Described as “the laureate of American lowlife,” writer Charles Bukowski was known for pithy, curmudgeonly quotations and words of hardboiled wisdom that are widely circulated on Facebook.
As we dug more into his best lines, we couldn’t help but notice he was a kindred spirit. Here are five quotations you can probably relate to as a freelancer. And even if you can’t, we have a feeling Bukowski, in true writerly fashion, wouldn’t really care.
“My ambition is handicapped by my laziness.”
As a freelancer, do you ever get the nagging notion your workday is flying by with nothing to show for it, and you could be getting so much more done if you could only get out of the way of your own uncooperative brain? Or do you ever have one of those days where you would rather binge-watch the last season of “Game of Thrones” for the third time rather than sit down at your desk and get actual work done?
We all have lazy days like that, and it’s worth remembering that someone like Bukowski felt the same way. Sometimes you need to embrace laziness, and as studies show, taking a break from work is often the best way to find new inspiration and new energy.
“I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they aren’t around.”
There’s a stereotype that all freelancers are introverts who are happiest surrounded by their own thoughts, perhaps shut up in an attic, going days at a time without talking to other people in person or taking a shower. This stereotype isn’t entirely true; lots of freelancers take showers.
But whether you’re a bubbly extravert or a misanthropic introvert, all freelancers need a certain level of privacy, space and quiet. We can always use more room to think, create, and ruminate.
“Some people never go crazy. What horrible lives they must lead.”
Many people who have office jobs couldn’t imagine living and working the way that freelancers do. “What do you do for health insurance?” “Isn’t it really stressful finding new clients?” and “How long have you been talking to your refrigerator?” are all questions I hear regularly from cubicle dwellers.
But to most freelancers, the world of having a regular “real” job starts to look pretty crazy too. For me, I decided to quit my corporate job and become a full-time freelance writer after the birth of my second child. I wanted to be home around my wife and kids and have more freedom in my life. The idea of driving to an office in rush hour traffic just to sit in a gray box all day, surrounded by white noise, seemed increasingly crazy. I even started having panic attacks in my cubicle. I went crazy. I had to channel my inner-Bukowski before figuring things out.
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
If you’ve ever been unsure of what to write, how to pitch, how to reach out to a new editor, take heart: Some of the most brilliant freelancers are the ones who second-guess themselves the most. Some of the best writers are also the most obsessive, but you have to learn how to let yourself be “stupid” enough to let go of your self doubts.
Writers tend to be their own worst critics. Instead of killing off your ideas before they have a chance to reach their full potential like characters in Game of Thrones, put your work out into the world. Let the market evaluate your work on its merits. Then keep writing.
“This is very important—to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you’re gonna lose everything—just to do nothing at all, very, very important. And how many people do this in modern society? Very few. That’s why they’re all totally mad, frustrated, angry and hateful.”
Freelancers need to know how to pace themselves. Some freelancers get caught up in a vicious cycle of procrastination and panic—you do zero work for a week, and then frantically try to cram 50 hours worth of work into two days before a deadline.
This is easier said than done, but you need to take time off to “sharpen your saw,” take vacations, go to the post office, and rest. If you work too hard for too long, you’ll diminish the very sense of creativity and insight that made you want to be a freelancer in the first place.
Remember: Bukowski would never work too hard for too long. He’d rather be lazy, crazy, and doubt himself. (And you know, get pretty drunk.) A model to live by… for some.