“‘You’re right, he finally said. “You aren’t living a good story.’
‘That’s what I was saying.’
‘I see,’ he said.
‘What do I do about that?’
‘You’re a writer. You know what to do.’
‘No I don’t.’
Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again. ‘You put something on the page,’ he said. ‘Your life is a blank page. You write on it.’
I suppose it was the conversation with Jordan that finally did it, that finally helped me understand how to tell a better story with my life. It worked just like writing a book, you know. You just sit down and do the work as faithful as a plumber. You never feel like writing any more than a plumber feels like fixing a pipe, but just like him, you make a plan and start in on the messy work of making a story.
So that’s when I started creating a few different stories at the same time. One story was about finding my father, the other was about chasing a girl, and still another about, well, riding my bicycle.” – Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Last weekend, just as I was turning the last pages of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I got a phone call. It’s what Miller might refer to as an “inciting incident.”
What I haven’t really talked about here on the blog is the fact that though I refer to myself as a freelance writer, I haven’t done any freelance work in over a year. It just got too hard to do an extra 10-15 hours of work on top of my regularly paid 40, maintain a healthy blog, and be present for my family as my mom’s health grew worse.
The freelance thing? I wanted it, but figuring out how to switch gears without losing a job or burning a bridge seemed impossible. I kept the “freelance writer” title as a means to keep my options open, to reassure myself that at some point, I would find the opportunity to move forward. But this was a passive aggressive strategy; I wasn’t actively looking, and I secretly harbored this self-doubt about handling the workload and managing my finances accurately.
The phone call, from a former client who wanted my help on a new project, awoke a dormant part of me, the part that can discern when I’m treading carefully from when I’m just treading water.
Almost imperceptibly, I had come to believe that being a freelance writer wasn’t something I was capable of doing. That I should be thankful for the job I have, nevermind that I can’t pay all my bills each month and that in my workplace, I was at my full earning potential and climbing the ladder would mean looking elsewhere for employment. It’s not their fault; it’s the nature of the higher education industry.
Choosing to take on freelance work meant that I would have to make time for it. It meant asking my boss for a chance to scale back my hours in order to make room. It’s a precarious conversation, but I’m thankful that it worked out in my favor, despite how nervous I was to broach the subject with my superiors.
So it’s official :
I am a freelance writer again. Next week I scale back to 30 hours at my office job, and take on my first consistent freelance client!
As my husband pointed out, in effect I found a way to give myself a promotion – I’ve increased my income, put myself in charge of all projects and responsibilities, and I’m even able to keep my benefits with vacation time and a retirement plan. I think it’s a win, win, win.
It’s also only one small section of one chapter in my story. My story, half written as it is, will never be about becoming rich and famous and having a “dream job.” Being a writer is only one facet of who I am as a whole being. A character is more than what they do, more than their income and accolades, even more than their relationships to others.
But this is one step closer to following my calling and living a better story, and I’m just wondering – in what other parts of my life have I settled?
In what parts of your life have you settled?
How can we become motivated, moving characters in our story?
What do we need to write on the blank pages of our lives?