The word itself kindled all sorts of hopes and dreams inside. It seemed like I had been job hunting for decades when I saw that word. I was fishing around the interwebs when a link to Duke University’s website took over my screen. The title for the job was refreshingly simple, given the over-wordy job titles through which I had been hopelessly scrolling: WRITER. And the status of this job? OPEN.
Now I adore my job at Posh the Salon in Durham. I love the girls there and I love my work. I adore writing all their posts and designing their website and their marketing materials. And I also loved the process of writing a book. But I like to keep my eye out on how other writers make it in the world these days, so I started snooping around for an answer: Are there any full-time writing gigs out there?
Now back to the Duke job. There are jobs you know you’re mostly qualified for and once you get in the interview, you sort-of fake the parts you aren’t as experienced in, or at least beam with wide-eyed willingness to learn. And then there are jobs you know you’re meant for, the ones you could do in your sleep or do for free because you love them so much. Those don’t come around often. This one was one of those jobs. They wanted a story-teller to tell the happenings of the Duke community and put all those stories in a magazine. They didn’t just want a copywriter filling up useless space. They wanted stories.
Right after the “lucky for you Duke, I’m a storyteller!“thought exploded in my mind, another one overpowered it. And this one wasn’t nearly as hopeful.
Problem: Duke has so many people and so many departments, it should probably have its own zip code. I’m not buddy-buddy with anyone there, and you don’t get a leg up in a place like Duke without knowing somebody.
My mind started doing the crazy-talk thing again (my ladies out there know what I mean), while it switched subjects ten times:
Ugh. I’ll never get a writing job. No one cares that I wrote a book. And they’re all probably freaked out that it’s a Christian one anyway. In the magazine-world, being an author doesn’t matter. And neither does being a womens’ speaker. And to top it off, I majored in the wrong area. Math?! Really?! I should’ve been a journalism major. WAY TO GO ASH. This week is a huge steaming pile of #lamesauce. Oh, oh, wait. That’s a hashtag idea right there! Lame sauce. I could call over-the-counter products lame sauce when compared to the Posh salon products. Speaking of the salon, I need to get my hair colored. This last “hair adventure” was not exactly a winner. And who would hire a writer with catastrophic hair?! No one. I’ll never get to write.
Let’s just quicken up the story and say I got out of the crazy-mind-place and put my feelers out there, combed through my contacts, if you will. I made three connections in the very office in which I was applying. I had a person all but place my resume on the desk of the man-in-charge! I was sure to at least get an interview.
But something happened. I’ve always known words have irreversible power over the human heart. I just hadn’t felt one of them hit so hard in a while.
I stared at the screen for a while. They had already filled the position by the time my resume landed anywhere important. I usually deal with difficult situations with logic. But this time, tears came out instead of rationale. I was angry I didn’t even get an interview. And I was even more angry that the situation somehow robbed me of my logic. I felt like a toddler trying to figure out the “Open, Shut” song–why do doors open and shut so fast around here? Why can’t they just stay open? And why do I care? I couldn’t figure out why I was so upset. I mulled it over.
I really love my current job. I was just looking around to see what kind of writing gigs are out there. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so…affected by this?
It took me a while to realize that when venturing out into a world we really love, even just to stick a toe into it, we carry all our hopes with us. A small rejection feels so amplified, so detrimental. If I had gotten turned down for a job selling makeup or clothes, I wouldn’t blink an eye. Because I don’t have a passion for those things. But I got turned down for an opportunity to write stories, to put words in an such an order that people can’t help but stop and think, or laugh, or connect to another human being. I felt so picked-over, so unseen. So patronized. I could hear the man in my head. Aw, sweet little Christian writer trying to get a big-bad job writing in the real world. You’re cute.
Losing an opportunity like this one made me scared to try again. I felt like a failure. Correction, a naive failure. There’s nothing worse than being the young, vibrant, hopeful, excited newbie on the chopping block of an industry that’s drying up. But that’s where I found myself.
Because the young soul in all of us thinks we can win. We think we can make it regardless of the obstacles. It’s why we like underdog movies. It’s why everyone loves that girl from Coyote Ugly–because we all want to believe a broke, backwoods bartender can write a million-dollar country song.
But that one word on the screen told me otherwise. Maybe there are other Coyote Ugly girls out there who will break the writing mold, Ash. And maybe people will pay to read their stories or see them in a film. But not you, Ash. Not this time.
I could feel Him in the midst of my self-deprecating conversation with myself. God, I mean. As I was stuffing my face full of Sour Patch Kids, I knew He wanted me to talk to Him about it.
ME: Yes, yes, yes. I know. You’re in control and you’re good and you’re blah, blah, blah. And I’m a crappy writer. Cheers.
GOD: What are you doing right now?
ME: Because I have to. It comes out of me. The words that happen in my head aren’t happy until they’re on paper. At least that’s how it feels.
GOD: But it’s not your job right now. Why are you doing it?
ME: Because I love to.
GOD: And who wires people to love things?
ME: Ugh.YOU. It’s all your fault!
GOD: Yes, yes. It’s all my fault. Now, why do I wire people to love things?
ME: You ask so many questions. I don’t know why you wire people to love things.
GOD: Because I love to do it. I love to see people enjoy things and get passionate about them. Do I get paid to do this?
GOD: Does it make me any less of an artist?
ME: I guess not.
GOD: So does the rejection of Duke make you any less of a writer?
ME: I see where you’re going. But shouldn’t I pursue what I love?
GOD: Of course. I love people. I pursue them with all I have. It’s what you do when you love something.
ME: But people reject you all the time. (Oh my gosh. God deals with rejection all the time, just like humans do. He really can sympathize with our suffering. Fascinating! Log that away for further investigation later…)
GOD: Focus, love. What did I do when you rejected me for all those years? Can you remember?
ME: You kept pursuing. You didn’t give up on me. You pulled me to you. Sometimes I was so enamored by you and other times I was kicking and screaming like a toddler. But all the while, you kept pursuing me. You kept…coming closer in a way.
GOD: Why? Why would I keep going even though I got rejected?
ME: Well. Hm. Because the intensity of your love outweighed the pain of rejection.
And as it goes with most of my time in prayer, I felt lighter after talking with God. I didn’t want to pursue writing anymore with the motive of getting a killer job. I wanted to pursue it because I love it. And I will keep pursuing it because the intensity of my passion for words outweighs any pain of rejection.
So I wrote about a billion emails, far and wide, to publishers of all sorts of magazines. I sent writing clips and book excerpts and speaking clips. I kept pursuing. A lot of unanswered emails happened, as well as some “we’ll get back to you in 4-6 weeks due to all the submissions we get monthly” auto-responses.
One email came back with a bright and bubbly woman named Adriana who was the chief publisher/editor for Inspired Women Magazine. She actually watched the full 30 minute message I gave at a recent conference and asked to feature me on the front page of the magazine. On top of that, she asked me to be a contributing writer for Inspired Women! I couldn’t believe it. And I was thankful to have a God that walks me through my messy mind. And I was also thankful for going through the “open, shut” scenario. Doors opening and shutting end up giving you a path, helping you decide where you want to go. I’m sure I’ll have many more confusing experiences like this one, and I’m grateful that I’m a little more prepared for them.
I hope you enjoy the interview she recorded. I keep reading it, wondering if it’s real!