Category Archives: Work

Day 200: 5 Lessons from the part-time writer

Perhaps it’s because my new life has become routine, but my second hundred days went so much faster than the first. I have been working now for three months and some of my responsibilities include writing.  It has challenged me and I have learned much:

  1. I must keep writing. Any advice on how to be a better writer urges daily practice. I think of writing every day, but I don’t do it. I used to scribble in a notebook in the early morning hours, but that no longer works for me. I need to type, reorganize, and reshuffle. In order to write everyday I will have to put less pressure on myself to publish the work the day it’s written, or to make it relevant to the numbered day on which it’s published – and to forgive myself for not having a relevant photo.
  2. Read more of the good stuff. This also one that is always included, and I am including it too, simply because it’s true. I should have a list of great fiction that I can pull from. I need to read those copies of the New Yorker on my coffee table. And for the love of God, I need to read less Facebook status updates.
  3. Shorter is better. Sure, 500+ words may be great for short personal stories with drama or comedy, but it is far too long for most stuff on the internet. When I go back and read early NPface or the first post for In Parallel, I find myself skimming and scrolling instead of reading. Editing is hard work, and that is why the good writers get paid.
  4. When you get paid to write, it becomes harder to write for yourself. I am now more critical of what I am writing as I write it – always questioning it’s value. Also, when you work a flexible schedule, it’s a challenge to carve out time to write just for the fun of it. My friend Adam Goldberg (who now writes for TV and movies) once told me, “be careful doing what you love for money, you may begin to hate it.”
  5. Dogs may be great around the office, but Cats are not. I don’t have an office. I have a desk in my living room. My best work lately has been crafted at coffee shops around town. Somehow, the general public talking and drinking coffee are less distracting than a couple of old felines. As I write this, they are curled up in cute little bundles on the couch instead of getting underfoot, stalking me around the house, or nuzzling my elbow as I try and write. I think they know I am writing this and want to prove me wrong.

Here’s to the next hundred days – and less than 500 words!

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Day 100: The top ten things I learned in the last 100 days

A section of a painting by Curtish Ashby that I saw last night. I hope to buy this as a present to myself with my first post 100 day paycheck.

The day has come. My moratorium on paid work is officially over. I have been approached for a part-time contract with Parallel Public Works. Pete, the owner, is a friend of mine from high school. We reconnected last year and I got him involved with a project at the YWCA. Pete read my blog through the links posted on Facebook and decided that his company could fulfill my requirements and the time I had available. I am excited about the mix of creativity, innovation, and technology at PPW, and I look forward to being a part of that.

When I set out on this adventure, I hoped that one day I could make a similar living in half the time. It was this concept that helped Tom get behind my decision. Tom is happy that our budget may soon be less strict and that he can justify helping out around the house more, as our time will be equally valued.

Leaving my job was a big risk. Giving up income, benefits, and reputation to jump into the abyss of the unknown was scary. I highly recommend it. Contrary the sage advice “Don’t Quit Your Job Before You Get Another One,” sometimes you need time to get your shit together – especially if you value happiness over wealth. When you are putting all your energy into a job you hate, it’s a real challenge to put in the effort required to get the job of your dreams. If you approach your time off just like you would any other project (goals, timelines, milestones, marketing) it doesn’t have to be a bad career move.

Hanging out with my dear friends, and owners of Tasty last night, we talked about dreams and financial risks. Sheri gave up a considerable salary to live her dream of selling local art. Yet, they don’t feel like they had to change their lifestyle all that much, and the minor sacrifices are more than compensated by the incredible thing they have created. I concur. We were all baffled at where all that money could have been going.

I’ll never forget Chris Hanley (1967-2001), who I befriended at Bloomberg during my internship there. I had been mooning about how wonderful it must be to make all that money and how I couldn’t wait to pull in a salary like his someday. He simply and sadly said, “You’ll always spend as much as you make.” I can now prove that he was exactly right. RIP Chris.

I am look forward to earning an income again not simply for the money that will easily get spent, but because I actually miss being a part of a team and getting things done. It took 100 days to realize that. Here are the other things I have realized:

1. Time is more valuable than money, and both are easily wasted
2. Full time work makes me fat, but not working doesn’t make me skinny.
3. It’s hard to have interesting things to write about regularly and even harder to produce photos to go with it. Out of these 100 days I wrote 45 posts and that is a bit disappointing.
4. I don’t miss downtown Seattle, and West Seattle has everything I need.
5. This experiment would have been a lot more fun in the summer months.
6. Yoga is essential to my well being, but also doesn’t make me skinny.
7. Quitting smoking was one of the best gifts I could give my family for Christmas.
8. The unstructured life of a mom is better with a lot of planning and, um, structure.
9. The Facebook effect (when you see your friends and they are already up-to-date on your activities) is nothing compared to when you have a blog.
10. My writing is good enough that my friends and family enjoy reading it.

After 100 days I feel calm and clear. I feel inspired. The question is now the “or more” part. I initially added the padding to allow myself extra time if I needed it. I thought it would be harder to find part-time work in the way I wanted it. Yet, even though I am technically done with this sabbatical, I don’t feel like my project is over entirely. I want to keep blogging (maybe not as often). I know I have not yet become the person I want to be, but I feel like I have the recipe for the life I have always dreamed of. I hope to share my continued transformation and what I learn with you here if you will let me.