Notes From a Hired Pen

Working through distress

This is my dog, and she is sick.

With what, we don’t know. She lost some weight and is sleeping more than usual, so I called the vet, who said to bring her right in. They’re running tests (and tests and tests). Hopefully we’ll know something soon.

I love my dog. I mean, look at her. I’ve had her for seven years, and some of the possible diagnosis were not good. I sobbed for an hour last night. I couldn’t sleep. I also had a reaction to something at the vet’s (I’m very allergic to cats and probably got cat hair on me) that had my eyes burning red.

So it’s an understatement that I’m not looking my best today, and I’m exhausted. Normally the looks thing wouldn’t matter since I work from home, but today’s schedule has two out-of-office meetings and a book signing.

Could I have cancelled? Yes. But I didn’t. I washed my face, brushed my hair, put on a nice dress and went out the door.

Freelancers don’t get paid sick days, and when we’re not available, no one else is. I must pick and chose when to grit my teeth and work through emotional distress or an illness, when to ask for an extension, and when to surrender. I’ve only done the last one once. I was very very ill but my editors understood. I had a very hard time making the decision, not only because of the loss of work, but because I had to reveal something very personal about myself to them.

I decided to stop, though, because I had reached the point where I could no longer physically sit at my desk and work, and they had deadlines to meet. They were grateful that I let them know so they could have someone else finish the assignment.

I’ve been dealing with some medical issues over the last six months, too. They’re not good, but they don’t keep from getting to my desk in the morning. I worked less during the worst of it, but because it never affected my ability to hit a deadline, I didn’t let my editors know (unless they’re reading this now – I’m fine. Really).

If you know that you’re not going to be able to turn something in on time, the best thing you can do is let your editor know. You don’t want to leave them in a tough spot.

And what requires you to miss a meeting or work or deadline depends on you – and you alone. No one can tell you what your threshold is. For me, a late, teary night and red, blotchy face isn’t enough. Besides, that’s what make up is for.

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