[Infographic] Get Unstuck! How to deal with writer’s block.

A quick note: I wrote this infographic to go with my presentation at the Willamette Writers Conference this weekend. If you’re attending, I’ll be talking about Joyful Productivity for Writers at 9am on Saturday (in person) and 8am Sunday (virtually). I can’t wait to see you there!

A lot of professional writers say they don’t believe in writer’s block — but I totally do. I’ve been there, staring at the computer screen, knowing I should be writing but feeling totally, completely stuck.

However, as a professional writer, I’ve also had to learn tricks for pushing past that writer’s block in order to get those words flowing again. After all, when you’re up against a deadline you don’t have (much) time to wait for the muse to grace you with her presence.

Here are 15 quick tried-and-true ways to get yourself unstuck and back in the groove with your writing.

(Infographic text copied below for accessibility).

Get-Unstuck-infographic

1. Interrogate why you’re stuck

Every trick in the book won’t help get you writing if you are stuck on something bigger than not knowing a plot point. Free write to tease out the problem. Are you afraid to write something too true, or too close to you? Have you grown out of this project? Are you writing the wrong thing? This can be a scary exercise, but it’s better than continuing to work on the wrong project.

2. Change your environment

Switch things up by writing from a new location. Even if going to the usual favorites (coffee shop, bar, or library) is not in the cards right now, try moving to a place you don’t normally write in the house, or even take a drive somewhere with a good view and sit in your car.

3. Go for a walk

Getting up and moving can help break you out of your rut. Go for a thirty-minute walk around your neighborhood—you can either let your mind wander, or go with the intention of mulling over whatever specific thing you’re stuck on.

4. Go for a dictation walk

Take your phone on your walk, and record yourself thinking through whatever issue you may be having. Use a program like Dragon Dictation, Just Press Record, or Otter.ai to transcribe your thoughts afterward.

5. Remember your “why”

What was it about this project that you are most excited about? If you’ve been stuck for more than a few sessions, this could be a good way to help you find momentum again. Free write on what excited you most about your project initially, and what you’re most passionate about now.

6. Try writing gibberish

Try writing deliberately badly. Set a timer for 10 minutes and force yourself to write total, complete gibberish. This will help you get out of your head so you can get back to writing real words.

7. Set a timer

This is one of my favorite motivational methods. Set a timer for 25 minutes and tell yourself that’s as long as you have to work on the project. Once the timer is up, you can get up and do whatever else you want to. Chances are, though, once the timer goes off you’ll be in the groove.

8. Writing sprints with a friend

Meet up with a friend in person, or set up a video call to do some joint writing sprints. A good format is 25 minutes on, 10 minutes to chat, for as many cycles as you’d like. You could also join an online write-in with other authors for accountability.

9. Create a “swipe file”

Start a swipe file of things related to your work that inspire you. It could be passages from a favorite author, short movie clips, a soundtrack of inspirational music. When you’re feeling stuck, spend ten minutes with your swipe file to get inspired.

10. Skip ahead

Are you stuck in one location of your story? Try skipping ahead. There is no rule that says you have to write linearly. Plus, if you’re stuck because you’re bored of a scene, you may find the scene isn’t necessary, and your readers would be bored by it, too.

11. Get rid of distractions

Use an app to block your access to the Internet, write on a device that isn’t connected, or turn on your noise canceling headphones. It could be less that you’re stuck, and more that you’re letting yourself get distracted.

12. Create a border crossing ritual

When I put in my noise canceling headphones and turn on the sound of a thunderstorm, my brain switches into writing mode like a Pavlovian response. Find your own combination, whether it’s a white noise app, a special “writing time only” tea blend, lighting a ritualistic candle, or something else.

13. Write in a different medium

Our brains work differently depending on what are using, which is why brainstorming with pencil and a spiral-bound notebook can be so freeing if you’re stuck in the more formal writing mode of your fingers on your keyboard. Shut off your computer and write longhand in a notebook, try dictating, use crayons—whatever will make you feel a new spark of creativity.

14. Box yourself in

Try giving yourself limitations to get the creative juices flowing. Try using a writing prompt, telling yourself you won’t use words with the letter L, or whatever parameters you can think of to force yourself to be more creative and playful about your writing.

15. Check your expectations

Do you have unrealistic expectations about how fast you are working? How many words you’re writing in a day? The quality of your first draft? Identify those, acknowledge them, and then set them aside to give yourself space to write in your own way.

A look back, a look ahead

I’ve been thinking a lot about work these past few months.

It’s in the zeitgeist, as we collectively as a society realize we can’t keep hustling at 125% day in and day out while the world goes up in flames around us and we pretend everything’s fine.

It’s on the minds of several of my ghostwriting clients, who are coaching their own clients through burnout and trying to find meaning in their lives.

And it’s been on my mind as I juggle writing thoughtful posts about burnout for said clients — while kickstarting From Big Idea to Book, racing up against deadlines for Nanshe Chronicles books, and launching a productivity course in January.

Oh, all while pretending to be on vacation in Arizona, where I’ve been working in the mornings and spending time with family and “relaxing” in the afternoons.

I’m cheerfully telling people how excited I am for the new year, how I’m going to put creativity first in 2022 — and yet.

I’m torn in a half-dozen directions, as usual, with no finish line in sight. 

As usual.

I’m lucky. Most of this chaos is of my own making: client work I’ve said yes to, books I’m excited to write, projects I initiated. I have what Charlie Gilkey calls “Shiny Object Syndrome,” gleefully jumping at new opportunities and filling my plate to bursting without stopping to think how I’ll manage it all.

That said, I can feel myself circling burnout, and I know I need to start working smarter.

I need to take real time off. To close the computer after dinner. To go on walks with my neighbor in the afternoon without stressing that I need to rush back to my desk.

I have no idea how to do that. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

What’s coming in 2022

All that said, let’s take a look at what I’ve got in the works for you in 2022!

Nanshe Chronicles

I know! I’ve been talking about these books for ages, and you’ve yet to see more than my short story in CROOKED V.1. 😉

My original goal had been to launch the first Nanshe Chronicles book, Ghost Pirate Gambit, in March. But a few weeks back I learned that the official launch date of my new nonfiction book (see below) will be March 8.

So in order to not divide my metal capacity and marketing-shouting goodwill, I’m pushing back the launch of the Nanshe Chronicles to May. I’ll be putting out all three of the first books one after another in May, June, and July.

I know, I know. It’s a bit of a wait. But my lucky Patreon subscribers will be getting their copies up to a month earlier than that!

Nanshe Chronicles Audio!

I’ll be working with J.S. Arquin (who narrated the Bulari Saga audiobooks) to produce the first three Nanshe Chronicles books — so if you’re an audio listener, you’re in luck! Those will be coming out at the same time as the print and ebooks.

CROOKED

There will indeed be a CROOKED V.2, as I continue on my quest to make sci-fi crime a Thing. I’ll be putting up a call for submissions in January-ish — if you know of anyone who I should ask to contribute, let me know.

I’m also currently working on a couple of stories for sci-fi crime anthologies other people are editing — one about noir detectives, one about the future of crime.

(I’m revisiting the Bulari Saga for the noir one, giving Detective Timo Cho a chance to do what he does best — ask too many questions.)

And then…?

Stretch goals?

(Is this the root of my overwhelm problem?)

I’ve got a book with Starla, Mona, and Luc kicking around in my brain. It would take place after the final Bulari Saga book, but act as an entry point into a new series following those crazy kids on their own series of adventures. (If you read the Epilogue you probably guessed I was laying seeds for this)

I also have a fantasy series I’ve been working on off and on for years. It’s been sitting in the metaphorical trunk for years, partly because I was working on other things, partly because it was missing… something.

But a few weeks back I realized what it was missing was a large dash of Killing Eve, and now I’m on fire to write it. Not to mention I’m coming back from a trip to Arizona, which is the landscape that I modeled this fantasy world off of.

Nonfiction

As I mentioned above, From Big Idea to Book, my latest nonfiction book, will be out in March. It’s published through Microcosm Publishing, and I’m super excited for it.

It’s currently Kickstarting here.

I’m also working on another book for Microcosm, a fast and dirty guide to freelancing. Basically, dumping ~10 years of freelance writing knowledge into book form.

From time to time, I have the conversation with friends about whether they should start freelance writing.

My goal with this book is to give readers enough information that they’ll either be dissuaded from trying to freelance, or they’ll be so sparked to do it that they’ll be off and running.

How about you?

If you’ve made it to the end of this rather long post, tell me: What are you up to in 2022? Do you also have too many creative goals?

If so, maybe you want to join me for the Most Creative Year course, which is launching January 1st.

We’re in this together, friend.

Happy New Year!

[Video] Productivity and Self-Compassion During Quarantine

Happy … Friday?

I’m told Monday is a … holiday? Potentially we’re still in May, I haven’t really checked lately.

Anyway, how are you doing? Still in quarantine like the rest of us, wondering what days are and how many ice cream sandwiches you need to eat to make a Complete Meal™?

Before this all went down, in the halcyon days of 2019, I published a book on productivity for creative people titled From Chaos to Creativity. But these days instead of feeling like a productivity expert, I mostly feel like I’m hanging in there.

Which is why when my publisher, Microcosm Publishing, asked if I’d be interested in doing a virtual event to talk about creativity and productivity during quarantine, I balked at the idea.

Sure, I wrote a book on productivity. But will anything I say actually be helpful to people right now?

I said yes anyway, then spent a lovely hour-ish talking with my editor, Lydia Rogue, about how we’re all getting things done during these times of chaos.

Turns out I actually did have some interesting things to say, and you can watch the replay here.

My two biggest personal takeaways?

Be kind to yourself

Maybe before this all went down you worked out every day and ate super healthy and wrote 2k words a day on your novel.

If you’re not doing that now, please please please stop beating yourself up about it. Do what you can, celebrate your wins, and give yourself the same grace you would give someone else.

Being kinder to myself when I don’t meet some self-set perfect standard has made a world of difference in these past few months. I’m happier. I’m mentally healthier. And in the end those two things have helped me get more done.

I’m going to do my best to carry this self-compassion on beyond quarantine, because it’s something I’ve been lacking most of my life.

Do what makes you happy

Not feeling motivated at all? That’s cool. Me neither.

I used to have a fairly rigid schedule, but in the last few weeks I’ve let myself do what seems most interesting at the moment, rather than forcing myself to march in lock-step to the tune of my to-do list.

The result? I’m accomplishing more, because I’m allowing myself to do work when I’m in the mood for it, rather than forcing myself when I’m not in the mood.

Writing this blog post wasn’t on my list today, but suddenly it sounded interesting.

And because I’m interested in it, it’ll take me about 30 minutes instead of several hours if I was forcing myself to do it when I wasn’t in a blogging mood.

Obviously, some of the things on your to-do list need to be done regardless of mood — but if you let yourself do things that interest you first, you’ll start developing more enthusiasm, and therefore momentum.

How’s your creativity doing right now?

Let me know in the comments — I look forward to hearing from you!

7 Tips for Getting Your Head Back on Straight During These Here Trying Times

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Hey, are you calmly being productive in your work and personal life in these apocalyptic-feeling days? Hats off to you.

I am not.

The general aura of anxiety that imbues my every day life bloomed into a full on meltdown near the end of last week, where all I could do was scroll the news and share wide-eyed looks of shock with friends.

(Now we are sharing those looks of shock over video conferencing software.)

As Oregon heads towards what seems like an inevitable lockdown, though, I’m starting to realize that the world is not going to become less *waves hands vaguely* like this. I still have deadlines with clients. I have a BOOK coming out next week that I still need to market or whatever (oh my God you guys are we still marketing our books right now???).

And, hey, if I’m going to have all this new free time I’d like to make some progress on the novel I’m currently writing.

I need to get my head on straight again.

I need to get back to the practices that used to keep me organized, sane, and on track.

Here’s what I’m doing this week — maybe it will help you?

Note: Or, seriously, don’t be productive. Read a book and binge Netflix or whatever, no judgement — take care of yourself. But if you want some tips, read on.

1. Morning Pages

Set a timer and write for 20 minutes.

(Long hand’s great if your wrists aren’t evil. Or type. Or dictate? Doesn’t matter.)

The words you’re producing don’t need to make sense. You can just hold down the “u” in “fuck” for twenty minutes if it makes you feel better. The idea is just to get all the thoughts swirling around in your head captured someplace where they seem more manageable.

Your morning pages are like the ghost trap in Ghostbusters, vacuuming up the chaos in your head first thing in the morning.

2. Freedom App

Install Freedom on your computer and phone, and say, “Get thee behind me, Twitter.”

(Note: that’s an affiliate link because I am so, so into this useful little app.)

You can set sessions to run automatically and limit your social media time to certain hours (like lunch, for me). Or you can set Freedom to block out the entire internet (or certain distractors) for a set period of time.

Like if you want to work on your book for the next hour.

3. Meditation

I used to have a timer set on my phone to go off every day at 11:50am. I would then dutifully sit down, fire up Calm, and meditate.

When I was on a meditation roll, I found that it was much easier to simply let frantic, anxious thoughts slide off me. Like a duck on a water slide.

So why did I stop this marvelous practice?

Who the hell knows. I got busy. I got stressed out. I didn’t have time? I was too anxious??

All things that meditation helped me with.

So as of today that timer’s back on my phone.

4. Brain dump

Similar to morning pages, but you can do a brain dump at any time of the day. (Morning pages can only legally be done first thing in the morning, obvs.)

The way a brain dump works, is you just sit down and write down all the discrete tasks, ideas, worries, to-do list items, etc that are cluttering up your brain.

This lays them all out so you can take action on them, rather than trying to hold all that information in your head.

Get in the habit of doing this before you sit down to do distraction-free work, then keep a pad of paper nearby so you can easily capture additional items that pop up while you’re working.

I got the idea from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and talk more about how I use it in my book, From Chaos to Creativity. (Shameless plug!)

5. Walks!

Going on an afternoon walk used to clear my mind and make me feel calmer about life. So why’d I stop?

Two big reasons:

  1. Ugh winter, enough said
  2. I got a treadmill standing desk

Because of the treadmill desk, I’m actually walking 2-3 hours every day, whereas before I would go on a ~45-minute walk outside each day.

So, yay, I’m getting exercise while I work? But the flip side is that I’ve just been at my desk all day long instead of actually taking time off from work.

I’m reinstituting the afternoon walk, stat.

6. Breaking the notifications habit

I have been sooooo distractible lately, and it doesn’t help that I’m constantly checking my notifications on phone and email.

I used to be so good about this — but now I have Slack and Teams and Gmail open throughout the day, and all three of them are dinging me with distractions.

Plus, my phone has all these little red bubbles telling me that Things Are Happening on Twitter and Instagram and all those other super important places.

I’m turning notifications off, and closing down communication programs I’m not actively working in.

7. Setting timers

I used to be all about the pomodoro method: setting a timer for 25 minutes of focused work, then letting myself get distracted (or doing chores) for 10.

Now?

Oh, man.

Time to get back on the timer bandwagon. My favorite app for that is Forest, because you plant a little digital tree, and if you look at your phone before the time is up, the tree DIES.

It’s very motivating, I feel so bad if I kill one of those virtual trees.

Especially since the dead tree stays in your monthly “forest” screen, reminding you that you COULDN’T NOT LOOK AT YOUR PHONE FOR EVEN 10 MINUTES YOU SLACKER???!!

Yeah, I definitely need to start using Forest again to time working sprints.

That’s the list.

Have you tried any of these methods in the past? What’s working for you now? How are you getting your brain back on track during these trying times?

Let me know in the comments.

And stay safe out there.

From Chaos to Creativity Powell’s Books Reading [Video]

Last Monday, I did something that terrified me: I held a creative productivity workshop in front of about 50 people at Powell’s Books.

I’ve read from my fiction before, which is its own version of terrifying. But I’d never stood up as an expert in front of a crowd of mostly strangers and tried to impart my wisdom.

And you know what?

It was pretty fun.

Plus, people seemed to find it inspiring and asked a lot of insightful questions. Honestly, the discussion with everyone afterwards was my favorite part. If you were there, thank you for coming!

And a HUGE thanks to Rebecca and the rest of the staff at the Powell’s on Hawthorne for hosting me, as well as to Elly Blue and the team at Microcosm Publishing for setting things up.

My husband Robert Kittilson put together a video of the event, editing out the “ums” and giving a really great overview of what it was like.

(Don’t worry, he left in plenty of the “Jessie being a nerd” moments.)

Video not showing up? Here’s the link.

Did you miss the workshop?

I’ll be doing another workshop at Two Rivers Books in St. Johns (Portland, OR) on September 10th. I’m also planning a mini book tour in the Seattle area mid-October.

Get on my mailing list to stay in the loop.

Or, head here to learn more about From Chaos to Creativity.

From Chaos to Creativity Kickstarter is a Go!

I look around, and I’m surrounded by creative people.

My mom makes these amazingly artistic quilts. My dad welds incredible works of art and invents ingenious farm contraptions. My sister does intricate cross-stitch hangings. My husband takes stunning photographs. My friends write and paint and dance and sing.

My neighbor’s 8-year-old kid asked for bricks and wood and cement this Christmas so he could build things in the backyard.

They’re all creating art.

I’m assuming you’re also creative, because I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have some sort of creative passion.

And I’ve never heard anyone say they have enough time to do their art.

I mean, I certainly don’t.

I’ve been struggling for years to find the perfect productivity system or tool that would help me Do All The Things.

Get my oil changed. Read all the books. Meet my client deadlines. Text my friend happy birthday.

Oh — and write a novel.

I eventually cobbled together a system that worked for me, drawing from David Allen’s Getting Things Done, James Clear, Laura Vanderkam, Mark McGuinness, Gretchen Rubin and dozens of other productivity experts and researchers to make something that just clicked.

I wrote about my system a while ago, but I wanted to do more than just tell people what I personally did.

I wanted to help people come up with a creative productivity system that worked specifically for them.

So I wrote a whole book.


From Chaos to Creativity

c2c cover

From Microcosm Press — coming fall 2019

Art and writing can be the most fulfilling part of our lives. But it’s often difficult to make space for it in our day-to-day existence. Sometimes we have so many ideas it’s difficult to keep them all organized, much less maintaining a creative schedule or dedicated workspace.

With all the clutter overwhelming your scattered brain (not to mention your desk), it’s all too easy to fall into procrastination and disarray. 

From Chaos to Creativity is a series of glowing beacons. Jessie L. Kwak has written a Getting Things Done for artists and writers, drawing on her experience as a professional copywriter with a novel-writing habit, and from interviews with other authors, artists, musicians, and designers, to teach you how to focus on the good ideas, manage your project, make time in your life, and execute your passions to completion.

Make great art by channeling your chaotic creative force into productive power and let the world see what you’re capable of!


I’m incredibly excited to share this project with you!

If this sounds at all useful, head to the Kickstarter page to learn more and preorder your copy.

As one of the rewards, you can get the Jessie Kwak Superpack, which includes copies of my three Durga System novellas, as well as most of the Bikes in Space anthologies that have my short stories in them.

Check it out!

Screenshot 2019-01-17 16.49.31

PS — What’s your art?

Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Stop Self-Sabotage: Dreaming Big in Small Ways

(This post about dreaming big is part of my weekly Monday Morning Blast-Off email series. To get emails like this in your inbox every Monday morning, head here.)

Happy Monday!

Every week, I send out the Monday Morning Blast Off email to a really cool group of folks who want to boost their creative productivity.

Last week I asked people to tell me what some of their shoot-for-the-moon dreams were, and I got some really lovely responses — everything from having a quiet writing retreat to being a radical agent of change in the last years before retirement.

My point was that if we truly believe in those crazy big goals, we will set our daily goals to reflect that.

But I realized that dreaming big isn’t just about big picture goals.

We need to dream big about the small things, too.

And I’m terrible at it.

Dreaming big about zombies

I have a tendency to half-ass marketing my books. I figure if people find the book and like it, that’s great. But, like, I don’t want to annoy people by shouting about it!

I’m telling myself it’s because I want to focus on writing the next thing — but the real reason is because I’m afraid of watching a project bomb.

I don’t actually believe it could be a success, so I lie and tell myself I don’t care if it’s successful. And so I don’t put in the effort to make it happen.

And so it bombs. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m working on a sort of weird short story collection about zombies and corporate communication that I want to release this summer, and I’ve falling into that trap. Thinking it’s just, you know, this little book. Maybe somebody will like it. Maybe not. But whatever, I’ll just toss it up on Amazon and see.

But this week I realized that it could actually have a lot of potential to get picked up by niche media outlets, and promoted by big industry names. And if I truly believe in it, I need to double down on marketing to give it the best shot of going viral.

I can either shrug and “leave it to fate,” or I can work up the guts to email big-name people for blurbs, pitch it to major sites, pay for advertising, and ask for help from people with bigger audiences than me.

And, dammit, that’s what I’m going to do.

Because how can I expect myself to achieve big dreams if I’m scared to set big goals for small dreams?

Your homework

Do you have any passion projects that — let’s face it — you’re letting die because of lack of faith in yourself?

Ask yourself why. Is it because you’re afraid of putting 110% in and still failing to make a mark, like I am? Are you worried what others might think about it? Do you think it’s just not that important?

Now ask yourself what steps you’d have to take to ensure that project has a chance to shine.

You’re putting in the work. Don’t be afraid to push it across the finish line with all your strength.

You’ve got this.

Now tell me: what one thing are you going to do this week to help your project reach its full potential?


(If you’re curious about the weird zombie/corporate short story collection, one of the pieces that’s going in it was recently published on McSweeney’s. Check it out!)

On Medium: An Evernote Productivity System for Creatives

I’ve had a few people ask about my to-do list/productivity system recently, so I decided to write an in-depth post about it.

It’s basically an Evernote notebook that I set up based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method – essentially, a digital version of his series of folders and notes. In it, I plan out my tasks for the week and keep track of all the bigger picture projects I have going on in my life.

As a bonus, because it’s in Evernote, I can link to other notes and subfolders within the program.

(I love Evernote.)

For a long time I struggled to find a system that was flexible enough to accommodate my ever-changing workload, digital enough to travel with me, and convenient enough that I’d actually use it.

Enter my Evernote Productivity System. Evernote productivity system screenshot

This system works particularly well for me because I feel more at ease when I know exactly what’s going on in my day/week. Will it work for you? Maybe, maybe not. If you like to have minute-by-minute control of your day and never lose track of your tasks, it just might. If you prefer to roll with the punches and work on whatever you feel like at the moment, maybe not.

Either way, it doesn’t hurt to check it out. Even just reading this post might inspire you to think differently about your own to-do management system.

If this sounds vaguely interesting to you, here’s the post:

An Evernote System for Self-Employed Creatives.

I’ve been wanting to experiment more with publishing on Medium, and since I was recently invited to join the Writers on Writing publication I decided to make this my first topic. I have to say I love formatting posts in the Medium ecosystem – it’s very pretty. I haven’t tried actually drafting anything there yet, since I don’t trust my drafts not to disappear. I’ll stick to Scrivener there, thank you very much.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the post! If you end up using all or any of this system, I’d love to hear about it.

How do you to-do? I love learning from other people’s productivity systems. Let me know how you structure your day in the comments!

Is Quitting Your Job to Pursue Your Passion BS? Yes and No.

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook the other day and I can’t quite get it out of my head: Quitting Your Job to Pursue Your Passion is Bullshit, by Janelle Quibuyen. Go take a read. It’s short.

If you read the comments you’ll see that a lot of people missed Janelle’s point – which is that the freelance life is sold with a lot of fluffy words and romance, and that those romantic ideas tend to place higher value on a lifestyle which often comes with unexamined privilege. Her point is that when we romanticize “living your passion” and call entrepreneurs “courageous”, we’re putting them on a pedestal they (we – I’ll put myself in that category) don’t deserve.

I love this line:

I am no more brave than the migrant worker picking your strawberries to send remittances to family in their home country. I am no more courageous than the recently-graduated millennial who works in a cubicle 9 hours a day to pay off massive student loans. I am no more of a boss than the working class mother with three jobs who feeds her children.

Someone told me recently that I work harder than anyone they know. I fervently disagreed. Yes, I’m dedicated to my job. Yes, I go above and beyond. Yes, I’m willing to put in the extra hours and to make sacrifices to work for my future and grow my business. But I’m hardly the hardest worker I know.

Jorge was of my favorite chefs at a restaurant I once worked at. He was so fast and efficient that he could feed an entire restaurant by himself, and he was always smiling. Plus, he made the best food. He had a wife and a super cute kid, and Jorge worked two jobs – often in the same day – to support them. Once when he mentioned he’d started a third job I asked him when his days off were. He thought for a moment, then told me, “Tuesday evenings.”

Jorge works way, way harder than me.

I work hard, but I don’t work as hard as my grandpa did or my father does out on the farm. I don’t work as hard as my mom does with her elementary school students, doing lesson plans every evening and getting to school before sunrise every morning.

My mom and dad at my cousin's wedding.
I love these guys.

I didn’t quit my day job because I was courageous. I quit it because I couldn’t stand sitting at a desk anymore. I didn’t so much take a leap of faith from a stable platform I was afraid to leave, I made a smart, calculated play to get out of a place I’d begun to feel trapped by.

I haven’t worked odd jobs and traveled because I was brave, I did it because I’m apparently allergic to consistent work. It hasn’t been courageous, it’s been fun-scary-stupid-fun.

And it’s been possible in a large part because I had a safety net.

That’s another point Janelle makes in her piece. It’s sexier to talk about the courage of an entrepreneur than to talk about the safety net that makes that courage possible.

The friend who shared this article originally on Facebook found it depressing – and I think that’s part of the reason people tend to focus on the courage than the logistics. No one wants to hear that the only way I was able to quit my day job was because I’d worked every night and every weekend for 6 months on freelance projects until I built up a tiny nest egg, then I went back to waiting tables four days a week to support myself while I grew my freelance business. I had a supportive partner, but I still had to pay my half of the bills – the bicycle industry isn’t the most lucrative field.

Not having kids made this easier – I could work crazy hours and pick up weekend doubles without worrying about childcare. I could do my freelance work in the middle of the day without having to work around naptimes. And when I finally quit waiting tables, my partner and I could afford to take a temporary cut in my paycheck because we didn’t have a third mouth to feed.

The ability to tolerate the risk of starting a freelance business is part privilege – you have to have a safety net, whether that’s savings, a side gig, a supportive partner, whatever – but it’s also part temperament.

What a lot of people miss in their romantic idea of freelancing is that you are literally starting your own business.

Friends tell me how much they would like to be able to spend all day writing – but when I explain I actually spend most of my day as Bookkeeper, Marketer, Sales, Dishwasher, Accounts Payable, Webmaster, and Customer Service Representative, they brush it off. “At least you’re doing what you love!”

And I am. But I love being a business owner and wearing all those hats. If you don’t have the discipline and business sense to be your own best boss and your own best employee, to deliver on time every time, and to keep doing it day after day (even on weekends if necessary), even when it all feels like you’re not moving forward at all…. Maybe freelancing’s not for you.

And that’s OK.

If you’re stuck on the idea that quitting your day job to follow your passion is romantic, then, yes, Janelle’s article is depressing. For me, though, I found it honest.

Freelancing is difficult, and it’s not for everybody. But the same could be said of any profession.

You have to follow your passion, yes, but you also have to find the life that’s right for you.

Whatever you do, just go into it with your eyes open and don’t let yourself get sold by flowery language. You’re smarter than that.

A Little Creative Inspiration

I’ve been quite busy the past few months. Between working on some really fascinating projects for clients, I’ve also been cooking up some new stories to share with you all.

You may have seen hints of Starfall, a new novella set in the Durga System if you’re on my email list or following me on social media. That’s with my editor for the final cleanup round, and is scheduled to be published later this month.

I also just turned in a draft of the novel based on the short story Bikes to New Sarjun to Elly Blue at Microcosm — that’ll be on its way to you in 2017.

With those two projects (and one large client project) off my plate, I’m hoping to be around here a bit more to write about productivity and creativity. But if you’re looking for a little inspiration in the meantime, I’ve written several articles for other sites you might find helpful.

The second one – about discovering and protecting your most creative times – seems to have been especially inspiring to people based on the number of social media shares I’ve seen it get.

Happy creating!