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Michael Mullen, on wielding a free lance...

Free lance.

The first recorded use of the word freelance (spelt as two words, free lance) is in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe. It’s meaning then, rather unsurprisingly, was a mercenary with a free lance for hire.

My decision to go freelance in a post-pandemic world, with the threat of inflation and economic hardship, means that my feelings feel funnily similar to the warriors of the words etymological origin – facing an unknown hardship that will hopefully be financially beneficial.

Everyone tells you that writing is hard and this is usually followed by the adage that making money from writing is even harder. Even my grandfather, who was an English teacher, freelance poet, and novelist used to say ‘There’s no money in poetry’.

After my foray into the writing world I have discovered this to be both true and untrue. In fact, winning the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award, and the cash that came along with it, proved to me that it isn’t always true, and was also part of the reason I made the decision to dedicate myself to writing full time.

Fear. Feelings of inadequacy. Imposter syndrome. These are not uncommon problems for those pursuing a career in writing. It took me years to combat the anxiety around sharing my work, believing in its merit, performing it on stage – and yet I have.

I’ve performed on stages and on television, have been published in various anthologies, and I’m currently trying to get a collection and a novel published. It was only with action that I battled these fears and that is how I approach my life as a freelancer – comforting myself with the old cliché, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ I’m really hoping that it is.


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