What I Learned In 2017

There’s been… a lot…that’s happened in 2017. Even more so than 2016, when I was let go from my last full-time job and began what might generously be called an “unexpected” career path, this year has been one of learnings, new beginnings, shedding of old notions and much more.

I don’t want to overstate things. No one got married. No one died. There were no great “milestones” as they’re commonly defined. Instead what 2017 contained was a steady progression in a number of directions that were unusual and far different from the model I thought my life would be going down.

“Then” is “Now”

Yes, it’s an excuse to use my favorite Spaceballs GIF once more. But the reality is that it wasn’t until the middle of the year that I stopped waiting for things to return to normal and began accepting that this is the new normal. I felt a weight lift when I realized that there was no use in continuing to expect a reversion to what had come before. The reality, as of now, is that I’m a full-time freelancer/contractor who also works part-time retail. That’s not a situation I’m waiting out, it’s one I’m embracing and making the most of.

when will then be now

Finding Work Is Hard

That being said, finding new freelance opportunities has been at times a struggle. I’ve worked consistently over the last several months, but adding clients and projects isn’t easy. The job boards and other sources of work have turned up a number of things, but most of my best gigs have come from referrals from friends and colleagues. Looking for work is as much of a job as the work itself, something I’m slowly becoming savvier at.

Starting a Blog Is Still Hard

It’s never been easy to start a blog from the ground up, even back in the halcyon days of RSS and comments and such. It takes hard work, focus and dedication. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing over at Cinematic Slant, which is still a work in progress but which has been growing month to month, which is encouraging. It’s still going to take a while before it achieves any sort of critical mass but that’s alright, I’m having fun with a dedicated outlet for my movie writing. And it’s been great to see the audience build over the first six months of its existence.

Making It Up As I Go Along

If you’ve been reading this blog or Cinematic Slant you’ve likely seen a number of features come and go. I start out writing some ongoing feature with the best of intentions but for one reason or another many either fall by the wayside or morph into something different. I know that has the potential to create a little audience whiplash, but I also hope it’s clear that I’m experimenting in public and that those who are truly interested have been following along. I don’t want to make promises for 2018, but I’m working to plan some things a bit more clearly and consistently to settle down the back and forth.

raiders indiana jones making it up

Writing About Writing

I’d never really written about my own writing style, practices or thoughts before this year. That changed when I started doing so first on this blog and then on Medium. And I really believe doing so has made me a better writer, especially when combined with various freelance editors and clients. While writing about writing can come off a bit self-indulgent at times, it’s also accomplishing exactly what writing in general has always done for me; Allowed me to think out loud and, in doing so, organize my thoughts a bit more.

Best Practices Aren’t Always Best

At one point in the last year I went deep in the paint on various tactics commonly appearing on lists of good ideas for content marketing, tactics I’ve used from time to time on one client program or another. That is what I’m trying to do, after all: Market myself through content publishing. What I found, as is often the case, is that those aren’t universal. Resurfacing old blog posts did nothing for my stats or leads. Being super-timely and trying to draft off current trends didn’t work. It was a good reminder that no matter how many consultants might try to convince you they know the keys to success, one solution almost never fits all.

I Can Surprise Myself

The biggest lesson of the year is that there’s been any change at all. I’ve moved so far outside my comfort zone on any number of topics it’s hard to know what that location felt like at all. It turns out you can make anything work for a year. That’s especially true if you know you have the love and support of your wife and children as well as your extended family. A healthy dose of German Lutheran “Well, that’s what needs to be done” attitude helps, too. But that love and support…that’s the big one. It allows you to be fearless and dedicated.

2017 is coming to a close. 2018 is just around the corner. There are new adventures around the corner that haven’t been planned for or contemplated. They’ll be met and handled and adjusted to. Next year will likely have plenty of big surprises and twists, just as the last two years have.

Let’s go to work.

angel lets go to work

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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