And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
We make plans. We set priorities and take stock and consider reality and then do the best we can. But sometimes, God has other plans.
While working towards my MFA, I was holding down a part-time job at a locally-based nonprofit. It was a small staff working on a shoestring budget to produce events and publications for a decent-sized membership. The strict definition of my title was a list of tasks, mostly repetitive, dealing with paperwork and record keeping. In the year or so after my graduation, the job had evolved into a sort of catch-all. That was fine in some ways, not so much in others, but it was still tolerable. Until I was given a choice: assume some duties for which I was neither trained nor with which I was comfortable, or someone would be hired who would—and who would do my regular tasks as well.
During that year, I’d also taken on some freelance editing, mostly book manuscripts by people I knew. It was a sideline and I’d had no thoughts of trying to make it more than that.
I was faced with that choice, though, and neither option was palatable, so I took charge of the situation and found a third door: the one marked “freedom.”
Leaving a job that was earning me a steady paycheck during a bad recession wasn’t easy, but it felt like the right decision. I was relying on myself, though, not thinking about what God might have in mind, so I made a plan. I was going to freelance full-time as a stopgap until I found something else. I gave myself a year.
That was three years ago. The “stopgap” has become permanent. The editing has taken off in ways I never dreamed possible. Word of mouth has been my most effective marketing tool; friends and family my biggest cheerleaders; and a dictionary, style guide, and laptop are my coworkers. This summer I purchased a new desk and office chair, reconfigured my workspace, and considered it a business investment.
No, this isn’t what I had in mind three years ago when I left my “real” job. Some days I still don’t consider this a “real” job, but friends and family tell me it’s as “real” as any job out there. I don’t always keep office hours and I sometimes work late into the night, or on weekends, or on holidays, or all of the above, but the benefits outweigh those cons, and I don’t just mean the lack of a commute or being my own boss. Those pros are in how every editing project is different and I learn something from each. They’re in the stories that grab me and take up residence in my imagination, staying long after the editing is finished. They’re in the authors themselves, how I have the chance to work with them, and how I feel when they tell me their writing has improved and how that grammar concept now makes sense and that they now feel energized, inspired, and ready to dive back in and write the next draft or send it out for publication.
Family and friends tell me I have a talent for this, that it’s my purpose. I wouldn’t have believed it three years ago. Some days, I’m still not sure. I had a plan, I thought I knew what I needed to do, and I thought I could never make a freelancer’s life work long-term.
I was looking for a “real” job, but a very “real” job found me, despite my plans.
God had other plans.
Susan E. Kennedy is a freelance editor and proofreader. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and Nonfiction from Southern New Hampshire University, and is a member of the Amoskeag literary journal’s editorial board (http://amoskeagjournal.com/). Her essays and short stories have appeared in several publications, and she is currently at work on a historical novel. Information about her editing services can be found here: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/susan-e-kennedy-mfa/21/337/bb0 and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.