Hitting the Life “Reset” Button

Thought I’d try to blow the dust off this little blog. I miss having this outlet for my writing. There’s been so much that has happened in the past…year. (Year?! Has it really been that long?!) I feel like I should write about these experiences while they’re still fresh in my memory. It’d be nice to be able to look back and remember some of what I’ve felt going through this transition.

To be honest, I don’t know even where to begin. How about a few highlights? A couple of posts ago, I wrote about wanting to jump tracks. I felt like I was headed in exactly the wrong direction doing exactly the wrong kind of job.

Well, at the end of March I put actions to my words and quit my job to officially pursue my writing. I didn’t go into this decision lightly. I talked to Terry about it and we planned for a full year before making this jump. There were three main goals and a set of expectations that we came up with.

To start, this was not going to be an open-ended situation. Terry agreed to give me one year to make something happen. That’s not to say I have to become a bestseller in a year. I need to keep my expectations realistic and that’s unlikely. It is to say I’ve committed to finishing a book and taking the steps necessary to getting it published. (Getting it professionally edited, getting a cover professionally done, putting an author site together, marketing, etc…)

As far as goals go, one major one was to pay off all of our credit cards. The last thing we needed was to have any extra overhanging expenses if we were going to drop down to one salary. Plus, it’s just financially smarter not to carry around debt. It’s one of those things you always mean to do, but me planning to quit my job gave us the extra little push we needed to really commit to doing it.

Secondly, we decided on a specific amount of money to have saved by the end of the year. This was to create a bit of padding in case of contingencies. Life happens. Last October our furnace blew out and cost us $8000. We could handle the expense with both of our salaries, but what if that had happened with me out of work? Having more than the usual little cushion would help.

Lastly, I made it my goal to participate and complete NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s basically a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2011, but it was halfway through the month and too late to participate. I can’t remember the exact reasons why I didn’t do it in 2012. I seem to remember being too intimidated. 2013, I finally got my shit together and signed up. I’m happy to say I succeeded, or “won” as they say in NaNo vernacular.

To be honest, I took a look at the novel I started for NaNo, and wasn’t too impressed with what I had produced. However, the very fact that I could produce that much material and create the habit of writing everyday was the main focus for my participating. I got a pleasant bonus out of it by getting a chance to meet fellow writers in my area, specifically my WriNoShores peeps. (More on them later.)

So, with those three goals accomplished, the way was clear for me to make the next step…actually quitting my job. I’ll admit, it was stomach clenching. In fact, the original plan was to quit at the beginning of the year…but I couldn’t quite do it. My January month was shaping up really well and I stood to make a good quarterly bonus. If I quit before the end of March, I would be walking away from a few thousand extra dollars. Money that I knew would come in handy for the next year. Plus, let’s face it, now that the time had actually come, I was scared shitless.

I decided to put quitting my job off until the end of March. Forget New Year’s resolutions, I feel Springtime is more inspirational for starting new projects, anyway. So, I waited, continued to save, and started to get antsy. The longer I waited, the more self-doubt crept in. I had to remind myself of all the preparations Terry and I had done. We WERE able to do this.

I decided to give a soft notice and let my manager know what I was planning. By stating my intentions out loud to someone other than my husband or my sister, I was reaffirming my commitment. Plus, it gave him the chance to start looking for my replacement a bit early, something I know he appreciated.

He was really supportive about my plans, which helped. Mid-March finally came and it was time to put my two week notice in. My fingers trembled as I drafted the e-mail to send to HR. I read it and re-read it. Edited it. Sent it to my manager to have him read over it… and finally – finally – hit send.

The last two weeks seemed to drag forever. Eight hours became eight lifetimes. I resisted telling my clients that I was planning on leaving. I assumed they would think I was crazy to be giving up my well paying job with benefits to basically become an unemployed writer following my dreams.

March 31st happened to fall on a Monday this year. It was weird to go into the office for my last day on a Monday. It kind of threw the rest of the week off a little bit, especially since my sister and my birthdays were also that week. However, I was determined to start good habits early, and insisted on putting a couple of hours of writing in everyday. It was important for me to set a good pace right out of the gate.

That first day off was surreal. April 1st. A new kind of pressure took hold. This was it. Time to actively pursue my dreams. No excuses and nothing stopping me other than myself. Could I get out of my own way and make this happen? Because, if I don’t do it this year, then that’s it. I’m going to need to do some serious gut-searching about who I am and what I can contribute.

It’s been a little over two months as a “Self-Employed Writer.” For the most part, I’m happy to say it’s been a good experience. I will admit, that I have had days where I’ve stared in the mirror and questioned my sanity. There have been mornings where I’ve hated everything I’ve written so far and wanted to scrap every. single. word. and start over again.

There have been moments where I’m doing dishes and will get struck by a thought or scene and dropped everything like a madwoman to get to my computer and type it down before I forget. I’ve been haunted by plotting dilemmas and woken up – eyes wide – at 4am with the perfect solution…only to have it evaporate the moment I got up out of bed.

I will probably make an entirely separate post for all these little challenges that I’m encountering on a daily basis…and the successes, as I find them. I also want to write more about the awesome writing group I’ve joined through NaNoWriMo. More than anything, good or bad, I want to fully immerse myself in this experience and be able to remember it in the future.

If you’re out there and reading this, you’re welcome to join me.