Infrastructure is Gonna Kill Me

I like the cartoon Indexed. Every weekday morning, somewhere in my pile of email, waits the brief moment that will surely make me grin: whatever Jessica cooked up over her morning cup o’ joe.

She inspires me not to overthink things, something I am prone to. Over my cup o’  joe this morning, this is what I scrawled on a piece of paper pulled out of the trash:

“A” is the amount of time I spend doing creative stuff — drawing, inking, writing fiction or articles — all the Maker stuff that is fun, cool, and very sexy.

“B” is the amount of time I spend doing a freelancer’s infrastructure stuff — emailing clients, digging through old artwork, and (lately) working on this website.

I am not a codemonkey. Working on this site demands my creativity but it is not sexy. I often find it confusing and frustrating. When I actually make something do what I expect, it’s a relief but not a joy. I can’t even be sure it is going to create Cash in that “Sex or Cash” paradigm that McLeod talks about.

I expect it will, eventually, and I count it as “work time”, but it’s the business face of the freelancing entrepreneurial type person. It’s the “other” business to the creative biz.

I don’t like it. (Too f’ing bad.) It seems futile. (Like dusting, you just have to do it again later.) And it absolutely needs to be done.

It reminds me, oddly enough, of weeding ratty and outdated books from the library shelves. Library schools don’t teach weeding classes. No one effusing about the profession talks enthusiastically about weeding. The general public doesn’t want to know their beloved tax dollars might be destined for the city dump when mysteriously sticky “liquid damage” makes books unsalable even for a buck at the Friends of the Library booksale. No one posts pictures on a library’s Flickr page about the loveliness of newly-emptied shelves, pristine and ready to accept the newly purchased materials. Removing deadwood — books that don’t circulate any more and are just taking up space — feels futile, depressing, and elicits second guessing about whether someone coming in the doors is just about to need this very book.

Weeding usually happens because it has to. Do you want to read a book on sexual health written back in the pre-AIDS days? More to the point, do you want your daughter’s new boyfriend to get his dating advice there? Probably not.

Infrastructure happens when it has to, too. I’m crappy about doing my taxes on time. I know where my old contracts are… never mind that I can’t lay hands to them in that pile of unfiled paperwork.

I have scanned in a ton of art for this site (with metric tons more to be done), but the basic watermarking, sizing, organizing, labeling, and sorting into galleries has nearly the same appeal as slamming my head against the wall repeatedly. I can do a little at a time, but after awhile I need to take an aspirin and wait for the goose egg-sized lump on my forehead to go down.

apply directly to forehead?

I split my time, right now, between behind the scenes infrastructure (not sexy) and sitting down Making things (sexy). In the first picture up there, it’s right about where the two lines cross.

I’m not sure this is the right solution, because it means I do neither one well. I work but I don’t finish much. Yet it also feels like the best solution among poor options, a way to balance the brussel sprouts with the chocolate mochi filled with Nutella. I’m making headway in both areas, just not very fast.

I’m identifying a few deliverables, setting benchmarks. At the end of the month, I want to be able to say “I shipped this in February.”

What’s that? You want to know what those things will be? Okay, I agreed to take a chance on failing in public when I decided to “reboot the freelancer,” so here you go:

  1. Finish the French T&T art. It’s been hanging over my head for too long. (Sexy.)
  2. Build the shopping cart at BigCartel so you can buy some of my prints and things. (Not sexy.)
  3. Write a feature article for School Library Journal, since they accepted my pitch. (McLeod’s Sex and Cash in one bundle: sexy!)

I’ve got a few other items on the list I’d like to see done, but they are of lower priority. They are: Not Sexy, Very Not Sexy, and Kinda Sexy. I’ll give myself an I-WIN button (unbroken, thx) if I do the big three. I’ll let you know how that goes!

One Reply to “Infrastructure is Gonna Kill Me”

  1. I’ve been wrestling with this very thing lately myself.

    I like MacLeod’s chapter “Embrace Crofting” in Evil Plans. It’s not exactly what he meant, but it reminded me that all the self-promo, social media stuff is just another one of the jobs I have to divide my time among. Not Sexy, but necessary.

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