Reaching out

It’s been a while since I last blogged. So long, in fact, that I was a little worried I wouldn’t remember how to do it; as in, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to access the backend of my website. I’d like to say that such carelessness with regard to something that was once a deeply important, even intrinsic, part of my life is uncharacteristic. But as anyone who has racked up a few decades on this earth will understand, it’s not the first time this has happened.

A week or so ago I wrote about this in the CIEP forums:

Personally I’ve had so many existences at this point (in my twenties and early thirties I had between 25 and 30 ‘permanent’ addresses, and we won’t even get started on the husbands…) that I start to feel I am incapable of hanging on to anything. It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in that feeling, and that it’s normal, inevitable, even if unbearably sad when you start thinking about it. I do sometimes think of all the people I’ve known, liked and loved over the decades and wonder if I will ever see some of them again.

For context, I was considering not renewing my membership of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, and had told people I was leaving and where they could contact me going forward (in case they cared and/or didn’t know). This led on to a thread in which I eventually performed a semi-public U-turn, realising that I was an editor for life in spirit if no longer in job title. So I remain a member. But what I wrote about shedding past existences like snakeskins stands.

This past year or so, while I’ve been adjusting to being an employee rather than running my own business, I’ve been so taken up with managing the change that I’ve felt unable to write outside of work as I once did. I sensed that this would correct itself in time, and this morning when I woke up I realised that the time is now. I’ve missed blogging so much, but I haven’t quite known how to restart the conversation, even if I could log into WordPress. What’s my angle, if I’m no longer a freelance editor? How much myself can I still be, in public? Do I have anything left worth saying? What’s my actual point? My mouth had metaphorically gone dry and I simply couldn’t form the words to express what I was feeling.

Then yesterday at work, I watched a Ted Talk, which was part of a larger training session I was attending. It was about procrastination, and it hit home. When it comes to the small stuff, I’m not really a procrastinator, not any more. If I have a task to do, I get it done. Freelancing will do that to you even if it’s not part of your nature. If you don’t do the thing, you won’t get paid, and that focuses the mind. So I was watching this talk feeling smug, thinking this is very funny but it doesn’t apply to me. But then the speaker got on to the subject of long-term procrastination, and suddenly I remembered that when I was 22 I wanted to be a writer. I was going to write a book (a travel/food memoir about the year I’d just spent in Malaysia, if you really want to know). And then I thought I’d better get a proper job and spent the next 24 years as an editor instead.

At my current job, and probably many other places of work, an expression that gets used a lot is ‘reaching out’. I can honestly say I’d never reached out before December 2023. Prior to that I’d only been sending emails or, at a push, picking up the phone. The cynic in me took a while to acquiesce to the unfamiliar terminology, yet now I find I’m reaching out many times a day almost as easily as breathing, and sometimes even urging others to reach out to me in return. And it’s OK, it’s not shameful, this business speak; in fact it’s rather beautiful. After all, what else do we have, if not reaching out to each other? What really means anything if we can’t connect and share?

And that’s why I’m writing. While I was thinking out loud in the forums about my CIEP membership, several editorial colleagues told me that they’d always enjoyed my blogs. My aim with blogging was ostensibly about promoting my business, showcasing my editorial/freelancing knowledge, perhaps even veering towards content marketing. But I could never quite stick to that script. It always ended up being something more personal, less professional, and perhaps the better for it. Even if only ten people read one of my posts and it resonated with a couple of them, that was plenty. That was all I wanted. And I still do.

In future I’d like to write about the transition from self-employment to being an employee, particularly in mid-life, and I have a lot to say. That will come. For now I’m simply opening my mouth, breaking my silence. The first word can be the hardest. And that’s now hundreds of words in the past. Here I am, reaching out.

I’m back.

12 Comments on “Reaching out”

  1. Great to read this, Liz, and thanks for sharing your feelings about CIEP membership. For what it’s worth, I chose to leave as I felt my work on the council was done, and my professional life had long moved past editing and proofreading (in fact, I was always a bit of an impostor there given that writing had been my main gig since 2009).

    I hope being an employee is everything you need it to be for you, and that you know where to *reach out* should you or your colleagues ever need to get some insider knowledge on LinkedIn.

    Welcome back to blogging!

    PS. “in my twenties and early thirties I had between 25 and 30 ‘permanent’ addresses” 😱

  2. Thanks, John. I really appreciate your comment… and I would always recommend you as a source of LinkedIn expertise!

    I really like being an employee. I think I’m fortunate to have landed in a very civilised workplace. I loved working for myself, but I knew I was ready for a complete change. It certainly has been that… even if I remain at the same desk most of the time.

  3. What a lovely entrée into blogging again this is. With some of my clients and would-be clients I try to get them to write about, or at least acknowledge in print, those forces they think are preventing them from writing. Their anxieties, uncertainties and self-sabotage are likely rich ground for good prose. (‘The first word can be the hardest. And that’s now hundreds of words in the past.’)

    As for your story, many of us are keen to hear you describe that transition you have a lot to say about. It’s rich ground.

  4. So pleased you’re back blogging, Liz, and I very much look forward to reading what you have to say next, particularly about the transition between being freelance and being self-employed. I’m someone who has always existed professionally in the transitional place between being a client and being a supplier – always both and never entirely neither. I’ve found this enormously enriching and inspiring in the perspectives it’s given me. I’m sure you will have many thought-provoking words to share (as you always have)!

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