Two days ago I quit my freelance writing assignment. Because I had to sign a non-disclosure statement, I can't tell you what it was. What I can say is this. I'm 57 years old. I've been a professional writer for the last 20 years. I finally realized that I will never be happy if I have to take orders from people who have less experience and expertise than me.
When I was 27 years old, I was the arts and antiques editor for Architectural Digest magazine. I've written four books (Bipolar Depression Unplugged: A Survivor Speaks Out will be published soon. I'll let you know all about it). I've had magazine articles published in national magazines.
I've also been the Director of Corporation and Foundation Relations for a selective liberal arts college. I've worked for KNBC news, KCET (the local PBS station), UCLA Extension, and I've had a few other jobs and careers as well.
Although I've had a number of terrific jobs, I ended up feeling empty with every one--except for writing. It's the only career I've ever had that satisfies every aspect of my being. When it's going well, I thank God for having the luxury to spend my days doing work I love.
For me, writing books has been a spectacular accomplishment. When I was growing up, if someone had told me that I would be an author, I would have been stunned. Not because I didn't have dreams but because I didn't know I could write.
In college, I thought my strength was my ability to do research. And it's still something I love. But when I was 29 years old, I quit Architectural Digest magazine (surprising everyone I knew), sat down, and wrote my first book: Job Search Strategy for College Grads.
It wasn't my best book but it proved to me that I could write a book. I couldn't bring myself to say, "I'm a writer" until I started working on my third book--almost 12 years later. The kind of writing I do best is "personal stuff" (like my blogs). If I have a gift, this is it.
So...when I began working with an editor on this freelance assignment, and felt that she neither liked my writing style nor appreciated the effort I was expending, I quit. And in deciding to make that decision, I remembered what Ruth had told Parker J. Palmer about learning from "way" closing.
What I finally realized--and I should have learned this lesson years ago--is that I don't like working for other people. I don't know how many years I have left (statistics would have us BIPS believe that our life expectancy is 12 years less than normal--although once again I don't agree), but I don't plan on wasting a minute of it taking orders from editors or publishers.
Quite honestly, I don't care what they think of my writing. Writing is a very personal endeavor and I have always written for myself and my readers. I sure don't want or need an intermediary.
Most of all, I dislike having other people determine whether I will succeed or fail.
I was sick for a long time--and my writing career stalled, floundered, gasped, and almost died--but it's alive and well again. And now it's time to take charge of my illness and my vocation.
The "way" that closed was pursuing and accepting freelance assignments. The path that opened is writing my own books (and blogs for that matter) and publishing them myself--with a dear friend with whom I'll partner. We're only at the talking stages but I have no doubt that within six months, we'll be up and running.
This is a huge step for me and I am so excited. I feel I must publicly thank Parker Palmer and Ruth, the birthright Quaker, for their guidance. In a serendipitous sort of way, they have taught me and healed me.
By learning to listen to "way" closing, I feel like I was able to hear the call of my true vocation.