Yesterday, Audra showed me some sketches she was doing for the Nenverse. When she spoke, it wasn’t excitement that I heard in her voice, it was helplessness.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I just want to work on the comic, but I can’t,” she replied.
“Why not? You’re doing it now, aren’t you?”
Then she almost came to tears, as she collapsed on the couch. “Because I need to make money, and any time I spend on the comic is time that I’m not making money.”
I tried to console her. We talked about it, but in the end, she was right. And I understood how she felt all too well.
Many creatives, if not most, have some sort of regular job outside of their creative endeavours. Even if it’s within their creative skillset, it’s still separate, like freelancing/commissioning. That’s their job, it’s where they’re making the bulk of their income. But Audra was just so passionate about making a living off her personal art alone, that I wanted to help her achieve that. For the first few years of our relationship, I was supporting her while she worked her arse off to achieve that dream. Though I was woefully underpaid for my position, it was enough for us to get by. Fast-forward to a couple years ago, and finally her hard work was paying off; I no longer had to support her.
But she was still working like a madwoman, and I wanted to help alleviate the workload. So, I started helping out, doing whatever I could to free up time for her to focus on creating. And it worked. But since she was creating more, it increased our expenses too. You know the saying ‘you gotta spend money to make money’.
Eventually, we built ourselves into this strange situation, where we have such little time to devote to anything outside of what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years, that if we want to change anything, it moves at a snails pace. We want to transition me out of working for her (read my previous post for more details), but before she can take back all my tasks, we need to free up time for her, but before we can do that, we need to find new sources of income (or go into further debt on our visas). So, as you can see, it’s a bit of a closed loop. In order to allow us to change how we’re making income, we need to change how we’re making income…
And this is where I could relate to her feeling like she couldn’t work on the things she wanted to work on. I’ve been trying to work on my writing for years, but the only times I ever really accomplished anything were the times where I had a terrible work/life balance. It’s really important to take time for yourself, to recover, to connect with people (if that’s your thing), to enjoy yourself. As much as I love writing, eventually you wear yourself out.
So, hearing Audra want so desperately to devote a huge amount of time to the comic, but knowing that she can only spare a few moments here and there, crushed me. I felt terrible, because I know I can help, but not as quickly as she needs. Even if I were to return to programming, nobody is using the coding languages I had been using for my last five years of development. This means I have to learn entirely new languages, if I want to get a job. That’s not too big of a deal, I love learning, but the huge issue is when I finally do get a job. It’ll be full-time (9-10 hours + 1-2 hours commute each day), which means Audra will have to take back all the tasks I originally took from her. And right now, that’s not even possible. We tried moving just a couple tasks back over to her, which I had to take back just the other day because it was too much.
We’ve built ourselves into this strange prison, and I feel like we’re Andy from The Shawshank Redemption, slowly chipping away at a wall, hoping one day to make our escape.