One of the things we talk about a lot here on the blog is how to balance a writing life with the rest of life. The rest of life includes family obligations, major life events, and – as is the case for several of us – the dreaded day job. I think I’ve mentioned a time or two (or a hundred) that my day job is very intense and deadline-driven. It’s also a high-stakes profession, with peoples’ jobs and livelihoods and companies’ multi-million (or even billion) dollar deals on the line. Gee, I wonder why I have insomnia?
Another truth about my day job, though, is that it’s not so dreaded. At least, it didn’t used to be. It was, in fact, my dream job when I started working in the field (business proposals for US government contractors) as a writer. After some years of experience and training, I moved into managing the proposals, and found the perfect fit for my skillset, work style (did I mention the word intensity?), and career goals.
About three years ago, that began to change. I’d started my own small company and had been a consultant for a couple of years when I devised my first ‘walk-away plan’, shifting my focus from proposal management back to proposal writing, with the intention of having more time and energy for fiction writing. That lasted for about two weeks, when a new client who had brought me in to help write a proposal had a more urgent need of a proposal manager, and then kept me on for multiple projects. The second ‘walk-away’ plan came after – against my better judgement – taking a lucrative but ultimately destructive job (insane hours, insufficient resources to do my job, and some downright abusive labor practices) that sent me running for the hills. It took months to recover from that, both physically and mentally, during which time I started telling people I was ‘semi-retired’ and would only take on work if something really interesting and worth my while fell into my lap.
Spoiler alert: after several months, two different opportunities fell into my lap. One of them was another dream job, with the opportunity to start my own proposal department for a small-on-the-verge-of-being-large business, including hiring my own staff and instituting my own processes. While I declined that offer, I did agree to a six-month contract to observe their existing processes, make recommendations for improvement, and run a few projects with my approach to teach them how to do proposal-y things better. But at the same time, I made a promise to myself that this would be it, my last hurrah in my chosen profession.
This time, I did walk away after six months, just as I’d promised myself I would. It’s only been a month, still early days in this new direction in my life. So will this third walk-away be the one that sticks? I can’t be sure, but it’s promising, as this time things are different. (Really! I swear!)
I‘ve committed to my writing by – no surprise – writing it down. Yes, yes, I’m always planning and plotting and scheduling (ergo writing down) All the Things. But since I took Jen Loudon’s Get Your Scary Shit Done course in late 2017, I’ve also been writing down promises to myself. I’m keeping a creative journal with those promises – be they daily, weekly, or yearly goals – and am being honest about when I’m keeping my promises, when I’m breaking them, and how I can do better.
I’ve made a playlist. We’ve talked about playlists for our books. They help capture our stories’ moods, reflect our characters’ journeys, and help put us into our stories when we need to reconnect. When I need a reminder that I’ve chosen this full-time writing journey or need to reconnect with the passion for writing that finally became more important than all the benefits of the day job, I turn to the playlist. So far, I’ve only needed it a few times. Among the songs on the list: Watching the Wheels by John Lennon, Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, and Freedom by George Michael. Among the songs not on the list (although they’re tempting): Take This Job and Shove It and Job That Ate My Brain.
I haven’t burned any bridges, but I’ve loosened the rivets. Through the years, I’ve done my best to leave every job and client on good terms, with the promise that if the time and place is right in the future, we’ll work together again. With my last client, and with the companies that have contacted me during the past several months, I’ve been less amenable. I’ve made it clear that there’s an end date to my availability. The good news is – and this is a tough one for me, because apparently I’m a sucker for being ‘needed’ – I remained resolved, even in the face of extreme pressure to stay another six months or at least another six weeks. And due to events beyond my control, my six months ended while we were in the middle of a project, yet I left before taking it across the finish line, something I’ve never done in my entire career. (Nevertheless, she exited!)
So that’s my big change for 2018. Fingers crossed it will hold. What’s up with you? Any major life changes on your horizon?