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Creative Rebellion and Your DIY Career

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Creativity + Freedom = Finding Your Work

We’ve finished our last session of freelance copywriting at the University of Northwestern—St.Paul. And now, after all the boring, blathery lecture stuff and all the portfolio additions and all the clever advertising we’ve seen, the bottom line is freelancing is a business of making it up as you go.


Just like no one can teach you to write (though teachers offer suggestions and direction, writing remains something one learns on one’s own), no one can teach you to rebel or to cultivate a disruptive presence in your work. Writing your way into and through creative rebellion is the beginning point to locating a solution to a problem that connects with an audience.

Freelance copywriting has by no means cornered the market on these qualities of creative rebellion. But those freelancers invited back provide value by looking at things deeply and differently. These are the folks who have organized their lives around creative rebellion and get antsy when asked to follow a party line.

Let there be more of this tribe.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Keep an Eye on Your Vision Gauge

A conversation over the weekend reminded me of how vision works in my life. As long as I have vision for the organization and my role in the organization, work moves forward. But if vision quavers, all sorts of rocky stuff starts happening. I get itchy for purpose.

For me vision is like the gas gauge: I can (nearly) see it as it maintains or slowly drops. And if nothing replenishes vision, movement slows to a stop.

But what is vision? For me it is seeing a longer term role or impact. It is also recognizing my organization has a larger purpose and how I fit that purpose. Vision gets personal.

After a couple years at a large industrial company—early in my career—I recognized the growth paths presented by the manager led nowhere I wanted to go. Not long after that pep talk the company’s mission and purpose started seeming pretty stale. In fact, I could not see anything in the organization I wanted to do. So I started knocking on different doors. The doors that eventually opened helped me sort out my direction.


The Clash was singing about romance. But work is also a kind of romance—a dance of loyalty and engagement—far from the purely transactional presentation your HR officer lays out the day you get laid off. And that is true for more than work: any and every company, volunteer opportunity, or gathering that attracts us does so because of purpose and mission. At least that’s true for me.

What does your vision gauge read today?


Written by kirkistan

January 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Is Freelance Writing a Career?

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[I’m reposting this from about a year ago when I posted it on The Official Blog of Kirkistan, where I’ve stopped writing. This issue just keeps coming up.]

Before you say “Yes. Of course!” (with proper righteous indignation), consider that a career seems to move a person toward increasing levels of responsibility, toward tasks that require more maturity, toward more money (one can dream). Pick any company and follow the career path of say…well…how about a communication specialist? The communication specialist will write, manage projects, take care of details. They do well, so they are promoted to communication manager. In that position, they do some of the same tasks, though in lesser quantities, plus they manage people. They do well and graduate to director. In that position they have no project work, write only memos and emails, sit in meetings discussing what they’re teams are doing, aren’t doing and should be doing. And so a career proceeds until stopped at the individual’s level of incompetence.

This management person who was (possibly) a writer is now not writing at all and is instead directing others who carry out communication tactics. To many that is a satisfying, perfectly reasonable trajectory. And even for those who write or love to create, they can find opportunities in those positions to use their creativity to positively influence others. I’ve known some creative folks who have risen to management positions and done very well at creating imaginative and loyal teams and organizations.

But for others, this career path represents gradual movement away from craft, and away from the heart of what made work fun in the first place. A career presupposes that new skills are developed even as vision widens, which lands a person in a different job. But that is not quite the case for freelance writers. They often entertain dreams of, well, writing. It’s what they want to do. And so a career path for a freelance writer is less about successive positions (especially since freelancing is by definition outside typical corporate structures with their fixed paths) and more about finding work and the work itself.

The work itself is the career path for a freelance writer. Where there is joy in completing the work, where there is curiosity about how communication tools can fit to new situations and how those tools can resolve substantial problems—those are the milestones on the freelance writer’s career path. And over time, the writer finds herself or himself accomplishing a set of tasks with maturity and grace (one can hope). And looking back, the craft that helped accomplish tasks and assignments will have the distinct look of a career.


Written by kirkistan

February 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

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