Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crisis time....

No, no, fortunately, not of the health variety!
Or of the relationship variety--also good. :-)
This crisis is of the dollar variety.
Or more accurately, the dollar-versus-what-feels-like-a-necessity variety.

I have a quandary.

I am registered for the ACFW conference this September in Indianapolis. It's an important thing for me to do, to participate in writers' conferences. They're part of my job, the overarching writing career that I love. Yes, it's about two and a half hours away, so I don't have to fly (saving $$). And yes, I got a partial scholarship from my home ACFW chapter (saving even more $$). So I managed to scrape together the registration fee from that scholarship, some freelance money from a new client (!), and a little from the household budget.

Problem is...there's also the hotel bill. Also, because we only have two cars, I am strapped for transportation to GET there...which means I'll have to rent a car, borrow a car, or the like...without visible means of support to do so. Carpooling is an iffy option at best for a trip of this distance, so I'm reluctant to get involved in it.

You may be saying, "But, Janny, didn't you plan on all this?" Well, yes and no. I anticipated a certain figure for a hotel bill and/or car. But, despite the fact that Indianapolis isn't exactly New York City, the hotels are VERY pricey. (I'm wondering how they get away with it, frankly, but that's another subject for another rant. :-)) In plain English, the hotel bill's going to run me almost twice what I anticipated it would run. So much for the budget to rent a car, or even to chip in for someone's gas. And that's not even talking about the hotels' charging you to PARK.

Yes, I could camp in someone else's room and get away for a fraction of the cost. But there are two factors involved in that scenario that make even that option problematic.

First...when I go to a writers' conference, I spend the entire day in the company of other people. Networking. Comparing notes. Workshops. Communal meals. In ACFW's case, all this plus "worship" time in the mornings as well as spontaneous "divine appointments." I'm looking forward to it all...but I'm an introvert by nature, and all this stuff EXHAUSTS me. I don't feed off the energy of other people. I need to be alone, in quiet, to recharge my batteries and give my mind and spirit a rest. So even sharing a room with one other person, in these situations, is stressful. I know. I've done it. I don't want to do it again.

Second...even sharing a room would tap into resources I do not presently have, and don't know how I'm going to get, AND be stressful on top of it. Like I need that? (Note: this is not a trick question.) Even if the hotel bill had been within what I expected--the plain fact is, I didn't have THAT figure on hand, either.

How did I do these kinds of things on a shoestring before? I would say to myself, "This is something I truly need to do. I will just have to find the resources somewhere, even if it means putting off paying another bill to do it." In other words, I did a lot of "pretending" over the years, then scrambling to play catchup. But the trouble with that approach is, you never really catch up from that kind of outlay. Or, if you do happen to catch up, any emergency puts you in the hole big-time.

And, let's be honest about this: in our present living situation, we are doing just-the-basics, ma'am, so it's not like we're paying off our fabulous Vacation to Tahiti with tons of spare discretionary cash around. If I'm slighting a bill to do this, it's a living necessity--a utility, a mortgage payment, a car payment--that I really can't afford (literally) to let slide. That way lies sleepless nights, which I also don't need.

The other way I've recently dealt with these shortfalls is to go onto my freelance sites and apply like crazy for writing jobs to earn the money to pay the bills AND do the "extra." And, yes, that's an option I've used in the past. Unfortunately, it's not reliable income. And also unfortunately, the jobs I'm seeing come down the pike now don't pay nearly in proportion to the work that they entail. It's not uncommon to see people put out ads for "fixed price" jobs asking for an author to write a 40-page-plus e-book for $40--or, as one I actually saw today indicated, asking for an editor of a 250-page book for $20. If you have no idea how "off kilter" those pay rates are for what they're asking, I'm not going to inform you...it's too depressing. As a musician friend we knew years ago used to say, "That doesn't even pay me to unpack the (instrument) case."

When you factor in the additional point that doing projects like that also cuts into the few hours I actually have to pursue my OWN writing (yeah, the career as a novelist--remember that one?)...it's a doubly bad deal. I've done that deal, when I was trying desperately to scramble for every penny. It didn't work, and it wore me out in the process. So, no, thanks. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I do have freelance money that is actually owed to me. If I had a way to actually collect it, that would definitely help. Unfortunately, the site through which I procured this work has little or no enforceability on certain kinds of contracts...which, of course, this one was. That $300, for a project I started a year ago and has been stalled in the water since November, will probably never materialize. If it does, it'll be gravy.

But I can't pay a hotel bill, or an electric bill, or a car payment, or a dentist, on gravy.

I don't want to throw in the towel yet. But I don't want to do things the old "risk-taking" way, either. I'm plumb out of energy to want to live on that edge anymore. Who knows what damage I did to my body, my mind, and my spirit living that way for all the years I did?

So the "old way" is not an option.

The "adventure" of sleeping in half of someone's bed, or in a rollaway in someone's hotel room, is also not an option. I will be too miserably stressed to get anything out of the writers' conference, and there's nothing worse than going home after an event like that wondering why you just did that thing to yourself. :-)

The very real question is, then...do I stop now?
Do I say to God, "Okay, You provide the wherewithal" and continue "as if" until the last minute, hoping and praying it materializes?
Or do I do what may be the prudent--even if it feels like the defeated--thing and write to the ACFW people with my cancellation?

I do have a "donation" button on this blog, for just this kind of purpose. But if enough people read this thing and actually throw money into that donation button--to the tune of the $1000 or so I will need to do this conference comfortably--I will consider that God HAS, indeed, provided the wherewithal...and I'll rejoice in the miracle.

Other than that, I have a decision to make. I'm just hoping I can make the right one.

In thought,
Janny

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