Build A Fire

Managing personal, daily responsibilities alongside creative priorities feels, to me, a lot like trying to boil water without a stove. There are ways to do it, but it takes a lot more work and resourcefulness than you’d prefer. You have to build a fire.

I go through periods of sitting in the dark often. No fire, no stove, and certainly no boiled water. But the most frustrating part is that we all have our valid reasons for these misaligned responsibilities and priorities that can lead to darkness. My reasons, for example (since I’m painfully aware of my own and have made it a sort of habit to call out my own imperfections in this space), have to do with lack of time and with other, “more important” tasks than, say, oh I don’t know, writing a chapter of a book or drafting a blog post.

Limited time and limitless tasks might not be far off base from your reasons, either. I’m pretty sure we all wrestle with time management (or just a deficit of enough time) and needing to get the *really* important things done before we get the things we’d like to do done.

For me, the stuff that comes before my personal writing projects makes up a pretty long list: clean the kitchen, walk the dog, declutter the desk, vacuum, work on freelance assignments, make breakfast, make lunch, make dinner, clean up after any given meal, work out, answer emails. I spend a good portion of the week with the little boy I nanny for. I spend a good portion of my nights reading…or watching Bravo. (Okay, mostly watching Bravo.)

Most of those tasks are simply things I need to get done to function normally and make a living, but where do the creative priorities fit in? (And they are still priorities…even if they don’t always make it on the day’s list of must-dos.) For me, I’m learning over and over again that nothing happens in an instant. Writing a book takes time. Curating content online takes resiliency and consistency.

I’m also continuing to learn my strengths: I’m a big morning lover, and that’s when my creativity and productivity are their absolute highest. So, on the days when I have a full schedule, I know I won’t get any writing in if I save it until 9 at night. (Let’s be honest, it probably won’t happen after 3 in the afternoon.) Even on days when my routine is a little slower and more flexible, a sit-down in front of my computer or with a notebook first thing can kick things off in a way more positive way than scrolling through Instagram in bed for a half hour.

Plus, at 7 a.m., I usually don’t have a sky-high to-do list full of all my responsibilities yet, and many of those can wait until later in the day anyway, when my left-brained creative madness has chilled out a little.

It really takes a degree of self-awareness and some diligence, but the necessary duties of life don’t need to constantly outweigh the fulfillment and forward motion of a side project or two. Take it from me — I’ve been learning and resisting and relearning this lesson too many times to count. Do the thing makes your soul feel less crazy — clean the kitchen, go for a run. But also make sure you do the thing that makes your soul feel set ablaze.

A Few Tips to Securing Freelance Writing & Editing Gigs

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Some of my friends who are writers or creatives have asked me how I get my freelance projects. I certainly don’t have an enormous roster of clients (hence, as I tell new people I meet when they ask what I do: “I’m a nanny to support my freelance writing and editing career”), but those that I have are pretty regular, thankfully.

To be honest, I never thought I would even be freelancing. I heard nightmarish tales when I was in journalism school about pleading to publications for work, MAYBE getting assigned one story, if you even got a response at all, and never having a steady income. I always figured I would get an entry-level job at a magazine or other publication and work my way up. (Pop back a couple of blog posts to see how that plan turned out…)

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The Best Kind of Hangover

Yesterday, I woke up feeling groggy and tired, and those worn out feelings stayed with me throughout the day. My head felt thick and my eyes heavy, but I didn’t have anything to drink except water and La Croix the previous night. And I’m fairly positive they weren’t spiked.

I realized I had to be feeling the effects of the aptly named “vulnerability hangover,” a phrase I heard and loved for the first time at my small group I joined through church. I remember, when I was in high school, crying to my mom on many nights about some fight I was having with a girlfriend or some unresolved feeling of anger toward a family member. Every time, I would wake up the next morning drained, bashful, and embarrassed that I had caused such a stink about whatever problem I was facing.

Even though I probably needed to hash out all my emotions in that way, it always felt overwhelming the next day. I didn’t know the feeling yet, thankfully, but it was pretty close to the emotional and physical symptoms of a hangover. You know that achey and awful beat-up feeling after a night of over-indulging, that hangover.

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Why I Quit My “Dream” Job at a Magazine to Become a Full-time Nanny

When I learned in the spring of 2016 that John got into Vanderbilt’s business graduate program, I was ecstatic and terrified. I worked at a job I wasn’t crazy for at Dallas’ city magazine, where, ironically, I had dreamed of working for a couple years before snagging my position. Before that job, I had worked two others, one at a PR company and one at a startup, both in creative-ish roles that looked fantastic on paper but fell flat as soon as I sat down at my desk in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Turns out, I don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day.

After discovering I wasn’t happy or totally fulfilled at either of those first two jobs, going on to the third made me feel like that millennial. The “three jobs in one-and-a-half years after graduating” millennial. Yep, I was job-hopping with the best (worst?) of my peers. My first week at job number three, where I was navigating dozens of Excel spreadsheets and learning how to manage online voting systems for Best Doctors and Best Lawyers awards, left me feeling a bit trapped. I hated it — but how could I leave another job AGAIN? I would not only feel like that millennial; I knew I would be one, no question. And who the heck hires that millennial?

So, I stayed for a year and a half, until the news of John’s school admittance came. Hallelujah. Counting the weeks until our move, I knew I didn’t want to be staring at the clock until 5 o’clock at another desk, doing work that made my eyes bloodshot and my mind feel mushy by the end of the day. Freelance, I thought, is the way to go.

I ended up getting a remote copy editing job for Nashville’s local magazine, which I still have and adore. But that one check pays, oh, maybe a third of my bills. I emailed other publications, applied for freelance roles I found on LinkedIn and Indeed, and, on a whim, signed up for care.com, thinking I could at least babysit or nanny in the interim between moving and finding more writing work.

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