Two Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

2 ways hoped for work voice I have a small index card that I’ve lost and found again at least six time in the last couple of weeks. This tiny card boasts my scribbled out notes for what was to be my next post in the series on work. Notes in the form of bullet points that I hoped to flesh out later with real sentences. But life hasn’t allowed for real sentences, much less paragraphs-turned-blogged-posts lately.

Sometimes life only allows for bullet points.

I’ve been writing a series on work and I have loved it. The more I write, the more I realize I have to say about the subject. Last week I asked a question on the blog’s Facebook page and I was surprised by the quick and thoughtful responses. Your questions and frustrations only fueled the content I hope to share.

But my right-now life and my hoped-for work and not in sync at the moment. I can resent that. And I have. Or “I can see my limits as a gift instead of as a liability,” as my friend and fellow writer Emily Freeman puts it.

The truth is, my next post on work was supposed to go out a week ago. But I’ve had some limitations to reckon with. Time and space are in short supply. I’ve had several moments of external panic and many more moments of internal resentment over the whole thing. I’ve been tempted toward two opposite extremes:

1. Steamroll my way through my task list anyway, fueled mostly by fear and anxiety.

2. Give up.

I’ve done both of these in the past and am tempted to fall into either ditch even today. But on Monday morning a funny thing happened. My husband and I were talking about the upcoming couple of weeks and he could sense my edginess. And by edginess I mean the slamming of kitchen drawers and yelling for kids to get in the van already and “Where is my COFFEE?!?”

Thankfully he was a kinder soul than I was in that moment. He asked what I needed, what he could do for me during these next couple of weeks that are going to be extra hectic.

The morning school commute gave me time to sit with his generous question and to figure out what, exactly, I did need.

valley view

“I need time to write,” I said. “Writing makes me feel like my truest self and connects me to God.” I need to find the time and space to keep writing, even though it’s going to be crazy. I don’t want to lose my creative work and my momentum.”

I felt instantly better. There is power and freedom in voicing our needs and allowing someone we trust to help us carry both our burdens and our longings. But there was something else, something even more remarkable. My “art,” my writing, my hoped-for work — it stood up for itself with a voice I hardly recognized:

I matter. I am not merely a hobby or a selfish indulgence as she is prone to think. I am food for her soul. I am the thread that connects her most deeply with her Maker. I am the therapy that helps her sort through the rubble and clear out the cobwebs. I am her offering.

That was on Monday. Today is Wednesday. By the time you read this it’ll be days later. I knew I wouldn’t get to write until a couple of days after that conversation. But I was able to bear both the busy-ness and the lack with a bit more peace.

Why? Because my work had wedged her big ol’ audacious self into the space of that real conversation and said to my husband {and to me}:

Girfriend needs to write. Are you gonna give her a room up in this place or not?”


This week, my hoped-for work sounds a little bit like Madea and looks like an index card.

It doesn’t look like completed blog posts or a finished series on work or a lead magnet on my blog or a turned-in book proposal.

But it does look like promise and it feels like a priority. The bullet points matter. They serve as shorthand arrows that point to a deeper story.

Today, I searched through a pile in my office again for the holy grail index card and thought to myself, “There it is. My big important work scrawled in bullet-point form with smeary pencil + two different colors of ink.”

Sometimes our right-now life means our hoped-for work looks like bullet points instead of books.

My right-now life means that I run around a lot and write half-coherent thoughts on receipts that end up in the bottom of my purse with gum wrappers and sloshed coffee. It means I dump my favorite purse onto the kitchen counter and attempt to soak up the coffee from the leather while trying not to cuss in front of my kids as I salvage my precious thoughts. {True story. As in, this very thing just happened yesterday.}

purse contents

Here’s what I’m trying to say.

My hoped-for work — the writing I do in the wee hours of the morning and in the last minutes of the day — it’s not exactly magical. It’s messy. It’s limited. It is literally sitting in scraps all around me waiting to be turned into something a bit more masterpiece-ish.

But those scraps are important because I’ve said so. I’ve cleared off my desk and put the junk on the floor.

desk and mess

The contents of my dumped-out purse are still on the kitchen counter. My e-mail can wait and so can the dishes. Why?

Because I need to sit down right here and tell you something:

Don’t give up on your hoped-for work just because your right-now life feels like a bully. Friends, we don’t have to be all or nothing about this.

Just because that guy has figured out a way to jump ship on his right-now in pursuit of his hoped-for doesn’t mean you have to put all your eggs in one basket like he did.

Just because she’s been blogging for less time than you and has a book deal and you still have two subscribers — one is you and the other one is your mom — doesn’t mean you quit writing.

Just because you have more ideas than your precious brain can hold and zero time for those ideas to come to life doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t worth scribbling down and dreaming about anyway.

Here are my two bossy takeaways:

1. Do what you can. Right now.

It begins with giving your work a voice so it can speak up for itself. This is another way of saying, “Prioritize.” Maybe your work’s voice sounds like deep and broody like Johnny Cash. Maybe it sounds British and bawdy like Adele. You already know that my work’s voice sounds like Madea because she is old-school, means business, and is funny. I need Madea on my shoulder because she tells all the other voices to “shut the _____ up.”

Your work has a voice. Listen up. {And you might want to share what you hear with someone else who loves you.}

2. Use what you have. Right now.
  • A notecard when you don’t have time for a blog post.
  • A piece of furniture from the thrift store even though you really want to have your own fixer-upper.
  • A friend you meet for coffee when you don’t yet have the courage or time to create the larger ministry you envision.
  • A children’s class at your church while you wait for a teaching degree.
  • A little league gig when your real dream is to coach for a living.
  • An iPhone camera in your diaper bag because your fancy Nikon can’t fit between the wipes and the sippy cups.
purse w flower pin

Sometimes we think our longings have to take a certain shape or they can’t take any shape at all. But that’s not true. Perfection is the enemy of Possibility. I 100% believe that there are right-now ways to practice our hoped-for work. Your ideas, your hopes, your dreams — they are still allowed to dance even if they haven’t received an invitation to the ball.

Your right-now life may feel like a lean and barren place. What could possibly grow there?

Anything. But new life always begins with a seed. And seeds tend to be tiny.

My bullet-point index card, my “Exhibit A” of “I have no time to write” — it turned into this post I hadn’t planned to write. I looked at it with discouragement and said to myself, “My creative work has been reduced to bullet points right now.”

Writing through this unexpected object lesson has been its own serendipitous consolation.

The bullet points testify that your right-now offering is enough. They serve as a deposit on what may one day grow into the vision that’s dancing about in your head.

But first? Take what you have right now and give it a voice.

index card

If you’re new around here, we’ve been winding our way through a series on work. Here are the other posts in the series:

“How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work When You’re Busy With Your Right-Now Life”

 How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life


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  1. Deborah says

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed this today. This week my right-now has been hectic and overwhelming and I feel like my hoped-for keeps getting pushed farther and farther away. Yesterday after work I got in my car and literally sobbed most of the way home. When I read the line about the right-now being a bully I just lost it. (I seriously need to stop reading your posts at work. LOL!)

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! The timing was perfect but I know that was all JESUS!

    Marian, your voice is making a difference in my life and I am so grateful. I love that this was for me and you and the others who will read it who desperately need to be reminded to not give up. I love that God uses us to meet the needs of others in ways we could never imagine. Thank you for making the time and for sharing your words.

    I hope you have an awesome weekend!

  2. says

    I loved this so much I just filled up a whole page of my journal, copying your words down again. This is becoming a pattern!!!! laughs! I just want the words to sink down into my heart and writing them down helps that happen for me. I love you Marian. I am just so thankful to have your voice in my life. Thank you!!!!!!

    Thankful this serendipitous consolation post came into being!!!!

  3. says

    This post came at the most perfect timing. I am trying to keep up with my blog posts but feel so bad that I can’t give it more time. I have so many ideas rolling around in my head but work, kids and other stuff seem to keep pushing it to the side. This week I had thoughts of giving up on my writing. Thanks to your post – it has given me a boost.

  4. Linda says

    Love everything about this post and series! Your outlook is completely practical and refreshing so I’m thinking of ways to apply it in my own life. I’m sure it’s helping a lot of other people too!

  5. says

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