Two weeks ago, we started reading Elle Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must. This book appealed to us because a) it's beautiful, and b) the author's story really resonated.
A little over a year ago, I left my full-time job to become a freelance writer. I'd worked full-time for 12 years at five different jobs, and while I loved what I did, I couldn't ever shake the feeling that I was copping out. What I really wanted to do was write, but every time I'd start to talk about this, everyone wanted to talk me out of it. "But you have such a good job... It is so hard to get paid as a freelancer...there's no money in writing." I'd walk away from these conversations shaken and feeling like I should just be happier with what I had.
However, this resolve would inevitably fade, and I'd again start to feel like I was faking it. I did have an amazing job and I was grateful for that, but I also knew that as long as I was too scared to give full-time writing a go, I wasn't given my job the attention and enthusiasm it deserved either. I had one foot in and one foot out, and it's hard to be passionate about a half-assed life.
Finally, one abandoned cart of groceries at Whole Foods later (I panicked in the check out line—what if quitting my job meant I could no longer afford food?), and a teary conversation with my boss, where I explained it's not you, it's me (and she totally got it), at 34 I became what I'd wanted to be since I was 15: a freelance writer.
I wish I'd had this book then to walk me through it (I probably would have bought the groceries), because Elle's advice is practical yet encouraging. There are lots of inspiring stories and quotes in the book, but she pairs them with straight-talk exercises that make you examine your own truths that might actually be anything but.
Since I knew what my must was, the parts of the book that were most helpful for me were the ones that dealt with should. Exercises in the book helped me identify beliefs that I had that weren't based on experience, just things that I'd been told as a child and never examined—that I should not rock the boat, that I should never expect that things will work out, and that I should always take what I could get.
But for those who don't yet know what their must is, Elle has tons of exercises to help you figure out what it is. This part comes with a warning though: once you identify your must, it is hard to go back and be satisfied, and that your brain will rebel, because choosing must raises real and scary questions.
Now that you know what your must is, and the ideas that are holding you back, the second half of the book deals with all the practicalities of making it happen: money, time, space and vulnerability.
If you're reading along, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below or @ us with #ccreadup. What kinds of 'shoulds' do you have to stop listening to? What's your must?
Kate Williams is a freelance writer and editor in Los Angeles. Previously, she was editorial director at Nasty Gal and at Urban Outfitters, and a senior editor at NYLON magazine. Her work is a mix of editorial, ghostwriting, branded content and fiction.