greenlight, and it left me floundering a bit for work, and cash. Maybe you can never have too many ‘maybes’ on the go.
Overall though, 2006 was a good year, and there are lots of positive developments in store for the months ahead. It’s only the first week of January, so although I’m a bit worried about immediate financial concerns, there’s no need for panic. It gives me time to crack on with my new stories and focus on my strengths, and hopefully, at the very least, one of those Doctors eps will give me a shout in the not too distant future.
As ever, optimism rides high and the mood is good, so here's to a great 2K7 (that's what the hipsters are calling it these days).