Consistent and Persistent

I'm not going anywhere.

watercolor illustration of a notebook on the ground with a fountain pen and a feather
Image created via Midjourney

Earlier today, I went on a solo trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. In my many, many years of living in a Chicago suburb and many, many trips to the Art Institute, this is the first time I've gone alone.

I could have taken my family. The kids don't have school today and my husband doesn't have work in observation of Good Friday. In fact, the kids/husband wanted to go. But I had my heart set on roaming through the giant halls of the museum alone. So that's what I did.

Every time I go to the Art Insitute, I visit my favorites. Monet and the Impressionists. The Chagall Windows. Magritte and Picasso. I was wandering through the art of the Americas, and wedged between some artists unknown to me was Diego Rivera. I saw a brand new exhibition by current artist Gio Swaby that was fabulous. And there is a stunning Salvador Dalí exhibit right now.

I stand in front of masterpieces and I'm humbled. I'll stand in front of a Van Gogh and realize that people travel the world to see this painting. And realize how many people have gazed upon it.

When I graduated from college, I gave up my dream of being a writer. It wasn't practical, I told myself. I wanted a house and a family. I was a voracious reader, mostly literary fiction, and thought, "I'm not that talented. I'll never write like that — I'll never make it as a writer."

So I went down another path (banking, technology). I was good at my work.

But after 15 years, frustrated by my job and knowing I needed a change, somehow I managed to pivot into writing.

I started at a content mill, getting paid $.02 per word. An introduction via a professional contact got me a retainer at a magazine. And the best hiring manager ever gave me a job at a high-quality content agency. Now I have a portfolio of work I'm proud of.

Earlier this week, I recorded a podcast episode as a guest. The host asked me how I managed to get some of my big-name clients. I said, "Oh well, I got lucky... I knew someone..."

It's been easy for me to make similar comments over the past two years. I knew someone or I got lucky, rather than saying the words I'm a good writer.

I realized that I was holding myself up to the wrong standard. I was intimidated by the world of literary fiction. But that's not my genre. My stories fall into the realm of journalism or nonfiction, where the writing has to be clear and compelling rather than flowery or whimsical.

Just a few days ago, another parent asked me what I do for a living at a school event. I said, "Oh, I'm a freelance writer." Most of the time, this is met with a somewhat confused reaction, and people wonder what that means (and assume I'm somewhat unemployed). But this parent's face lit up. She said, "Wow, that's amazing!" and I swelled up with pride.

Over the past few weeks, I've broken up with two clients that were not a good fit for me anymore. I've gotten to the point (after only six months of freelancing full-time) that I can be choosey.

I agonized over ending my arrangement with a publication that has been very good to me. But a fellow writer reminded me that it's normal for a writer to outgrow a publication and that's what should happen as a writer (until I hit The New Yorker, I guess).

He also gave me some sage advice: perseverance beats talent almost every single time.

I began blogging in 2009 (though I've taken down the original blog). I kept thinking that it would grow on its own, like some of the wild success stories I heard. There would be a viral post, and that would be it.

But in hindsight, so much was happening behind the scenes of these success stories that I wasn't aware of. And writing online is much, much different now than it was back then. I show up on different platforms (Substack, Medium), have a social presence. And stuff is starting to happen. People reach out to me and say, "Hey, I read your newsletter..."

I'm persistent. I'm consistent. And I'm not going anywhere. My words will continue to make their way into the world.

You can support my work as a writer by buying me a coffee.