End of the Book Mode

My husband is in End of the Book Mode right now. I don't know if other writers do this, but it's something we came up with out of necessity. He writes fantasy novels, and at some point near the end, the story picks up so much steam, and he has so much of it realized in his head, that he just needs to keep writing as much as possible to finish it.

Through most of the book, he writes about two hours a day, five days a week. In End of the Book Mode, he writes as many hours a day as he wants to. He puts in three or four 2-hour shifts, and sometimes writes all night. He submerges his whole heart into the book.

He feels really selfish, and doesn't understand what I get out of it.

I feel a bit like he must have felt in the delivery room when each of our boys was born. All I can do is remind him to breathe, and witness as he pulls his world from that realm into this one. He points his soul through a prism of fantasy and the stories that come through are real and beautiful, terrifying and thrilling.

I get to watch. I get to be there.  

I get to feel the power, the pain, and the redemption of closure. It's like burning through a forest, needing to breathe the fire until it's out. It's like jumping off a cliff and waiting for deep water to appear beneath you.

I'm humbled to be present. I'm grateful for the backstage pass. I'll take the late nights alone and the early mornings with the kids. I'll gladly get up at 4 AM to read the last chapter the moment it's finished. It's breathtaking. It's real magic at work. It's actually my favorite part of his job.

Love Is Love

Today the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for all. I'm overwhelmed by the outpouring of enthusiasm. I know some are disappointed in the ruling, but I really can't even hear them right now. I'm so happy about it. I can hardly focus on anything. I feel like we won! And at the same time, I'm strangely conflicted about my elation.

You see, I'm in a long-standing, opposite-sex marriage. We have two boys, both of whom seem to crush on girls. You might wonder where my unbounded joy is coming from. I wondered myself for a brief time.

I scrolled through Facebook all morning. The internet exploded into rainbows, and I was humbly reminded of God's promise to send the rainbow when the storms are over. In my own expression of joy, I wanted to change my Facebook profile pic to a rainbow of some kind. I searched the rainbow imagery online, finding several heartwarming examples, but nothing that personally echoed my sentiments.

I thought to myself, "Why am I being so particular about this? Where can I find the right image? Should I create one?" Then I glanced to my right and nearly cried. And I realized why this issue is so close to my heart. I had created one, years and years ago.

On the inside panel of my desk armoire hangs this mandala:

I painted it the summer of 1993, when I was 15. It's an illustration of Love. Back then, I was a budding idealist planning to save the world. Back then, I wanted to transform all the haters with a hug and a smile. Back then, I had the heart of a child and the mind of sage. Back then, finding the love of my life was a hopeless, romantic dream.

People doubted me and people judged me, but I found my soulmate. I held onto him. I would not let him go. And I am here to say Love is real. Love is a power I've built my life on. Love is pure. Love is selfless. Love is kindness. Love is inspirational. 

In this world of cynicism, division, judgment, and callousness, for Love to be held up and valued is a rare feat. In a world where people are growing up and deciding Love only exists in the movies, where disconnection and individualism are trendy, where falling into a fairy tale is viewed as naive, it's life-affirming to hear the highest court in the land embrace the value of Love.

Today is a fairy tale for so many. As Barack Obama said in his address this morning, "Love is love." Love wins today. Love wins. It's the greatest victory, and I'm proud to be alive to see it.

One Question Can Transform Your Hobby Into a Career

I always wanted to be a creative professional. I never wanted to be a starving artist. There's a misconception that creative people can't build a career, that they have to follow their passions, socialize at art events, and blindly hope to get discovered. It's not true.

When I was in college, I decided I wanted to be a freelance graphic designer. But first, I wanted to work at an ad agency for a few years to build some experience. My junior year of college, I got a part-time internship at a local agency. When I graduated, they hired me.

After a couple of years, a colleague referred a freelance client to me. I hadn't started freelancing yet, and wondered if it was premature. But, I checked with my supervisor for approval to freelance in my spare time (some agencies don't allow that), and with his nod, forged ahead.

Less than a year later, I quit my job to freelance full-time.

I'll be clear, I didn't have enough clients to keep me busy full-time. I didn't have a safety net. The economy was slow. The agency was struggling. I had tried to get another job without luck. I decided, if my finances were going to suffer, I wanted to be responsible for my income (having become quite irregular). I gave them two weeks notice and started panicking.

My first home office. We gotta start somewhere, right?

Work was very slow at first. I had one client and contacts at a few local vendors. I asked everyone to keep me in mind and spread the word. I organized my home office, bought a few supplies, and hoped I wouldn't have to move in with my parents. Then, something enormous happened. A new client found me. They were not happy with the agency's service anymore and wanted to work with me—shiny, new freelancer me.

From there, work became much more steady. Word-of-mouth referrals grew my clientele. Here I am, years later, supporting my family entirely with freelance design.

Most people attribute my success to the quality of my services. I know that's a big part of it. But there's another part no one really talks about, and to me, it's more influential than anything else. I took a chance, a huge chance. I leaped into this scenario without knowing it would work. I saw a goal and moved toward it, unaware of whether it would be attainable.

If you have an artistic hobby, and want it to be your livelihood, start treating it like one. Ask yourself this one question:

Where do you want to be in five years?

You need goals. You might need more education. You need a functional workspace. You need a schedule that provides recurring work hours. You need an online presence. 

Come up with a career plan. Figure out what your next goal is, and take steps to get there. As long as you treat your creative endeavor like a past-time, that's how it will remain. You have to treat it like a profession before it will become one.