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Escaping the cycle of never-ending busyness

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

  • Name: Caroline Starr Rose
  • Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Occupation: Children’s author
  • Blog/site: Caroline Starr Rose

Tell us one way you are simplifying your life.

I made the seemingly crazy decision to stop teaching to pursue writing full-time without an agent or a contract. It felt way counter-cultural but was the best and right decision for me. Five years later, I have a wonderful agent, one book out and three more under contract. But even more than that, I have escaped the cycle of never-ending busyness. I won’t say I’ve got time management all figured out, but I have a much saner, healthier, kinder approach to my days.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

What’s the background story —what compelled you to make this change?

As much as I loved it, it was overwhelmingly stressful to to mother, write, and teach. I didn’t feel I could sustain it all or give my best. Many people can pull this sort of thing off, and I applaud them. But I’m not wired that way.

Roses in Switzerland

What were the obstacles?

The decision sounded downright illogical. I had a great position at a school I loved and where my boys attended. The money was necessary. I had written for over eleven years with nothing other than a few published poems to show for it.

How has this simplified your life? Or, how does it help you to live simply?

My world has grown much smaller, but I’m deeply satisfied. My days start with my family, include the gym or a morning run and a walk with the dog. Then it’s time alone with my thoughts and the kids again in the afternoon.

Honestly, I still find things like keeping the household together stressful when I’m on deadline. But then I think of what it would be if I were also teaching…

John Green and May B.

What inspires you?

Quiet. Beauty. A good read. Nature. Courage. Kindness. Old friends.

Emily Freeman’s Chatting at the Sky is daily must read.

Children’s authors Katherine Paterson and Karen Cushman.

The lovely, lovely, lovely Jamie Martin.

Teacher/author Donalyn Miller (her Book Whisperer made me sob in a good way).

This interview with musician Adrienne Young on NPR. I heard it in 2004. It sustained my writing life for years.

Share a favorite quote, guiding motto, or perhaps your life’s purpose statement.

“Listen to your life; see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” -Fredrick Buechner

How do you celebrate everyday successes, no matter how small or large?

Hmm. Not sure this is something I do regularly. Perhaps I should.

"Listen to your life; see it for the  fathomless mystery that it is.  In the boredom and pain of it  no less than in the  excitement and gladness:  touch, taste, smell your way  to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis,  all moments are key moments,  and life itself is grace." - Fredrick Buechner

Want to share your own story about simplifying life? Head here—and maybe we’ll feature it here on AoS. (Head here to read the first post in this series.)

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Comments

  1. I love reading how you’re biggest obstacles were you’re already pretty great work, Caroline. I can identify. Sometimes I feel like my job security is more of a pillow than a safety net.

    Thanks for sharing! I love this series.

  2. I’ve always liked that Buechner quote, too! My world also got a lot smaller two years ago when I moved from Dallas to a small midwestern farm town. I think for the season of life that I’m in (raising a preschooler + toddler), smaller is good.

    I used to teach (and can’t imagine going back) and love to write, too :).

    • Small can be very good.

      What’s wonderful about being a children’s author is I can go visit classrooms and pretend to be a teacher for a day. ;) I get to enjoy both my loves, though not the full responsibility of both jobs.

  3. I love Adrienne! If you’re ever in the Central Virginia area you should check out her newest project Backyard Revolution. She’s in a couple of the herbal medicine/natural living circles I run in and she’s still doing amazing things as a mama even if music isn’t at the forefront. I hadn’t heard that interview with her previously and it is so inspiring :)

    • Yes! When writing this post, I went in search for her — the first time in several years. Love this idea of the Backyard Revolution. I was living in NoVa when I heard the interview, not too far from Central Virginia at all.

    • I LIKE THAT PEAPLE GET TO COMEUITCAT WITH OTHER PEAPLE AND AROUND THERE OWN AGED SEE WHAT OTHER PEAPLE ARE TALKING ADOUT AND HAVE FUN TALKING TO PEAPLE THAT YOU DON T NOW AND SEE IF YOU ARE ALIKE TO OTHER PEAPLE

  4. The world getting smaller really can be such a peaceful thing even when it looks bad on paper. Thanks for sharing your story and giving me hope (no agent or contract!)d. Fun seeing you over here today!
    Sarah M

  5. Hey Caroline! So fun to see your thoughts here! Your story is inspiring and gives me much food for thought.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story Caroline. It is always an inspiration to see women who have made a life changing decision and had it be beneficial both personally and professionally. I haven’t read your book yet, but it looks awesome and I have added it to my ‘to-read’ list! But as a women trapped in the never-ending cycle of busyness I can’t promise when that will be :) I always wonder when I read stories like yours about the actual details of the process in making the transition. From what you have shared it seems that the decision was difficult but that journey was seemless and I am always left wondering about the truth of process. Did you ever argue with your husband about money? Did you lose touch with friends/colleagues that left you a little lonely until you filled void with new things? Did you have to cut your cable bills and sell your car to make ends meet? Did you receive rejection letters that discouraged you? Were there times when you thought about going back to the security of the teaching job? I guess when reading success stories I always just wonder if there are struggles involved or if when you made the decision the universe aligns and this is part of the story that everyone shares. Regardless of the path, I am always glad to hear when someone finds the balance they are craving because it gives me hope that someday I might find my own!!

  7. Love this post and hope to one day be able to do the same. In posts like this, however, I always wonder what does the husband do? I want to jump ship and stay home to write, but I am the breadwinner and my husband has not in our 14-year marriage managed to maintain steady work. Without me, we have no regular salary, no healthcare and other benefits, no security. I am not quite sure how I would be able to do it, even with a whole lot of downsizing.

    • In writing all this, I realize how fortunate I was to be in a position to make this decision. There was a time where my pastor husband was without call for eighteen months. We lived in a state where I didn’t have a teaching license. Things were hard.

      I’ll be honest and say it took my husband some time to come around to my idea. For eleven years I’d had nothing but rejection. And here was a steady job. On one hand, what was I thinking, especially when my income was needed? There were certainly no guarantees…more like the guarantee I wouldn’t get anywhere. So we planned ahead, putting money aside, and jumped in.

      Are there ways you can be sure to get time to meet your writing needs without leaving your steady job? Perhaps there are ways you can discuss with your family how they might help you?

  8. Seeing your family pic on here made my heart skip a little beat! So blessed by you and your example – totally humbled by your mention, too. xo

    • I read this and think “I really am an example to you — this dear one who has been such an example to me?” But that’s what friends do, isn’t it? They show us the best in others and the best in ourselves not despite all of life’s real stuff but right in the midst of it.

      There’s no I could not mention you. xo

      Love you, Jamie. xo

  9. Love seeing you here, Caroline:) I want to hear more about your transition to life as a full-time writer! And that Buechner quote? Brilliant.

    • That quote really does say it all. Every time I read it, it’s relevant and just what I need.

      The transition has been wonderful and strange and hard and wonderful again. Probably the best glimpse into my experience can be found at my blog under the category “the writing life.”

      I’m out of town doing school visits and I was just telling a fifth-grade class how so much of my work is filled with doubt. But once I get to the end of a book, I want to jump back in and do it again.

  10. I enjoyed your post, Caroline, and I would love to hear more about how you managed the daily and financial changes that came with your career change. Congratulations on your book!

    • Hi Sally,

      I’m fortunate in that I signed with an agent four months after leaving the classroom and sold a book four months after that. The unfortunate side of things is that publishing doesn’t have a steady payment cycle. The advice you hear again and again is not to quit the day job (which makes my choice seem super ridiculous). But it has worked for us.

      As for the daily work, I’ve had to adjust to the inefficiency of writing. While I was teaching, I’d knock out six lessons, grade hundreds of papers, attend meetings or conferences, all in one day. Contrast that with the writing: for two weeks I was once stuck on twelve little words. It’s a different way to work, and I’ve had to go with the flow.

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