Thank you so much for all the kind messages about Annie. It's been nearly a month now, and I am still grieving hard. But I've also been back at work, as hard as that is.
I did take some time off after she died, mostly because it happened in the lead up to Labor Day weekend, and I was supposed to be down the shore anyway. But as much as I would have liked to take all of September off too, that wasn't realistic. I didn't work in July (because I drove cross country and back with her!) and if I don't work, I don't get paid. I'm also behind my 2022 numbers, income wise (in part because yes I didn't work for part of the summer) so I had to muddle through somehow.
I'm going to share what I did with the big caveat that grief is different for everyone — our response to loss, our responsibilities outside of work that we must continue to keep up with, and what we are able to do through it. This is just what worked for me.
1. Evaluate your assignments. What deadlines can you keep? What needs to be moved? What assignments do you think, no matter what, you're not going to be able to do? Prioritize.
2. Write the lay ups. I call easy assignments "lay ups" — those that don't take deep creative work. I tackled them first. Not only was this guaranteed income (this outlet pays me within two weeks), but it also kept my brain busy in a non-taxing way. It wasn't a complete respite from my grief, but the hours I worked on these pieces helped. I also asked this editor to give me more work if she had it, and she threw another assignment my way.
2. Move deadlines around. If you feel you need more time to finish something, just ask. Most of my editors are flexible. I had something due the day I had to pick up Annie's ashes. I could not think straight, so I asked my editor I I could have more time, and she said that was more than fine.
3. If a deadline can't be moved, ask for help. I was in the very end stages of edits on a very timely piece when Annie died. I was getting emails about very nit picky stuff like commas (part of the process!) on the actual day, so asked if two other people emailing about it if they could finish it. I told them why (I'll get to that in a minute), and both said something along the lines of "do not even think about this for one second." It helps that they're both dog people, and one of them just put her dog down this summer. Remember, editors are human too. And if someone is not going to give you an extra hand when you are barely functioning due to grief? I'm not sure I'd want to be working with them anyway.
4. Give an assignment back. I had do to this with one piece. It required a lot of reporting, including butting heads against government agency press people, and I just didn't have it in me. The deadline was more than a month off when I said I couldn't do it. I told the editor I'd be more than fine if someone else wrote it, since it's timely to fall/winter. It's an online publication, so it's not like I borked a print spot. I may lose the client, but I'm not going to make my life radically more difficult right now. I did hang on to a different, difficult assignment, but it didn't involve any arguing with government officials. It just depends.
5. Tell your editors, if you want. I work closely with a lot of my clients; one editor I'm working with now had been my co-worker at a previous full time job, so I've known her for 20 years. I had no problem letting them know what was going on, in discussing deadlines or even frankly saying "if I made some grammar mistakes, this is why." Again, editors are people too, and they generally want to help. But whether or not you disclose your grief is entirely up to you — in terms of your personality, what you want to share, and your relationship with each of your clients.
And so…work goes on. People keep telling me to give myself compassion and grace, and I'm trying. I haven't screwed up too badly yet, and I hope I won't.
I am tackling the "numbers are down" issue, which I'll write about in a future newsletter. We'll see if what I do now works. But until then, just continuing to go through the paces is what matters.
A lot of you asked if there was any way you could do to help out, financially. I do have a tip jar open, as I put at the end of every newsletter, but you are under no obligation to use it as there are people far more needing of help right now than me. The ebooks of course are always for sale. If you want to help some pups, you can make a donation directly to the Animal Welfare Association, where I am re-training to become a volunteer and foster.
I'm going to hold off doing the usual end of the newsletter stuff for now (see? giving myself grace). So I wanted to thank you all again for your kindness during a very difficult time.