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The Write or Die Chick: Do Something New (And Don't Get Too Comfortable with the Old)

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woman daydreaming
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Ecclesiastes 3 is a classic, not just for believers but for anyone. It poetically captures the universal rhythms and vicissitudes of life. But if I can be so bold to inject another line into its scriptural magnificence, in addition to a time to destroy and a time to build, a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to be silent and a time to speak, there’s also a time for strategy and a time to put strategy into action.

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid, but I’ve been a freelancer for almost 10 years. I knew, fresh out of college, that I wasn’t built for a 9-to-5. I was too free-spirited, too impulsive, too ornery to be able to make sense out of compartmentalizing my days into the rigidity of routine. I felt restricted by the conformity, down to the business casual dress code that insisted I wear slacks instead of my beloved sweatpants. But I had bills, Lord have mercy did I have bills, and working for myself was just too uncertain, what with magazines paying when they felt like it and me being a single mama with a little girl who needed shelter and food and whatnot.

So I planned and prayed, and the planning and praying sustained me in 8-hour increments until I could get home and unload the sentences and story ideas that had been ping-ponging around in my mind.

In December, I walked into the office of my day job on a completely normal morning, and had barely opened my email when my phone rang and I was summoned to a conference room by the assistant to the president, a guy I’ve talked to maybe three times. After months of whispered warnings from co-workers, I knew that was it, and I said, outloud, “Awwww shoot. Here we go.” And go I did. They laid off 17 of us that day in a katana chop to a staff that had already been downsized bit by bit in the nearly two years that I’d been there. And right before Christmas, too. Ho ho ho.

I guess they thought I was going to bawl. Or demand an explanation. Or go all crazy Black woman ballistic and start flipping tables and volleying papers into the air. I disappointed them. I just smiled, listened politely, got my little cardboard box from the mailroom, packed my ish and runway walked outta that joint. I thought, well damn. If corporate America isn’t stable, then how much of a risk would I really be taking to bypass the resume revamping and the exhausting job searching and just write full-time? After all of those years of wishing and dreaming and building and posturing, strategy took center stage.

After bracing my mama—who is definitely of the generational mindset that you get a job, work for 30 years, retire and then do what you wanna do in life—I felt empowered. I can do this. I am doing this. Even I can’t appropriately express how much of a blessing it is to be living my gifting and have people read the words I string together. I’m humbled by it, and sometimes the power of it is almost overwhelming. The security of a bi-weekly paycheck is nice but the exhilaration of eating by my own hands is priceless.

I talk to a new woman at least once a week who reaches out to ask me how I got started and get advice on chasing her own writing aspirations. I say, in my around-the-way homegirl, totally unprofessional slang-lish, “Chile, I don’t know if I’m qualified to tell anybody anything. I just had a strategy, just in case the opportunity ever came up.”

So that’s how I advise every lady who visualizes a book or a blog or a screenplay in her future—have a plan for the time when that big chance comes along and let that plan fuel your spirit in that period when you have to do a whole lot of what you don’t want to do in the meantime. It helps, too, to know how to hustle and how to survive on a little on the pathway to a lot. I’m praying for you. I’m praying for every woman with a dream—writers, entrepreneurs, jewelry designers, chefs, preachers, teachers, circus performers, whoever. I hope when your season opens up, when it’s no longer your time to sow but your time to reap, you’ll be ready to strut like Beyonce across the Superbowl stage into the realization of that thing.

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