Burning Match

How long can a flame burn bright?

Just over twelve months ago, I started The Big Speakeasy blog. I remember pulling an all-nighter to get it up and running. Not because of any time imperative – just because I was so excited to be doing this new thing that could channel some creative energy and drive. I just kept going until it was done.

I was also in the throes of figuring out how to start The Big Speakeasy freelance writing and communication business. I was so buzzed about the possibilities of what I might achieve, I just wrote a list and made it all happen. Well – after getting great advice some really amazing people who successfully ran their own businesses (Jennifer, Kelly, Jillian, Sally, Mel – I am eternally grateful). But the point is, I had a real fire in my belly – and everything seemed to fall into place.

In 2010, The Big Speakeasy was a personal and professional life saver. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it. It was certainly a sanity preserver and a spiritual boost. It was what really mattered to me. It kept me challenged, fulfilled and nurtured. I felt good about what I was doing.

I had a few clients – a couple of steady ones for whom I wrote regular, small communication pieces; and some bigger projects as well. Throw into the mix some review and editing work and I started to get a handle on what this independent consulting gig might be all about. All while I juggled full-time employment.

And I loved it. All of it.

I’d sit up to the wee hours of the morning, making sure I met deadlines and kept my promises. I made sure I got the necessary stuff done in my day job during normal work hours, so I could go home and work on my ‘baby’. And for my efforts, I was rewarded with gratitude. I mean, sure, my invoices got paid, but my clients have been so openly, genuinely grateful that someone understood what they needed and got it done, when and how it was promised. They were so thankful I considered doing some of it just as a favour. Well – almost. Honestly – I was drunk on appreciation.

Last year, I lived for that work – it’s what kept me going. It nourished my soul to do interesting work that I loved and be acknowledged for it. It validated a lot of questions I was asking myself professionally. It fanned the flames.

Now, twelve months on, I’m still quietly ambitious about the possibilities for The Big Speakeasy. Yet I have spoken to only a couple of clients in 2011 and I’ve definitely not chased a single new one. I have no current work in progress. And I don’t even really mind. It seems I may have lost that passion and determination – that fire in my belly. It’s more like a warm glow.

So what happened? Who – or what – put the fire out?

Change.

Specifically, one of employment – I have a new full-time job.

Sometimes I see change almost as a singular entity; a power unto itself, both good and bad. This may not be quite the change I’d hoped for and semi-planned in my head. But it’s good none-the-less.

I think this recent shift – this fire-extinguishing change, if you will – is good change. It feels comfortable; but not too comfortable. It’s challenging and stretches me; but not too challenging. It’s not too hot, burning too brightly; and not so cold as to disengage me. This change feels just right.

Now, instead of wishing each day would hurry up and finish so I can get home and work on what really matters to me, the hours fly by and I can hardly believe it when 5pm rolls around. I love going to work in the middle of a buzzing university campus. There’s a vibrancy and energy and sense of community that you just don’t get walking amongst the other drones in the CBD.

There’s so much to do, and so much to learn. And I have a team! Not a communications team, but a close knit working group who all pull together for the good of the organisation. For real. And there’s a great network with the other communicators who work in similar organisations. So now, my day job isn’t something that represents an obstacle to what I really want to be doing, it’s something else that I really want to be doing. How lucky am I?

The learning for me here has been a realisation about where the drive came from to create The Big Speakeasy. It was a way of taking care of myself, as well as being validating and uplifting.

For now, I think The Big Speakeasy will simmer along quietly while my day job occupies most of my thoughts and energy. I don’t believe the fire is actually out, though. It’s more like a slow burn, which is more sustainable anyway – something that will, with a bit of care and maintenance, endure.