I don’t like change, I don’t seek it out, but I’ve learned over the years how to roll with it and how to appreciate its role in developing me as a human being. I’m also going through a career change right now, having left my job as an editor to pursue a degree in library and information science. So when I experienced a period of doubt and dread the other day, I thought back to what I told this woman and started writing this post as a way to remind myself take my own advice. I’m sharing it here with the hope that it may be helpful to others, too.
|Maple trees budding and turkey vultures soaring one afternoon in May.|
Advice to a Young Writer (or Anyone in Transition)
Let yourself pause.
Give yourself time between one thing and the next to regroup. If you’ve just gone through a major life change, don’t expect the next thing (job, partner, etc.) to appear immediately. Both experience and research show that our brains need downtime, time to “do nothing,” to stare out the window — creativity never happens without this, and you’ll never truly figure out what you want if you jump anxiously and too quickly to the next thing. This type of downtime is necessary on a daily or weekly basis, but I think it’s also necessary on a larger time-scale. For example, I recently left a job I had for six and a half years… maybe I will need more than a month or two to regroup from that.
Be curious and open, but also grounded.
Especially important, don’t always believe your first impressions. Opportunities are everywhere, and they often aren’t what you initially think they are. It may be that someone you don’t find interesting when you first meet her turns out to be one of your most beloved, long-term friends and that knowing her also leads to multiple doors opening in your professional life (true story). Do your best to suspend judgement about people and situations you encounter, and try not to shut any metaphorical doors. Likewise, you may be able to help someone else in a significant way through very little effort on your part, simply by keeping an open mind and staying in touch with yourself. Doing both of these things at once is what helps you be a genuine person.
Volunteer your time and skills.
Whether you’ve just moved to a new place and don’t know many people or you find yourself with extra free time due to a job loss or breakup, volunteering is a great way to get out and stay active and engaged. Animal shelters, libraries, food banks, museums… it shouldn’t take long to find an organization that’s doing something related to an interest of yours. Volunteering will give you something to occupy your time and attention, even if it’s just once a week — and who knows what it could lead to? I know more than a couple people who’ve gotten a job or made a good friend through their volunteer work.
Do your best, no matter how humble the task.
In other words, stay present. If you’re volunteering (or doing anything, really), don’t focus too much on the future or on how what you’re doing now could lead to something “better.” An activity like folding a mountain of laundry or stuffing hundreds of envelopes can be its own reward if you know it’s for a good purpose and you do it mindfully. This is a variation on the concept that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (Side note: I thought that was John Lennon’s creation, but it turns out he wasn’t the first to say it.) Our culture has seen so many people rise to near-instant success or fame in the past few decades that steadily improving your work over time, patiently working your way up to something, may seem old-fashioned. But it’s still the most likely option for most of us — so try to make peace with it.
Create your own learning opportunities.
One of the realities of job-seeking is that organizations want to hire people with experience. So you need to go out there and get some. For someone who wants to eventually get paid to write, the most important thing is to write. Now. Offer to edit someone’s newsletter or help a friend write copy for their website — or pick a topic and start your own blog. If what you want to be paid for isn’t as easy to do solo as blogging, see if you can do something adjacent to what you’re interested in. At the very least, read widely in your field of interest, whether it’s books, blogs, or social media posts. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to learn how to do the work you want to do — adopt a growth mindset. Take charge and see how far you can get on your own until you find an opportunity to take it further.
Good luck :)