So many nuggets of goodness were found when I read Danielle LaPorte’s The Firestarter Sessions several years ago. The one that rattled my little people-pleasing soul, though, was this thought:
Be careful what you are good at doing.
LaPorte explained that so many people get swept up in the excitement (and applause) of carrying out something they are good at, that sometimes they get swept into doing things they don’t even like doing. And for many, they spent years upon years doing it simply because it came naturally or they liked the recognition it brought along with it.
I pondered this for awhile. Was I guilty of this? Surely I wasn’t. Surely everything I did, I did because I loved it.
And so I went along my merry way and didn’t give it too much more thought.
I’ve been a proofreader for nearly 6 years now and have been working with some incredible writers. Honored to read their words before they put them out into the world, I’d correct misspelled words or identify a misplaced comma or two in their beautifully sculpted drafts.
And it was intoxicating.
I was privy to something before anyone else…and I helped to make it even better. And dammit, I was good at it.
So, I continued to offer this service. Pouring over other people’s writing so they could share it in its most perfect as possible state.
What happened, though, was that my own writing became less and less. And, eventually, came to a full stop. I was spending so much time working on other people’s words that I was keeping my own locked up like neglected children in the attic.
Still, I kept on taking on more assignments because 1) I was good at it 2) I got kudos for a job well done and 3) the money wasn’t bad either.
As time went on, as assignments came in and out, I began to fall out of love with the work and longed to do my own writing. I kept at it, though, because I’d made a name for myself and I did still find joy in working with other writers.
But something inside me kept telling me it was time to retire my red pen and move on to other endeavors.
Then, the universe did something that the universe tends to do when trying to drive a point into my very stubborn head. She sent me a client whose work was the most jumbled and confusing of anything I’d ever encountered. It was an unholy mess of words that I didn’t really know what to do with but told myself to push through the assignment anyway because it’s what I did. It’s who I was.
I felt sick to my stomach.
Was this really who I was now? A writer who doctors other writers’ words when she’d rather be writing her own?
“Be careful what you are good at, girl,” was what I heard the universe whispering in my ear. Damn universe.
And so I decided that just because I was good at something didn’t mean I had to do it any longer. Especially if the joy was gone.
The moment I decided to turn down future assignments and put the cap on my pen, I let out an overwhelming sigh of pure relief.
My nights and weekends were suddenly free to do…anything I damn well pleased. No more deadlines. No more magic to be done.
Except there’s still magic.
A new kind of magic.
I let go of something I was good at to make way for something else. Something new.
I’ll always have proofreading to fall back on if I need to…it’s a solid foundation for me. But truthfully, I’m not looking back.
Sometimes quitting is salve for the soul.
So be careful what you are good at, my friends. And don’t be afraid to let it go when it’s time. I promise you, something even better is just around the bend.