I’ve spent years advising people to declutter their life because it will enhance their ability to focus. Clear away the nonsense and you’re left with what really matters, right?

I started out this pandemic with heartbreak about a writing and yoga retreat I’d looked forward to for months. As I realized it would need to be cancelled, I asked myself what I’d hoped to get out of it so that I could find another way to do that, to take the edge off my disappointment.

Oh, I’d put so much weight on it, so much expectation! I expected nothing less than to come out of it knowing who I was as a writer. What I wanted to write about. How I wanted to write. How to find my voice. What did I want out of the workshop? Focus. (And a complete self-identity, but that’s a bit much to explore here today.)

Expecting to be full of motivation and wanting the skills to achieve my yoga-fuelled writing dreams, I’d also applied to an online creative writing program to start later in the spring. Boosted by an encouraging response to my application and an encouraging friend ❤️, I fast-tracked my coursework and started just before COVID-19 gained a foothold in Canada.

It turns out that working in a pandemic at a full-time job made much more demanding by the pandemic, as a single mother of two kids trying to figure out their schooling and make future life decisions, and adjusting to the realities of staying home while people were getting sick and dying… is not an ideal time to find focus.

We all cluttered the house with our work and art and noise and music and puzzles (so very many puzzles; my daughter, one of our cats and I are obsessed). My son moved out of his dad’s and brought his second household full of stuff to add into the mix, along with the part my heart I lost the first night he slept under another roof more than a decade ago.

In time, we settled into new routines, new stillness and relaxation. I did online workshops about writing and gained new insights, if not quite a new identity. I took the first course in my writing program, on copy editing and proofreading, and WAIT A MINUTE. 

Wow, do I ever get a buzz from editing and proofreading. I dabbled in it for some freelance jobs, was already a member of Editors Canada and knew I liked the work, but I thought I’d chafe at the formality and rigidness of grammar pedants. I was so wrong. No pedants in sight, I dove into the ins and outs of the profession and spent all sorts of ‘leisure time’ soaking up more and more and more about it. I asked my contacts to send any work they had my way and landed a part-time job copy editing academic articles. I get a thrill with each project that lands in my inbox.

What about my writing? No worries on that front. I integrated creative non-fiction into my day job: I started a (hilarious, if I do say so myself) column in our staff newsletter and again, wow is that ever fun. I started writing a new book too, because of course I did (no, I haven’t finished my other two books, I was counting on the workshop to make that magically happen). I’ve got two overlapping writing courses through the summer, including one on digital content, so watch out for a whole whack of experimental posts in this space.

Really, this is a long-winded way to say, I’m changing up my website. I’m removing the references to my consulting and workshop services – those completely dried up with the pandemic anyways, and: FOCUS. It’s all about writing and editing now. I think of editing as decluttering the page to let the message shine through, and I’ve decluttered enough to know where my passions lie.

5 comments

  1. I think many of us have been disappointed when things we were looking forward to have been postponed or cancelled, yet in many ways the pandemic has shown us what (and who) really matters and allowed us to declutter our lives from all the distractions that take our time and attention away from what we care about. Love the cat photos by the way, very appropriate for a post about focus as they are little zen masters. ☺️

  2. Wow! You’ve been busy! I take my hat off to you, Karen 🎩 I like how you didn’t let your disappointment deter you – instead you connected with something else you’re passionate about – it sounds great 👍🎉👏

    1. Thanks, Julie. I does seem a bit overwhelmingly busy when I write it all down… what was I thinking? But it’s wonderful to know what I want to be when I grow up 😂😊

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