When we commit to accepting the unexpected journey, we are choosing to see life as an ever-changing series of life events that shape and transform us into the people that we are.
And the last year has been a constant shaping and transforming of my life and the woman that I am.
I lost a job, started a podcast with a friend, moved back across the country, started not one, but two new jobs, and settled into a life that is equal parts new and old.
For the last seven years, I have kept on writing and creating, sometimes intermittently, sometimes with obsessive regularity, but always with the drive to just keep creating because it helped me to cope with the craziness that was the world around me.
But when it seemed like I was losing everything at the beginning of 2021, when I found myself off-kilter and grasping in the dark for something, anything to hold onto, creating became an obsession. I wanted to write. I wanted to be heard. I wanted my writing to mean something and possibly be a pathway outside of the career I had believed would be a part of me for the rest of my life.
That frantic searching led to some pretty counter-productive behavior. One of the myths about being a creative is that you have to always be hustling and that the hustle is just as important as the quality of your work. I started joining Facebook groups and Instagram follow threads with the sole purpose of sharing my work with complete strangers who may, or may not, have cared about what I had to say. Feeling professionally crushed and at a complete loss, I searched for some kind of validation from places designed only to validate through numbers, not genuine engagement.
Once we made the decision to move to Indiana, I decided it was time to go cold turkey. I quit all of the groups, I stopped spending useless hours clicking and viewing and liking the creative work of others that I had no interest in. I devoted my creative energy to starting a podcast with a friend and once again searching for a job in a career I was not ready to leave. I still obsessed a little about numbers, but those numbers were based on genuine engagement. I was done with the hustle. I was done trying to be something I wasn’t. I still wanted validation, but I needed to focus on the changes right in front of me and I would take it from there.
Interestingly enough, I quickly learned that this was a situation where “let go and let God” had genuine merit.
When I stopped hustling out my writing in Facebook groups designed with the sole purpose of getting views and clicks, people were still finding my blog without extra effort and reading what they wanted to read. My organic numbers stayed steady and I was back to genuine engagement that I could actually track.
When I slowed down the frequency of publishing blog posts, people were still reading my old posts. After two full years of writing at least once a week, I was still getting engagement that I could objectively analyze to figure out my next steps, even if I wasn’t writing once a week anymore.
When I started writing for a purpose outside of my blog and submitted original work to other places, I once again found my words being appreciated by a wider audience. It was hustle that mattered. I was creating instead of hawking my words. Eventually, all of that work paid off when I was invited to be a contract writer for The Educator’s Room. Now I can write, work to be a positive impact in the larger world of education, and make some money on the side while working to make a positive impact in my classroom, as well.
I initially believed that not teaching would give me the time needed to work on a podcast that utilized my skills as an English teacher, only to remember just how much I loved analyzing with students and discovering that being in the classroom made me better at a side gig that I was doing “for fun.” It also helped me learn a lot of other skills, such as audio editing and effective social media management that my partner Alicia and I hope will help us turn our podcast into something that has a broader educational influence.
Years ago a friend told me that I needed to see my blog as my writing workshop: write and write and see what sticks, both personally and with my audience. And after years of writing and sharing and writing some more, I’m finally seeing the bigger picture of that writing workshop.
While I’m not completely stepping away from my blog, I have decided it is time to put the workshop on the shelf for a while so that I can focus on being intentional about my creative work.
My most consistently popular work, by far, has been my travel posts. I really started writing about our travel adventures mostly as a way for me to record what we did and to share the meaning behind the hundreds of pictures that I posted for friends and family on Facebook. After nearly four years of listening to podcasts and after one year of podcasting for Lit Think, I have learned that some material is best in different forms. So I am starting a travel podcast. The bulk of my material will be going back and turning my many posts into podcasts to make it easier for people to listen and share. But now, instead of writing about our new adventures, I will be posting them on the podcast below. So subscribe on your favorite player (I’m still working on expanding the platforms) and take a listen. My goal is to do it once a week, recording several weeks at once so that I can avoid what I said I hated so much: the hustle.
Arches, Trails, and Canyons in Arches and Canonlands National Parks – Mission: Wanderlust
- Arches, Trails, and Canyons in Arches and Canonlands National Parks
- Climbing Into Ancient American History at Mesa Verde
- Carlsbad Caverns: A Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Starting a Dream Vacation With Rivers, Sand Dunes, and Mountains
- When Camping in Wisconsin Was the Highlight of Our Family Event Driven Vacation
My writing workshop has also been my space for writing about life, family, and faith, so I have a writing project in the works that I will announce when I am ready. Between teaching and vacations, I don’t know when I will be ready for that blog post announcement, but I will be making that announcement by summer.
I will close out this transitional announcement by saying thank you to all of my faithful readers and followers, because there are good things on the horizon and I can’t wait to see what it turns into.