As many of you know, I've embarked on a full-time freelance career after more than a dozen years working out of a newsroom. It was definitely one of the best decisions I've made in a long time, and I wake up every morning invigorated, determined, inspired.
Which is why I wanted to learn more about the freelance and entrepreneurial life from a book recommended in a Seth Godin online course. Escape from Cubicle Nation is known as a classic book on finding your voice as a freelancer, no matter your beat. The 2009 book from Pamela Slim reinforced a lot of what I know already about shirking the cubicle life and hunkering down to devise a plan to be a self-starter, but it also enlightened me on a few light-bulb moments that I want to share with you.
First, she explains why we should avoid the cubicled life. She writes:
We’re not meant to sit in meetings for hours and hours, hashing out technical details that everyone knows will be changed next week anyway. When our job responsibilities call for us to perform a task that we find meaningless and trivial, we choke down our urge to say 'That is absurd, and I won’t spend my valuable time that way!' and do it anyway in order to be responsible and a team player.
When I first leapt into freelancing full-time, I wondered where I would find those daily social interactions that fuelled some of my creativity. Talking to people is a great way for writers to learn more about the human condition (says Captain Obvious). But when you're solo or at a work-sharing space, the atmosphere is a bit more lonerish. And that's why Slim's passage here spoke to me:
Begin to reconnect your emotional and intellectual selves by exposing yourself to creative environments or activities. You crave beauty and truth so find ways to express both. Nature is a great way for waking up the emotional self, same with art and music and really sensuous food.
I've promised myself this summer to write and read more in High Park and Trinity Bellwoods, and venture on day trips to go hiking. I also plan to spend a week in Montreal to expose myself to new people, fresh activities, new ideas.
I also want to highlight another passage:
We spend a lot of time on busy work that makes us feel like we’re doing the right things in our careers or business but often is quite unimportant. Develop some rigorous criteria for what you will work on, based on being true to our essential self. Look to work on things that will leapfrog you to new creative and personal heights, and not just plug along like an old tired and dutiful steam engine.
That's easier said than done. I like to busy myself with projects that I think will develop new skills in my journalistic or arts education business, but I need to be very hard-assed about what I dive into this year. I have two major poetry projects debuting in 2018 - a book and one-man show - and I have had to cut out some other pursuits that didn't contribute to those ends (or my bank account). It sure wasn't easy but sweet Jebus was it necessary!
To find those projects that awaken your bone marrow, Slim suggests asking yourself two major questions:
Will I be a better smarter more compassionate human for having attempted this, regardless of the outcome?
Will the world be a little better because of my efforts?
And the two writing projects I have ahead of me will definitely contribute to nurturing my creativity, feeding my curiosity, and definitely boost my compassion as both a writer and human. It's hard to predict how the world will react to my book and show, but I like to think they are unique enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and yes, if I pull it off successfully, they should definitely enhance the communities I hope to reach.
As noted before, I highly recommend Escape From Cubicle Nation if you have a fiery project you'd like to turn from Bunsen burner flame to blazing inferno.
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Media criticism. Poetry. Being a better creative. Toronto stories. Technology. Sports. Why X-Files rocks.