I've spent the last 15 months, since Christmas 2011, trying to work out what I could do to earn money that would mean I did less private tuition. A simple aim, made complicated by the fact that, even without aspergers in the mix, I do not like working as an employee and I do like organising my own time.
So, to see what worked, I've gone through various ideas (or schemes, depending on your viewpoint). Some of them have been good, but not for me. Some were never going to work. Most had merit, if you weren't an aspie and were a better sales person than I am.
In the end, I've come up with very little to replace what I already do. The only major change I've achieved is that between Christmas 2011 and now, March 2013, I've published my books and am doing a lot more writing.
This is a big change, I don't deny it. I had reached the stage, before the end of 2011, where I didn't know if I would write again. This wasn't one of those aspie ultimatums we give ourselves, it was an observation based on how little I had written and, more worryingly, how little I wanted to write.
What I have been concerned with above all else for the past few years is making enough money working for myself that I didn't have to fall back into normal employment. The tuition came above all else as something I was good at and which did bring in money.
The stress of it can be really overwhelming, though. On the plus side, most lessons are only an hour long and that means when I'm having a bad day or week, I can tell myself that the other end of the lesson is not so far away and I'll soon be back in my car, metaphorical blanket over my head, with some recovery time before the next lesson.
The negatives have been that it is not a cosy way to make money. The lessons may only be an hour long but that hour is intensive, requiring a lot of attention and sometimes under difficult circumstances. Not all my students are little dears and if your nerves are already frazzled, well, you can imagine...
So, the allure of finding something else to earn money, indoors, at home and without the stress was quite strong. It just didn't work out and, all these months later, I'm finally forced to admit that.
I had a moment of clarity last week when I realised that after all the running around, trying new things and spending money on those new things, my books had been sitting on Amazon and Lulu.com, quietly making a small amount of money each month. They didn't fuss at me or need anything from me and they didn't expect me to make them behave or drive in the pouring rain.
It was a simple realisation but an important one when it occurred to me that after all my years with writing at the forefront of my mind, I had managed to spend months not figuring out that it should be at the forefront of my working life too. I had dismissed it almost, simply because it didn't bring in an income that compared in any way to the tuition. I was looking at it as an all or nothing scenario - if it didn't bring enough money then I couldn't count it as an income.
It doesn't work like that, though. I understood, finally, that the tuition is more important than I wanted to admit, while the writing paramount. And by writing, I am including this blog, as I spend more creative hours on here than on any of my books!
There was some eye-rolling at myself as I realised I had been chasing ideas and dreams which brought me nothing except extra stress and a fair few weeks hiding away, when I could have been doing what I was always meant to do and writing, writing, writing.
I'm not sure it was just the idea of money which diverted me from the writing, though. I have a feeling it was a deeply lodged belief that making money has to come from doing something 'proper', such as going out to the tuition, or selling something. Being self-employed is traditionally seen as running a business, naturally, so sitting at home, writing books which sell in small numbers every month, is a little off the beaten track of self-employment.
No, I think my problem with committing to the writing is even more fundamental than that. I think I needed to give myself permission to focus on it. Permission to leave behind the expected version of life which I've been trying to follow since I left school, to focus entirely on what has been the brightest part of me since the age of five.
It doesn't matter what other people expect of you or request of you and their permission only goes so far too. You need to be able to accept yourself for what you are and what you can do before real and concrete change comes into your life.
I don't expect to be making lots of money from my writing anytime soon and I don't think I'll be giving up the tuition either. But I can't describe to you what a relief it is to know I am leaving behind the need, the driven, obsessive need to try to be something else than what I was meant to be.
For now, I'll carry on with the tuition, able to enjoy it more and accept the good with the bad because the other part of my working life, the writing, is now what it should be. I'm not coming home from the tuition wondering if I've made enough money or if I need to do other things. I won't be chasing after ideals that don't belong to me before I go out to lessons.
What I'm doing instead is writing this blog, my books, a story in poetry and anything else creative I can get my hands on. I'm feeling more like my real self than I have for years. What a strange sensation! It's not like coming home, that's the odd thing. It still feels as if I'm in some waiting phase, ready for the next stage but not quite ready to leave.
I'll tell you what it feels like: it feels like I'm on my way home. Not quite there yet but I can see the tops of the chimneys as I climb the hill. Soon I'll drop down into the village and will be turning the familiar corner, ready to get out and stretch after my long journey.
What a joy it will be to walk through the front door at last and set down my bags. I'll put the kettle on for you, readers and we'll watch the sun set behind the apple tree together.
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