This is from my monthly personal letter, sent out February 23, 2018.
All week I’ve been thinking about this quote I recently bumped into:
“Your best work involves timing. If someone wrote the best hip-hop song of all time in the Middle Ages, he had bad timing.” – Scott Adams
(I shared it in this week’s 5 Quick Things email, so if you get it, you’ve already seen it.)
I’ve been letting that surprising sentence marinate in my mind all week as I work on current projects, brainstorm new ones, and tidy up older ones so I can move on from them.
I’m in a season of transition, of closing the door on some things I’ve worked on for years, all in anticipation of having enough brainspace, energy, and time to start new things. I can’t help but think about time.
• 10+ years ago, it was the right time for me to start a blog and write about simplifying my life. I was living abroad, re-learning how to do everything, and I had small kids underfoot and baking in my oven. Luckily (for you, horrifying for me), there’s evidence out there how it looked its first year.
• 8 years ago, it was the right time to publish my first book about—yep, simple living.
• 7 years ago, it was the right time for me to start dabbling in podcasting, to get my feet wet in that medium (even though I was super unprofessional, inconsistent, and sans-agenda).
• 4 years ago, it was the right time to publish my second book, a sort of “bridge” book between my original message of simple living with what felt like my new message: learning how to live well from the world. We were preparing to travel around said world later that year.
• 2.5 years ago, it was the right time to re-launch my podcast as The Simple Show, with a new format and newly-tweaked message.
• 1 year ago, it was the right time to publish my third book, a travel memoir—an entirely new niche for me, written in a style completely different from anything I’d yet done.
• Last month, it was the right time for me to start a new podcast about a brand new topic that gets my heart pumping: creative women who do interesting things, and their stories we usually miss.
This year, I’m sensing it’s the right time to try my hand at fiction, something I’ve wanted to do since I was 11 years old.
If I’d tried to launch Women’s Work in 2008, it wouldn’t have worked. And I wouldn’t have been interested in it.
If I first tried to write fiction before publishing three non-fiction books, it wouldn’t have gone well for me. I needed to understand the craft and business of book-writing before attempting something that feels (to me) so much harder.
If I started a brand new blog this week about simple living, it would be a much different experience. And I don’t think, in my current life, I’d have the interest needed to sustain its success.
Heart matters. Interest matters. Craft matters. Skill matters. But so does plain ol’ timing.
I’ll be the first to admit that it sucks when you really want to do something, but it’s just not the right time. I’ve had countless moments when I wanted to create a new thing, but the response wasn’t a “yes.” It wasn’t a “no,” either—it was a “not yet.”
In what areas of your life are you hearing “not yet”? Is there a project you want to pursue, a new skill you want to cultivate, a line of work you’d like to switch to, but the answer seems to be “not yet”? You know it’s not a rejected no… it’s just not the right time.
I hear you. I have this, too. It can be hard.
Here’s my encouragement to you (and me) as we wait on the right time:
1. Write down your ideas, and why they excite you. It’ll help you remember, and it’ll help you channel some of your energy.
2. Do what you can with what you have. Maybe you have 30 minutes a day while the baby naps to take an online course to build that skill you want. Perhaps you can do that thing as a hobby on the weekends right now, instead of opening an online shop to sell it.
3. Be patient. And by this, I mean continue to cultivate your interest, but while you wait, don’t neglect the things you need to do now.
You know as well as me that time flies. Right now, you’re up to your elbows in dirty diapers, but you’ll blink, and suddenly that baby will be in school, and then you’ll have more time to pursue that thing.
Or right now where you live isn’t a good fit, but a year from now you’ll be living somewhere entirely new—and lo and behold, it’s the just-right spot for you to start the new thing that feels just-right.
Patience is key to not frustrating yourself by writing a hip-hop hit in the Middle Ages.
Let time do its thing, and let it reveal the right moment to do what lights you up. It’ll be easier, more fun, and more do-able.
In the meantime, I’ll be here, waiting for the right time to pursue the 4,382 ideas I have, too. And by waiting, I mean doing well with what I’ve been given today: taking my elementary and middle school kids to their things, making my podcasts, and writing this letter to you.
And trying my hand at fiction.
Much grace to you,