Success = Choice
Recently, the fabulous author Miriam Peskowitz (whom I’ve had the great joy to work with for a few years now) asked me if I’d be willing to let her interview me, for a column she pens for SheWrites, about my successful freelance editing and writing business. Besides being honored by Miriam’s request, I was genuinely surprised. Sometimes I forget I have an actual business. And I’m not sure who would call my business “successful.” Let’s just say my income is not what it once was, and most of my business these days has to do with spreading jam on bread and changing poopy diapers.
And, yet, somehow — by some divine good fortune — I realize that what Miriam sees is correct: my business is successful. Somehow, I have been able to do enough freelance work during these past four years of motherhood to keep my “real business” afloat. That is, I’ve worked on enough editing and writing projects that I look like I’m working more than I am. Really, I’ve worked on just a handful of projects, but each one has been a great one, several with wide visibility and impact. Is this strategic? Yes, in a way it is. In a way, though, I also feel that I made one pivotal choice and the rest is out of my hands.
What choice did I make? Basically, I decided, when the all-consuming nature of mothering my particular young children became apparent, that I would only work on projects that lifted me up. Projects that spoke to my spirit, excited me, didn’t feel like work, fit with my schedule, paid me enough to have integrity about them, and made a positive impact on the world. I gracefully extracted myself from on-going (some well-paying) projects that didn’t fit these criteria, polished up my web site that showcased my experience, took an online class for writers that helped me start this blog, and wrote at midnight when the muse struck me. I did not market my services in any real way (besides blog and web site), but I kept talking to professional people who interested me and I was clear on what kind of work I wanted to do.
I simply held this intention, popped out a couple of babies (ha!), wiped snotty noses, kept my toe in the professional pond, and waited to see what would happen.
Now, I realize the immense privilege I have to be able to proceed this way in my career, without pounding the pavement or taking grunt work to pay the rent. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not loaded, my husband is a public school teacher. But, still, we are privileged, privileged enough to allow me to undertake this experiment with my freelance business for a few pivotal years of young children underfoot. I know that, and thank my lucky stars daily for it. (Well, lucky stars and the fact that “the harder I work, the luckier I get” — and I worked hard for a good dozen years before I had children.)
And, yet, what has happened to me by making this one critical choice causes me to wonder what would happen to the world if everyone chose similarly for themselves. Because, you see, I made the choice to only let in what really matters — and what really matters has appeared. Each month, and each project that comes in, it gets even clearer to me. What to choose to do, and what to turn away. How to convey my intention. How to hold space for work that lifts my spirit. And the work comes. Work I choose.
As usual, all life revelations are connected. As I parent my children each day, I am struck by the power of choice for them as well. My seventeen-month-old breaks out in a huge smile when I hold out two pairs of his pajamas for him to choose from every night. (And he always has an opinion.) My four-year-old holds her head high as she marches to the pantry and picks out her own snack. At our “appreciations” time during our weekly family meeting on Sunday, she said to me and my husband, “I appreciate that you’ve been helping me, but you haven’t been doing things for me.” The power, and pride, of choice. Success all around.
When we are able to choose what we do and how we do it, we feel capable, we feel encouraged, energized, valuable, free. Choice is at the heart of our democratic society. It is at the heart of our personal psychology. As I learned from Vicki Hoefle (and Alfred Adler), we are always, in every moment and every situation, “at choice.” We are at choice. When we embrace this concept, the world shifts.
Miriam has not called to interview me yet. But, when she does, I know what I will say about my freelance business. I will say that I feel successful because I get to choose what work I do. Perhaps my tax return would not paint my business as successful in the eyes of some. But I choose to see it differently. I choose to savor this moment in my life and career when I can choose what projects to take and decline, and not have to live off of my sole income. And I believe — as I tread further down this path of enlightening revelation — that this will not actually be just a stage, but will continue to evolve, as I take the kinds of projects I want, do an excellent job on them (and love doing it), and build my business, slowly and intentionally, as I also work presently as a mother. Then, perhaps, I will make a livable income on just those projects I choose. What more, success?
When we embrace choice consciously, we experience true success. That success that makes us smile to ourselves, and sleep well at night, and be excited to tell our old friends and relatives about what we are doing these days. That same success that has people marching in the streets for choice (birth choice, marriage choice…), and has children either power struggling with their parents for lack of choice or sighing with relief when they feel some power in their lives.
Success, it turns out, may just be a choice after all.
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