First, let me put your fears to rest; I’m not living in an abandoned train car. I’ve been passing this graffitied relic for quite some time on my travels between our home in Florence (Oregon) and Cottage Grove (still in Oregon), shuffling between newspapers for which I was once editor. As I mentioned a few posts — and yikes, months — ago, I left journalism after 23 years back in 2021. For the next year-and-a-half, I worked as a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service (Motto: Bringing your Amazon packages… Oh, and the mail!). But this past October, I left the USPS after a year of 6-day, 70-hour-plus workweeks with no end in sight. Time with my family had been nearly non-existent and, after coming home one day and finding our dog had been given my spot on the couch, I knew it was time to make a change.
The dog had to go.
We got a cat and now no one can sit on the couch.
Ok, not really. My end game had always been a simple one: Eventually retire and spend my days helping other writers with their manuscripts, short stories, memoirs, etc., IN BETWEEN time spent smooching my wife, making key lime pies, traveling in a fifth-wheel together and making sure the dog doesn’t get my spot on the couch again.
So, this past October, I put all of that in motion by throwing caution to the wind (trust me, it gets very windy in Oregon) and establishing Easy Writer Editing Services, which has been one of the most rewarding, terrifying, freeing, stressful and ultimately best decisions I’ve made since not becoming a vegetarian.
Which brings us to that train.
Something I’ve discovered about myself is that I’m not very good at having freedom. It’s not that I waste time or don’t have self-discipline. It’s actually the complete opposite. After more than 20 years as a journalist and editor, and 10 years before that as a fine-dining chef, I don’t know how to NOT be busy.
And when I’m not, I feel guilty.
If I don’t fill my day with goals, projects and things that I can mark off and point to at the end, I feel I’ve somehow failed — or haven’t truly earned the opportunity I’ve been given to follow my dream. While getting my business off the ground, I’ve picked up extra work painting a house’s exterior, a house’s interior, an office (coming up) and, most recently, helping the two newspapers I once worked at transition to smaller editorial staffs following major budget cuts this past January.
Though I was a little nervous being on a ladder that high, I was able to enlist a supervisor who could dial 911 with her hooves…
Oh, and one day, I was so desperate to add something to my to-do list I decided to shave my beard!
I’ve since grown my beard back because, hey! I could include that as another project!
Yesterday, on my way back to Florence from Cottage Grove, I saw that train car again — something I’ve been wanting to stop and admire for years. My first instinct was:
“You don’t have TIME! It’s only 2:30 and you can still post something on social media! Or find another house to paint! Or shave again! Something, ANYTHING!“
So I passed it by.
Then gritted my teeth and flipped a U-turn (it was mostly legal).
I pulled up next to it and came to a stop, still fighting my instinctive reservations as I stepped out and stiffly walked toward the train car like a zombie forcing its legs to cooperate. But the closer I got, the easier it became. I was completely enthralled with the surreal mixture of graffiti art, rusting metal and rotting wood, all framed on this canvas brushed by time and the elements. I spent a good hour taking it all in, shooting some photos and crawling around in this abandoned sculpture-in-progress.
It suddenly hit me that I needed to give myself permission to slow down. As much as I’ve preached to our kids that every experience is worthwhile and an opportunity to grow, I had failed to follow my own advice. My fear of “failure” entering this new chapter in my life was causing me to fill it with tasks rather than experiences. I was trying so hard to stay busy — and therefore, in my mind, successful — that I was missing the point of living my dream.
Looking at that train car reminded me: What made it so interesting and inspiring wasn’t the end result but rather the slow and steady process of time that created it.
I need to be more like that train car, I thought.
I need to give myself permission to embrace and experience the slow and steady process of realizing my dream — rather than focusing solely on achieving the end result. It’s not about making a 180 and throwing everything to the wind (as I mentioned, it gets windy as hell here). But I’ve begun to understand that staying inspired is just as important as staying on task, and that making time for creativity should go hand-in-hand with the time allotted for productivity.
It’s still not going to be easy; it’s going to require some re-wiring and regular gut checks each day.
OK, fine. Each hour.
But thanks to that abandoned train car, I’m finally on board.
Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead. Find out more HERE