Peaks & Valleys

I have been unemployed now for almost six weeks. More accurately, I have been minimally employed for almost six weeks. Last November, after a summer of lots of soul searching, I decided that the time had come for me to quit my full-time day job to have more time for working on books (three very different manuscripts) and growing my small pandemic-birthed business (Philo Collective).

Due to some scheduling requests, my final day as a communication manager in the marketing office at my alma mater was January 13 and my first day as a minimally-employed aspiring author and entrepreneur was January 16. I say minimally employed because I still have multiple part time jobs in addition to the ins and outs of managing a business and writing thousands of words per week. On average, I’m working around 50 hours per week and currently getting paid for about 18. But, I digress.

The past six weeks have been quite the ride of lessons learned, for all of which I will forever be grateful. The highs have been amazing and lows have been a bit dramatic, both of which have intersected with many days that were just “fine”. The following list outlines a few things I’ve learned about myself thus far in the adventure of self-induced minimal employment because if you don’t document the process, it will be hard to ever fully appreciate the journey.

Mornings are sacred. At the beginning of this minimal employment journey I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Many people use the book to work through creative blocks or to access their inner artist they have repressed. I am using the book (and its 12-week guide) as a foundation for establishing new rhythms as I embrace this season of creativity. Every morning, regardless of whether it is a creation day (typically those are relegated to Tuesday and Thursdays because of other commitments), I make a cup of Nespresso, get comfy in my leather chair and write my version of “morning pages.” Julia suggests writing three pages of long hand stream of conscious notes to process out the junk before diving in to the activities of the day. You’re not supposed to read or share the pages, it’s just an exercise in unblocking oneself. I’ve been good about not doing either of the “don’ts,” but for me, the morning pages give me space to process and pray through my ideas. It’s been a beautiful practice of meditation and gratitude for a smooth start to even the toughest of days. I know of some creatives who write over their morning pages as they legitimately don’t care to ever read them again, but I gain so much from documenting a journey. So, at least for now, I’m keeping them to reference at a later date.

Creativity requires space. Something that I’ve known, respected and embraced for the past few years is that a really good creative flow requires some space and time to breathe, recharge and get inspired. A good reminder for this is the weekly artist date I’m supposed to go on (again per Julia). I’ve gone to multiple different coffee shops, taken myself to lunch, practiced drawing, worked on some paintings, and just people watched. I haven’t been super adventurous in my artist dates so far, but they’ve been enjoyable “out-of-office” moments to engage in society while also embracing time on my own that isn’t related to producing new content.

Progress is slow. And that’s ok. Most days, I’m making such minimal progress as far as word count and new poems, and I’ve made almost no progress on the personal narrative I want to write or the illustrations I want to include with my poetry. But on some days (including today), I’ve cranked out more than 3,000 words for the novel, wrote a blog post, put together content for my social media account (l.m.beatty on Instagram) and it’s only midafternoon. Especially with other jobs still taking time and effort (and good doses of creativity), it would be absurd to think that I could crank out massive amounts of work every day. The loft goals aren’t really the goal. Daily or even weekly progression toward meaningful completion is the real goal.

Not everyone will understand (or care). This has been harder for me than I anticipated. I am not a people pleaser in general. I don’t typically mind if people don’t like me, as long as they don’t hate my guts. That doesn’t mean that I live my life without regard for others, I just don’t spend a ton of time trying to get in someone else’s good graces. That being said, it’s been a painful process to realize that a lot of people who I am connected with don’t care about my career transition to follow my dreams and/or that they don’t understand it. The more I’ve shared about my projects and timelines and hopes for the future, the more glazed over eyeballs I see. Lots of people never take a plunge into the scary and unknown voids of dream-following and haven’t had the highs and lows that I feel on a daily basis. That is no fault of theirs, but I have to remember not to be personally affronted when people don’t commiserate or celebrate with me to the degree that I’m feeling my feels.

Being known is scary. For as much as I just whined about people not understanding my journey, it is very vulnerable to let other people experience my craft. Both on the surface shallow level of “will this poem resonate with anyone” and “if this poem resonates with someone, they will have seen into a piece of my brain, heart and soul.” That’s a lot to try to process along the way. Most days, I feel very confident about the work that I am producing, but there is always the fear that it might attract attention and that I may not ever have control of the narrative surrounding my work. I see other creators get spammed in ridiculous amounts by both haters and admirers every day. Putting myself out into the public eye is very intimidating and I have to figure out how I feel about what other people are thinking about me all the time. It can definitely be overwhelming.

Sacrifice is hard. In order to take embrace a season of dreaming, I had to let go of the stability and security of an ordinary job. Sacrificing that also meant sacrificing a great office environment, a community of coworkers, a sense of adult normalcy in having somewhere to be every day and a defined pattern of work to follow. Having been removed from that position for six weeks, I am also now sacrificing the financial freedom I had enjoyed from a salaried position with benefits. Some days, it really sucks. Most days I have some nagging sense of fear for how to pay my bills the next month. That can be hard to work through when I also have a sense of peace that I’m currently doing precisely what I was created to do. Which leads me to my final point.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. I am 100% serious when I say that anything I’ve created in the past six weeks is a direct outpouring of God. Amidst frustrations and doubts and fears and smiles and tears and celebrations, the one consistent thing I’ve learned the past six weeks is the goodness of serving a creator God. I have experienced an enduring peace throughout this season as I have continued to pursue the work that has been placed in front of me. For all the moments of blankly staring a blinking cursor or an empty sheet of paper, there have been 100s of amazing ideas that have poured out of me, some for another season and others to be worked on right now. My faith has kept me grounded when the uncertainty of my future has been taunting me with doubt. Trusting the process has been a challenge, but the payoff when I surrender has been pretty epic.

So here’s to at least six more weeks of progress, whatever that looks like. I’m still on track to finish my novel manuscript by April 1 and my book of poems by May 1. After that, the publishing world (and all of its idiosyncrasies) awaits! For now, I better get back to writing.


p.s. Yes, my computer mouse is on the left. I use it with my left hand. I’m ambidextrous and it suits me (and my desk set up) best that way.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Elizabeth Koerner says:

    I love reading about and listening to your thoughts and ideas. Creativity inspires creativity. Looking at an image or situation with you and seeing it from a different perspective is great! Thank you for daring and sharing. Thank you for trusting God and stepping into uncertain space that requires faith! It is wonderful. Looking forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Koerner says:

    Yo Lo…thanks for sharing so openly.

    Elizabeth said she heard thru your Mom that you may have a wonderful international opp this summer. Sounds ideal and I hope it all works out!!

    Re: your morning pages…Darrel Harvey is doing that too and loving it. He said it has really revealed some previously unknown thoughts. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

    I’m amazed at all the creative things you are working on. Wow! I don’t know how you do it, but it’s great that you are. I had read thru the 66 pages of the novel you had last time I checked before today and now I see you are in the 80’s re: pages…nice!! I’ll definitely be reading.

    I may have told you, but I’m speaking at a Celebrate Recovery on March 10 and I’ve been spending a lot of time on the content and now practicing delivering it. I have 20 minutes and it’s 3100 words. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say I’ve spent over 70 hours on it (way too much) and Elizabeth has prob spent 10 hours editing it too. I have not been very efficient and the devotionals I was writing have stopped as a result.

    Also had a couple weird weeks at work…fired a volunteer (very strange) and (gladly) accepted a team member’s resignation which actually solved a lot of problems.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    P.S. Loved the credit you are giving to God!!


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