When I was Pre-Law and Other Wrong Turns Towards the Right Path

Photo by D. Sharron Pruitt via Flickr

Photo by D. Sharron Pruitt via Flickr

One of my most popular posts in 2012 was titled “I’m Not an Aspiring Novelist.” To recap, a regular reader of this blog asked my advice about keeping up an engaging site while working on a novel. She wondered if the blog got in the way of the fiction, how there was time for both (especially since I have four kids), and how I managed to flip back and forth between the two types of writing while keeping up with the social media element of the blogging community.

Her questions forced me to be honest with myself. Although I kept saying that I hoped to publish a novel one day, I had been using all of my writing time to work on my blog as well as articles for other websites. I decided in the middle of writing her back that I would stop calling myself an aspiring novelist. I had written two novels and somewhat enjoyed the process at the time, but I loved writing blog posts and articles. I also had two more babies since I had been heavily into the fiction. I accepted that I simply could not “do it all,” nor did I want to, at least not while the kids were (and still are) so young.

Once I was able to say aloud that I wasn’t actually a wizard of balancing, that I was, frankly, not working on a novel anymore, I was able to take the words “aspiring novelist” off my mental bio line. I eliminated the words from my blog, too. My new goal for the rest of 2012 was to keep my blog growing steadily and to continue getting my work into new venues.

Changing my career goal mindset was incredibly liberating and rewarding in exactly the ways Gretchen Rubin describes in The Happiness Project when she encourages letting go of certain hobbies and aspirations to make room for what you really enjoy. A few months after I changed my mindset from “aspiring novelist” to “blogger,” I had an essay accepted at Kveller.com, a well-respected parenting site with a Jewish twist that fits my writing style and interests perfectly. Then I was invited to write a monthly Twitter advice column for WriterUnboxed.com. Next I was asked to help lead a new book review site GreatNewBooks.org, and weeks later I had an essay included in an anthology called Living Jewishly. It seemed that after a year and a half of randomly blogging about what interests me most these days (parenting, Judaism, reading, and Twitter), I had earned the opportunity to write about each of those topics for a wider audience.

My husband often uses the expression “this is what it looks like” every time I report a new writing or blogging milestone. It’s not that each step has come easily. It hasn’t. Just ask Bryan what I was like during the year I was trying to get a literary agent with one of the books. But each positive step has felt like a natural outcome of the efforts and passion I have put forth. The novel-writing was certainly a goal I took seriously, but the roadblocks were endless. What Bryan means when he says “this is what it looks like” is “this is what it looks like when you’re on the right path.”

I’m hoping to keep moving forward on the right path. For 2013, I would like to continue finding new outlets for my work. I’ve started thinking of myself as a freelance writer, adding the words “freelance writer” to my social media bios as an extra push in the right direction. At first I felt a little silly doing so, but when I look at the “Published Writing” tab in my blog’s menu, I see that I’ve amassed a respectable collection of writing credits. My hope is that adding the words freelance writer to my mental (and literal) bio will have the same effect as eliminating the words aspiring novelist. It’s less about making an announcement to the world and more about keeping myself honest and aware of my personal intentions.

I know that letting go of an image you had for yourself or one you think others have for you can feel insurmountable. I experienced this during my senior year in college. For most of college I was on a pre-law track. I spent a summer in Washington DC interning at the Equal Employment Opportunity Center with that goal in mind, as well as a semester in Santiago researching women’s roles in the (then) new democratic government of Chile. Then I came back from Chile for my senior year of college fifteen pounds heavier and depressed. I dreaded writing the senior thesis that I’d spent a semester researching. I was dreading studying for the LSAT. I hated the political science and higher-level Spanish classes I had to complete for my majors, and the only class I loved was a memoir writing class that I’d chosen on a whim. It would be years before I would call myself a writer, but deciding not to go to law school was definitely a major step that led me on the right path.

I don’t really believe that there are “wrong” paths since each step in the wrong direction could be the thing that leads you in the right one eventually. I do think, however, that we can spend too much time worrying about we’re supposed to do because we once said we wanted to or because it’s what we think others want for us. We can spend too much time trying to bang down locked doors when the unlocked door might be two steps to the left if we’re only willing to try something else.

I would love to hear about a goal you have in mind for 2013. Is it possible that letting go of a previous goal could be the key to your success?

Also, please join me at Writer Unboxed for my January Twitter column “Resolve to Tweet Better in 2013” where I give advice like “stop welcoming new followers” and “stop tweeting about your stats.”

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina is a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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86 Responses to When I was Pre-Law and Other Wrong Turns Towards the Right Path
  1. El Phoenix Farris
    January 13, 2013 | 10:31 am

    I loved that original post and I love this one too. There was something almost magical for me, or magic-inducing, when I wrote “writer” as my occupation a few years ago. As far as the novelist/blogger thing, I am finding it harder and harder to blog and visit other blogs the more I write novels. Sometimes I dread certain aspects of blogging, so I’m taking that under advisement, and strictly limiting blogging to once a week. And I’m not going to submit anymore articles to magazines.

    I liked what you said above about letting doors lock or close so that we can pursue the right openings. For me, if it (a task, time investment, or opportunity) helps me write novels, I am pursuing it; otherwise, it’s out of consideration. Or so I hope.

    As usual, a really thoughtful blog post.
    El Phoenix Farris recently posted..My Son: Holding Tight, Not Letting GoMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 9:48 pm

      I love have your perspective here, El, as I know you’re heavily on the fiction end now. It goes back to my reader “Rachel’s” original question about how it’s possible to balance the fiction and the blogging. I think some people (maybe without kids, perhaps, or without another job) are able to carve out time for both. But if you’re juggling kids and another job, I think you have to LOVE both to do both well.

      Once a week is for sure a better blogging schedule for you. It’s what I do too, actually!

  2. Lindsey
    January 13, 2013 | 11:56 am

    I love this. The image of wrong turns towards the right path is so perfect, so resonant. One of my most popular posts on my blog is about retrospect and prospect, of our desperate need for their to be a plan and an order, and ends with the EL Doctorow quote about being able to see only as far as our headlights, but being able to make the whole drive that way. It is so hard not to panic, at least for me, when I can only see a little way out. But I’m learning that that’s really all we can ever see. Anything we think we can plan beyond that is an illusion. xoxo

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 9:50 pm

      Oh yikes, that’s been a life challenge for me (only seeing as far as the headlights). I get better at it with age the more I see that intricate plans often change anyway. I’ve learned to have more faith in myself to make the right choices when the time comes to make a new one. I know we share that (among other qualities!)

  3. Jen Zeman
    January 13, 2013 | 12:02 pm

    At the end of 2012 I also let go of the idea of writing fiction. I created three different novel-length manuscripts that never garnered attention from an agent. But after really learning what life is like for a published author, I realized it was not the life I was looking for (I’m looking to reduce stress levels, not add to them). It was liberating to let the idea go, knowing I will continue to write for my soon-to-be published website. I will also be able to now pursue my other passion – drawing! :)

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 9:51 pm

      Can’t for the new website. And how cool that you’ll have time to paint. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing that here, Jen. (And thanks so much for the tweets about my Twitter article!)

  4. Susan
    January 13, 2013 | 12:06 pm

    Another great post Nina.

    I have recently gone through the same phenomenon of acceptance in my career. I absolutely love being a clinical social worker. The therapy that I do with my clients is interesting, engaging and so fun for me.

    For the past 10 months since the triplets were born, I have been saying that I am going back to work any day now. Each time I say it, my husband says “Ok, but how are you going to do that and still take the kids to all their doctor and therapy appointments, supervise the people who work for us, and still stay sane?”. Trust me when I say I have accused him a million times of not being supportive!!!

    But recently, I was filling out a form that asked my occupation and I had an internal dialogue about whether to write social worker or stay at home mom. It was the first time that I had been able to be honest with myself about what my role really is right now. My four kids, all with some form of special needs, need me to be their full time mother. I think admitting that has made me happier and a better mom.

    I will go back to being a therapist for sure but right now, acceptance of my current “job” is a good thing.

    Nina, I love the way you think and the way you bring your blog reading community together in dialogue. You have found your calling!

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 9:56 pm

      This gave me chills, Susan . . . just think that we’ve known each other since we were so so little. Look at us dealing with this side of motherhood together.

      For what it’s worth, my Grandma Pauline used to say that all women who want to spend some time at home (full time at some point then part time) should be a therapist of some kind because you’ll always have that license/degree and you can add more hours as time permits. (Something along those lines.)

      I think being a freelance writer works in that category too–I mean if you don’t want to make any money. 😉

  5. Olga
    January 13, 2013 | 12:13 pm

    Nina, it’s amazing, most of your posts make me want to have a three hour conversation -;) But I’ll try to be concise here.

    I loved to write during my college years. But I studied architecture instead. I loved to write when I graduated, but instead I worked as an architectural designer. I loved to write when my first son was born, and when I got together with friends to create a children’s program in New York. I loved to write for the next seven years too, but I worked hard on building and running this program. Finally, I realized that the years go by and I keep writing, but not seriously. The years go by and I keep telling myself that one day I will really write. But when?

    So, I’ve decided to do it, to really do it. I’ve announced to myself and to others that I will become a writer and do nothing else but write.

    It was at the same time that my blogging partner, Valerie, and I decided to write a parenting blog, to continue what we do a lot anyway — talking about our kids.

    The decision was difficult, but so far I am the happiest (professionally) than I’ve ever been. I am still hopeful to be able to write the blog and write fiction. I still believe that both can be done and done well.

    My goal for the blog is that it grows readership in 2013 and that Valerie and I continue having as much fun working on it as we have been having thus far.

    My goal for fiction writing is to write at least two paragraphs I’m proud of at least four times a week.

    Those are small steps. But I feel like I’ve waited to take them for so long that I can be patient with myself now.
    Olga recently posted..The Promised SlopesMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 9:59 pm

      I think those are very reasonable steps! For me, the main reason I had a hard time balancing the fiction and the blogging was that the fiction started to feel forced. I couldn’t land on a storyline for a novel that excited me in any way whatsoever. I’d get 25,000 words in and say to myself (about the plot) “so what?” Meanwhile, I was and still am constantly jotting down notes for blog posts and articles. It’s possible one day it will flip back for me where I’d rather be in the imaginary world. I know enough to know you NEVER know. 😉

      I appreciate your comment, too, about my posts making you want to discuss for hours. That means so much to me.

  6. Ruchi
    January 13, 2013 | 12:13 pm

    Alright. I will put the guitar away. 😉

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:01 pm

      ha! NO! I need to hear that. Made another connection to you by the way. EVERYONE knows you. You’re famous. Really.

  7. Renée Schuls-Jacobson
    January 13, 2013 | 12:32 pm

    Nina: I am a finisher. And I think I’ve been my own worst enemy in the last year. Because I have been unable to finish my fiction manuscript. This year, I have decided I am going to finish my WIP and self publish it. I am not going to try to query agents or beat myself up about publishing it traditionally. I just want to finish it. And put it out there. If it sells well, that will be wonderful. But mostly, I need to finish it. For myself.

    I love everything you said here. And I think there’s a lot of truth in letting some things go in order to make room for others. I think once I finish this project, I will have more mental space available to move onto other projects. I just have to birth this thing. I actually think it’s really important for me to be able to say I crossed this finish line. For me, that will actually represent letting go. I will open myself up to external scrutiny and I’m sure not all reviews will be positive. I need to feel that, I think.

    Even though I am more than essayist myself, I just need to finish this. Do you think I’m crazy?
    Renée Schuls-Jacobson recently posted..Lessons From A New York Vagrant #SoWrongMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:03 pm

      I know how much you believe in this book and the story you’re telling and that makes all the difference. I never felt that way about the two books I finished. Nor did I feel that way about the four others I started. I think only you know what’s right for you. If your gut says you have to see it through, then you have to see it through!

      It seems that a handful of our blogging buddies are self-publishing this year. It must be going well!

  8. Eva
    January 13, 2013 | 12:42 pm

    One of the best articles that I have read this new year. Very inspirational! I’m finally planning to go back to grad school for Creative Writing. I’m finally doing something that I always wanted to do but was too scared of doing!

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:06 pm

      That’s awesome! You’ll love being surrounded by people doing the same thing for a while. I took some writing classes at The Loft in Minneapolis, which is not a grad program, but they are serious classes for adults. I’ve loved them all.

      Thanks for chiming in here, Eva.

  9. Anne R. Allen
    January 13, 2013 | 1:14 pm

    So much wisdom here! I think one of the keys to success in any field is focus. But when you’re starting out, you don’t know what that focus will be–so you HAVE to try a lot of different options. Zeroing in on what you REALLY want is part of the process. People who stay stuck at the “trying different options” phase can be like those people who spend their lives collecting PhDs and debt. Not a good plan. So at a certain point, we have to force ourselves to choose. One of the hardest things to do. But I love the way you’ve made the transition. You’re now a multi-published essayist. If you turn out to be an essayist who also writes novels, all the better. But you’re using one focus to make your name in the world. Congrats. And thanks for a great post.

    For myself, it was about choosing to be a mystery novelist and not a literary writer, which is what I had aspired to for decades. But I’d rather be a successful genre writer than an unpublished literary one.
    Anne R. Allen recently posted..The Number One Mistake New Writers MakeMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:09 pm

      Meanwhile, you are also a great essayist as each of your blog posts should be in Publisher’s Weekly or something to help as many up-and-coming writers as possible. You’re doing such a great service for the people coming along after you now that you’ve paved the way in this “Brave New World” of publishing.

      I really like your point about focus. That’s so true. It was been for me, at least.

      • Anne R. Allen
        January 14, 2013 | 11:24 pm

        Thanks so much, Nina–that’s very kind. It’s funny how my weekly blogposts have tens of thousands of readers–many more than I may ever get with my fiction. Maybe I should have been an essayist :-)
        Anne R. Allen recently posted..The Number One Mistake New Writers MakeMy Profile

  10. Jessica Vealitzek
    January 13, 2013 | 1:15 pm

    Spot on — it’s so important, I finally found, to call yourself what you want to be, even if, as you say, you feel silly at first. I’d been writing for years and years, both professionally and personally, before I finally called myself a writer, and finally wrote the book I’d always wanted to. It’s propelled me forward. And, like you, I’ve been taking stock of what makes me happy and am planning to make some small changes–I absolutely love blogging, but it and social media have been sucking me away from writing, like they did you, only for me, I’m deciding to focus more on writing novels and try not to sway with every “must” about social media. Great post!
    Jessica Vealitzek recently posted..True StoryMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:11 pm


      It’s so important to make time limits on the social media. I have to FORCE myself off to get anything done. But I do it! (And should do it more.)

  11. Lara Schiffbauer
    January 13, 2013 | 2:40 pm

    I’m so excited for all the opportunities that have come your way. Growing up, my mom always said she knew she was on the right path when things were smooth. If she had to fight too hard, she figured maybe it (whatever “it” was) wasn’t right for her or she wasn’t going about it at the right time. It was great advice that I think has made me much more accepting of how my life has gone. I firmly believe we have to work to get what we want, but there has to be a balance between perseverance and contentment.

    My goal for 2013 is to experiment with self-publishing. It’s scary to take away the external approval traditional publishing provides, but I had the same kind of moment you described when you took off aspiring novelist when I’d finally made the decision. We’ll see how it goes!
    Lara Schiffbauer recently posted..Funny Photo FridayMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:14 pm

      “there has to be a balance between perseverance and contentment.”

      Yes, I believe that, too. Jackie Cangro also makes a great point below about making sure to know when it’s time to move on or when it’s really time to work harder. That can be hard to decipher. The truth is in many cases no amount of perseverance will open that door. But in other cases it will! I guess the truth is there is not just ONE right path. We have to try many along the way.

  12. mairedubhtx
    January 13, 2013 | 2:44 pm

    My goal for 2013 (one of them, anyway) is to edit my memoir book and get it ready for publishing. It’s been sitting with the editor’s comments for months and I haven’t gotten to it for various reasons, one being my hard drive crashed as I was doing the edits and I have to start over. Another goal is to blog SOMETHING every day; to force myself to take the daily prompt and come up with something decent. If I can’t, then take another prompt from an earlier daily prompt that I didn’t do or from BlogHer or come up with my own idea. The point is to write every day. Those are my goals for 2013, at least in the writing department. I hope these will help me be a better writer.

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:16 pm

      Oh my goodness–starting over–I think any writer who read that comment gasped. I know I did!

      I want to write every day. I don’t. Something I MIGHT be able to attempt in the fall when baby #4 starts pre-school a few mornings a week.

  13. Heather
    January 13, 2013 | 2:53 pm

    Great post! I have so many tangential goals I really should shelve a few, but I’m not sure yet which to nix.

    The clean house aspirations are gone, as are my lofty organizational plans. I do miss writing, but can’t let it go as a desire, so that one will just have to sit, waiting, for a while, as I just try to make a living.
    Heather recently posted..A Gift from One Late Person to AnotherMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:17 pm

      I have so many organizational projects that get put on hold. For example, It took me ALL of 2012 to order prints of the bazillion pictures we took all year.

  14. Cynthia Robertson
    January 13, 2013 | 2:58 pm

    This post speaks to something we all feel at times – whether to continue on, or to change directions. And you’re so right about how hard it can be to admit we are not really happy doing what we think we should be. I felt that for many years.
    “I don’t really believe that there are “wrong” paths since each step in the wrong direction could be the thing that leads you in the right one eventually.”
    I especially love this bit of deep insight; only someone who has experienced this knows how true it is. And once experienced, it makes it so much easier to get over the angst of altering course in the future – knowing there are no wrong paths, but only ones we’ve outgrown. That insight and flexibility make life exciting!
    Great post :-)

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:20 pm

      I love the use of the word, outgrown, Cynthia. Because that’s really what I’ve experienced, but I haven’t thought to use that word. There was a time when gong to law school made perfect sense to me and excited me a lot. But as I got closer to the time that I would be preparing to go, I realized my goals and desires had changed. I had outgrown that goal!

  15. molly
    January 13, 2013 | 5:11 pm

    Nina, I love this post. It’s funny, because I might not have even visited your blog if you hadn’t had that “aspiring writer” in your profile, but I’ve come to love your parenting and Jewish posts even though I don’t have kids and was raised Catholic. You have a fresh, honest voice.

    I also love your story about your pre-law experience. I am jealous of your experience in Chile, even if it wasn’t right for you! My undergrad was political science/international studies and grad school was in Latin American Studies, and I focused on gender and democratic transitions, so that would have been right up my alley!
    molly recently posted..Odd One Out: Looking for Alaska by John GreenMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:39 pm

      Molly–Oh! You would have loved the research I was doing. I was a double Poli/Sci & Spanish major. I was conducting the research in Spanish, but it was all for the thesis I was supposed to write for the Poli Sci major. I came home with a duffel of research and no clothes. I had grown out of all my clothes from eating WAY too much. Seriously. I gave them all to the granddaughters of the couple I was living with that semester.

      And thank you so much for what you said in the first part of your comment. I read that to Bryan. Really meant a lot.

  16. Carrie
    January 13, 2013 | 5:15 pm

    This post was exactly what I needed! I’ve been thinking about my 2013 goals over the past few weeks, and have been struggling with the opposite: I keep letting other things (freelance writing being one of them) get in the way of my fiction writing. I feel Bryan’s ‘this is what it looks like’ whenever I have a short story accepted. You’ve inspired me to follow the path I know that’s right. Thank you :)
    Carrie recently posted..Wishing You Warm & Wonderful Holidays!My Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:41 pm

      Carrie, so funny- I used to feel that about the short stories and now it’s flipped for getting articles out. I wonder if it will ever switch back for me or if I’ll be able to handle both. I have a few short stories out on submission that were not picked up last year. My heart isn’t in it like it used to be though.

      By the way, you were on of the people who inspired me to self-host the blog. It was a good move!

  17. Jolina Petersheim
    January 13, 2013 | 6:09 pm

    What a powerful post, Nina, and so eloquently written. I love how Bryan has stood beside you throughout your journey to the “write” door. What a testament to his belief in you (and his love). Ten months have passed since my daughter’s birth, but only now do I feel like it is getting easier. This greatly coincides with the fact that she is sleeping through the night (finally!), but also with the fact that I am also realizing I just cannot do it all. My meals are simpler, house “dirtier” (I am a neat freak), my hair may/may not be washed, but I always try to write and walk. Both things help me cope with the demands of motherhood. Come what may children-wise, I hope that I can continue those two outlets. (And also keep my family fed!)
    Jolina Petersheim recently posted..Confessions of a Coffee AddictMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:43 pm

      Sounds like your goals are reasonable, Jolina, and that will make all the difference. Some days I’m happy just to get a workout in and to visit some other blogs. Because there are days I can’t even do those two things (like every weekend, really.)

      Nate is FINALLY sleeping through the night. He was over a year. I really let it get out of hand with this one. It’s a last baby thing, I guess.

  18. Jackie Cangro
    January 13, 2013 | 8:06 pm

    You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about with this post. Growing up I thought I would be a journalist. But when I got to college, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of job. It just wasn’t my personality. The only part of it I enjoyed was the writing.

    It’s hard to know when it’s time to move on. Sometimes the going gets tough. Is that a sign to try something else? Or does it mean that you should just try harder?

    Good for you for finding the right path — and recognizing it when you got there.
    Jackie Cangro recently posted..Friday FiveMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:46 pm

      Your point about knowing when it’s time to work harder or move on is an important one. I quoted you above in response to Lara. And I’m going to quote something her mother used to say to her that she mentioned in her comment: ” . . . there has to be a balance between perseverance and contentment.”

      I think that applies to the same question. I don’t know the answer! I suppose each person needs to know when they are giving up out of fear and maybe a shred of laziness or when it really is time to move forward.

  19. Rebecca Einstein Schorr
    January 13, 2013 | 9:14 pm

    It is so important to recognize that our goals and dreams can change…and that is OK.

    My whole life had been pointing towards life in the theatre. Until I realized that was an old dream. I lovingly packed away that dream in order to make room for a new one, taking with me all of the skills I’d amassed along the way.

    You are going to have a fantastic 2013, Nina!!! And I feel fortunate to be cheering you on from the sidelines.
    Rebecca Einstein Schorr recently posted..Busy, Busy GirlMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:46 pm

      We are cheering each other on, my friend.

  20. Lisa Stowe
    January 13, 2013 | 10:47 pm

    What a great question. I’m not one to make resolutions but this concept of letting go of goals or dreams in order to be able to see the true dream or goal is fascinating. I’ve realized recently that I’ve been forced down this path for the past three years. I’ve fought every change, and am only now realizing that the changes are leading me where I need to be. One, which isn’t writing related, is letting go of my dream of having a house. I am learning that a home does not mean a house. I have a home with family, in a garage, oddly enough, and in a tiny cabin I lived in years ago and am returning to. Letting go of the dream of building a house has been very hard but realizing the difference between house and home has been a lesson I needed to learn. Thanks for making me think about this.
    Lisa Stowe recently posted..The Ghost of a StoryMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 14, 2013 | 10:47 pm

      Wow–Lisa, thank you for sharing that with us. What an important realization–the difference between house and home.

  21. Jennifer King
    January 14, 2013 | 1:49 am

    One of my personal goals for 2013 is to build more margin into my days. As a creative, I love to write (novels) and paint and photograph things that take my breath away. As a wife and mom, I love to spend time in the small moments that require full attention — the impromptu coffee shared with my husband or dear in-real-life friends, the extra minutes of playing a game or catching up with my sons in between the must-dos. Time is so fleeting, and having the mental space to be able to seize a moment in a meaningful way is most important to me. And somehow, having extra mental space fuels creativity for me. Something has to give to have more margin, and it turns out to be less internet time. It doesn’t have a title, but perhaps I should make one. Margin-seeker?
    Thank you for the inspiring post, Nina, and for being a beautiful soul who seeks to live her life to the fullest.
    Jennifer King recently posted..On Broken Hearts, Broken Bones, and HealingMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 1:57 pm

      Oh goodness, how true is this: “Something has to give to have more margin.”

      I find that more and more I keep myself too busy every second of the day. I feel as if I’m never doing just one thing. I’m giving the kids breakfast and making their lunches at the same time and roasting vegetables to eat later. It’s efficient, but I’m never just sitting down. I can think of 100 examples like that all day long. Not a lot of margin for free thinking AT ALL.

      Yes–less internet time would help!

  22. Alison
    January 14, 2013 | 1:49 am

    I love how your posts seem to always sync with my current mindset.

    I ‘resigned’ from my voluntary position at a website today, after nearly 2 years, doing all sorts of wonderful things with the ladies there, watching it grow to what it is today, knowing I was part of that.

    But since I refocused to freelance writing, and growing my social media business, I knew I had to let it go. I’d battled with doing that for months, feeling sentimental about it, but knowing that the time I had to spend on it, was taking time away not just from my kids, but from what I wanted and needed to do with the things that bring me great joy and satisfaction.

    And so I gave a week’s notice, and I feel so much relief. I am sad that I had to, but happier for it overall. It’s the right thing for me, and a fair thing for them to find someone who is fully dedicated, to fill my spot.
    Alison recently posted..Memories Captured – January LinkupMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 1:58 pm

      You know, I’m sure it will be a great opportunity for someone else, like you said. That feeling of relief is important. When you feel it that strongly you know it was the right call!

  23. Alarna Rose Gray
    January 14, 2013 | 4:54 am

    I’ve definitely had many moments like this in my life, and I vow if writing ever becomes a drudgery, my goal will have to change. So far, that’s not the case, but financial goals have to become more of a focus this year. Not entirely sure how those two things go together yet. But full respect to you for the path you’ve chosen… Nothing is ever wasted. I believe that.
    Alarna Rose Gray recently posted..Return of the PepMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 2:17 pm

      I also think that “nothing is ever wasted” is true for every unpublished paragraph. It’s all useful, even if just for ourselves.

  24. Lisha Fink
    January 14, 2013 | 10:17 am

    I’ve reinvented myself many times since graduating from college with my fancy Liberal Arts degree — with no regrets. My husband, on the other hand, has stuck to his path in the IT field. Every time I suggested switching tracks, he say he would be “wasting his degree.”

    Like you, I believe every step is indispensable. There is never a wasted step, because we are the sum of our experiences.
    Lisha Fink recently posted..NOLA SeasonsMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 2:22 pm

      I have to say I DO feel I have a bit of a luxury changing my mind here and there as the family (thankfully) is not depending on my non-existant income to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. I’m sure financial pressures as well as some pride make it hard to abandon a degree or a solid job (even if there’s no passion in it.)

      Of course I don’t know the particulars of your situation, but I mean that to apply more broadly.

      Thanks for commenting, Lisha!

  25. Annie Neugebauer
    January 14, 2013 | 10:38 am

    I really love this post, Nina. An underlying message here is that as important as it is to be honest with the world, it’s more important to be honest with ourselves. That’s exactly what you’re doing, so kudos for that. And I love your husband’s phrase “this is what it looks like.” Very cool.
    Annie Neugebauer recently posted..Why Some Novels Say “A Novel” on the Cover, and If Yours Should TooMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 2:33 pm

      My best lines come from Bryan!

  26. Josh
    January 14, 2013 | 11:42 am

    Hi Nina,

    During the middle of break I got a chance to sit down with some friends (who coincidentally know you) and we talked about what we are doing now and how different things are.

    Different meaning our lives aren’t exactly what we thought they would be like when we were in college but they are good now.

    Some of the best things that happen come from “trial and error” so I am grateful to have had many of my experiences as they helped me figure out who I want to be.
    Josh recently posted..The First Time He LaughedMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 15, 2013 | 2:39 pm

      And now you have to tell me who the common friends are, Josh!

      Email me! ninabadzinblog@gmail

  27. Aidan Donnelley Rowley
    January 14, 2013 | 3:03 pm

    I love this, Nina. And I relate to so much of it. I think there is something so important to pursuing paths, some right and some less so, in life. I think it is so important to take stock of how these paths feel, whether they feel easy or hard or exciting. Personally, I am trying to write fiction and write my blog and is hard, but rewarding to do both. For now.

    Thank you for your honest and inspiring words!
    Aidan Donnelley Rowley recently posted..Five Happy ThingsMy Profile

  28. Melissa Crytzer Fry
    January 14, 2013 | 3:59 pm

    I’m so glad you’ve found your niche, Nina. And I really love your outlook that there really aren’t any “wrong” turns in life.
    Melissa Crytzer Fry recently posted..So Long, FarewellMy Profile

  29. Bethany
    January 14, 2013 | 7:07 pm

    Nina, good for you! You’re self-reflective and self-aware, a rare combination. Your list of published writing rocks! And it will continue to grow!

    I’ve deemed 2013 the year of the collaboration. Most of my January/February writing will be part of something bigger (like the series we’re both involved in).

    I love Bryan’s “this is what it looks like”. My husband says “You worked to get here” anytime I relay a writing/networking milestone. It’s nice to feel that support from him.

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:32 pm

      Your husband is right too! There are no magic connections. We work our way into these networking opportunities.

      Love the year of collaboration. How fabulous that our little project is off to such a great start.

  30. Natalia Sylvester
    January 15, 2013 | 11:26 am

    Wow, you are a very brave soul for getting off that pre-law path; I can’t imagine it was an easy decision given how much time you’d already invested in it. I think that’s what keeps many of us from changing paths–we think, “but look at all the time we put into it” instead of thinking “but look at all the time I’ll be freeing up for things I truly care about.”
    Natalia Sylvester recently posted..The Book You Most Want to Read Giveaway, Part 2My Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:33 pm

      Ah yes! I like that change of mindset you suggest!

      By the way, Natalia you are one of these good examples of someone who can juggle the freelance and fiction. It’s impressive!

  31. Deb Milstein
    January 15, 2013 | 1:33 pm

    Love this line: “I don’t really believe that there are “wrong” paths since each step in the wrong direction could be the thing that leads you in the right one eventually.” How heartening!

    Rewriting the mental bio takes oomph–it took a huge amount of bravery for me to put “writer” on my business card, but it reminds me of who I am and need to be. Bravo to you for building a writing career that fits your life. 2013 goal: may I be as successfully true to myself!

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:37 pm

      I relate to the “writer” on card issue. When I went to my first conference (The Muse & Marketplace in Boston) I needed cards and felt like such a charlatan putting writer on the card. But what choice did I have. I wasn’t going to just hand out a random card with my name and nothing else. It was affirming though . . . maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy or something. Because that was almost two years ago.

      So nice to see you here, Deb!

  32. Brenda Marroy
    January 15, 2013 | 2:45 pm

    I don’t really set goals at this point in my life, but I do have a daily intention or prayer of making it through each day with courage and grace and remembering to be grateful at the end of the day for all of life.
    I’m not against goals, in fact I’ve set goals most of my life and think they are great motivators. It’s just that at this time in my life my vision has changed and life is now more about a gentle unfolding from one moment and space to the next.
    It probably makes a difference that I’m 71, retired, and have no deadlines, no one pushing or pulling at me for anything, and no career aspirations.
    Brenda Marroy recently posted..Observations and PrayersMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:43 pm

      That sounds quite peaceful, Brenda. Gratitude is what it’s about anyway, I think. “It” being life and also happiness.

  33. @Diann_D
    January 15, 2013 | 2:50 pm

    I so love this essay, as I loved the first one. Following what the love, as you did—not what a person thinks she should do or what she thought she always would do—is such an underrated concept in our society, but I think that approach always lights the way to a truer path. I didn’t realize that quote (Leslie mentioned) was Morrow; I thought it was Anne Lamott’s own, because I totally remember that from Bird by Bird. But now I see it in context:

    E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.

    We simply can’t predict the future. But I think learning to listen to that still, small voice is tough at every age because boy do we try! (Certainly I do think economics around choice of profession and some other areas must take some realism into account, but even there joy/the inner voice is such a useful guide. I love watching your story unfold (at least since I’ve been a reader) as you’ve changed course but stayed true. Clearly, following what you loved is really paying off.
    @Diann_D recently posted..Book Nerd’s Guide to Mind-Body Multitasking: 4 Ways to Exercise Your Brain and BodyMy Profile

    • @Diann_D
      January 15, 2013 | 2:52 pm

      fyi: that second paragraph should be blockquote, I didn’t realize it didn’t take that html!
      @Diann_D recently posted..Book Nerd’s Guide to Mind-Body Multitasking: 4 Ways to Exercise Your Brain and BodyMy Profile

      • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
        January 16, 2013 | 2:52 pm

        I love that you would know how to use html! Not sure why that didn’t work.

        Anyway, your comment was fantastic and gosh, I love that quote. It is so true for writing any particular piece and for LIFE.

        Very true about economics. I mentioned that in response to another comment as well because I 100% recognize how lucky I am to wander along on different paths as I am not supporting our family. That would make a big difference for sure.

  34. Jillian Boston
    January 15, 2013 | 3:24 pm


    This resonates! In October, I finally gave up on the idea of graduate school to focus on the novel. I know it’s the right path, but there are jitters. I’m hoping 2013 will bring a better sense of that path.
    Jillian Boston recently posted..Hobbits & Apples (j)My Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:54 pm

      Can’t wait to follow along and see how the writing is going, Jillian.

  35. Carin
    January 15, 2013 | 4:49 pm

    Love this post Nina! I think that this is something a lot of people experience, but maybe creatives more than most. I know that in the past, I have often felt like a failure for giving things up, especially if I’ve invested a lot of time, money, or energy on it, but now I look back and thank myself for having the courage to give them up, for listening to my gut and admitting when things don’t work. Also, giving those things up have usually led to bigger and better things. The experiences gained from the things I gave up, often come into play way down the line. Years later, I suddenly see a pattern that makes me go “oh, that’s why I had to do such and such a thing!!!”
    Carin recently posted..Beep beep…Kirby is two!My Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 16, 2013 | 2:58 pm

      Carin, you explained so clearly exactly how it happens to me. I see patterns too in every decision I’ve made and I know what I’m doing now will connect somehow to whatever comes next. It’s in thinking we can always control the “what’s next” that we get ourselves into trouble (I think).

  36. Jenna Zark
    January 15, 2013 | 8:45 pm

    This was an amazing post. I too, have been trying to let go of what “kind” of writer I should be – playwright, novelist, essayist, lyricist… just to follow up on what I want to do and not worry about categorizing myself or anyone else.

  37. Nina (@NinaBadzin)
    January 16, 2013 | 3:02 pm

    I think you’re all of those thing, Jenna! What a cool year you have coming up. Will be exciting to watch!

  38. Lisa Ahn
    January 16, 2013 | 8:16 pm

    Love this post Nina! I went to grad school for English, got my PhD and was in the middle of the job search, with interviews lined up, when I realized . . . nope. Not my path. I had a few more detours after that. I may be a slow learner. Now, homeschooling my girls and writing, I am where I want to be, and “this is what it looks like”. Love that! As for 2013, it’s simple. No concussion!
    Lisa Ahn recently posted..Wing-Feather Fables: The FatesMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 21, 2013 | 12:30 pm

      That’s a perfect goal for 2013, Lisa. Really though, think of all you did with a year like you had in 2012 . . . 2013 will be amazing.

  39. Just Breathe | Alarna Rose Gray
    January 17, 2013 | 1:44 pm

    […] ever doubted that, or need some reassurance about the direction that you’re heading in, read Nina Badzin’s post, on her journey towards the right […]

  40. rita
    January 17, 2013 | 4:26 pm

    What a beautiful inspiring post! I came here from the blog of Alarna Rose Gray. I’m a lawyer in Canada but now I live in Australia. I can’t practice here unless I do all my studies again. I loved being a lawyer but not enough to do it all over again. I decided to pursue my dream in 2013: Writing. I love writing for my blog and I also wrote a novel I’m trying to edit. But I find it so difficult when people ask me what I do… Even though I want to say I’m a writer, I feel I always need to justify where I come from and why I’m not practicing law. I find it also very difficult to grow an audience for my blog and edit my novel at the same time.
    rita recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – The jar of good thingsMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 21, 2013 | 12:32 pm

      Oh gosh, I do that justifying thing too. I can just see in the person’s eyes this statement: “Why can’t you just answer the question?”

      Thanks for coming to visit and for the kind words about the post. Love that Alarna!

  41. […] I mentioned here a few weeks ago, my goal in 2013 is to get my work into new venues. Since I was not a journalism major (nor an […]

  42. Rivki Silver
    January 22, 2013 | 8:51 pm

    “I don’t really believe that there are “wrong” paths since each step in the wrong direction could be the thing that leads you in the right one eventually.”

    I wholeheartedly believe in this. It’s the hashgacha that directs my life, and I could (and probably should) write a whole post about it.

    My professional life has also been crystalizing recently. I realized that I didn’t have to just define myself as either a musician or a writer, but that I could do both, and lo and behold, opportunities arose in both fields. Now it’s just a matter of staying on top of everything, which is not so simple…I’d love a post on how you stay successful professionally and keep the house running too!
    Rivki Silver recently posted..The Perfect MarriageMy Profile

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 29, 2013 | 11:01 pm

      You hit the big issue here–staying on top of everything. It’s funny your question–how do I stay successful professionally while managing the house? Well, what is successful really? I don’t make any money, really. Very little. And I only write about an essay a week. Sometimes two, but definitely not more. I feel slow actually!

  43. Galit Breen
    January 24, 2013 | 6:43 am

    Love reading about your path, Nina.

    {The goal is to never arrive, right? We’re always growing and changing, and I think that’s what makes life so sweet.}
    Galit Breen recently posted..Sitting, and ReadingMy Profile

  44. Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer)
    January 24, 2013 | 9:29 pm

    Oh Nina. You are speaking my language. Freelancing has opened up so many paths for me yet I feel like I’m still finding my way. One of my goals this year is to break into a larger venue like you have. Your posts are always so spot on that I’m not surprised at all of the interest you’ve garnered.

    My most important goal is to write about what I love to write about. I look forward to the day when I can turn down an assignment because the topic isn’t interesting to me.

    I also want to finish my damn novel. The freelance work has sidetracked me a bit but I also have to look at life realistically. Freelance pays. Novel drafting does not. :)

    I loved your last line of your post about knocking on locked doors when the unlocked one may be just a tad to the left. I’m so glad you opened that unlocked door because look how much happier you are. I’m very proud of you.

    • Nina (@NinaBadzin)
      January 30, 2013 | 1:17 am

      I’m proud of both of us! We both progressed a lot this year.

  45. […] why are we writing at all?”).  In her writing life, she describes her willingness to change, to shift course as needed, to redefine herself and her goals, to stretch her boundaries, even when she’d rather […]

  46. […] I’ve discussed the long and winding story of my writing path in several posts so I won’t repeat all of those details. If you’re wondering how and why I started writing (Bueller? Bueller?) start with “Writing Advice From My Husband” because it’s a favorite around here. You could also read “The Worst Writing Teacher Ever,” ”I’m Not an Aspiring Novelist,” and “When I Was Pre-Law and Other Wrong Turns Towards the Right Path.” […]

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