Priorities And Progress.


A few Novembers ago I was working on this series of posts called 12 Days of Cookies. I can’t remember what my blog was called at the time but it was an Instagram campaign aimed at driving traffic to my site and increasing my number of subscribers. For the record, just typing those words makes my skin crawl. I never wanted to be one of those people. I know you know what I mean. I can’t remember why I cared so much - likely because I equated subscriber numbers with success or something dumb like that. What I do remember is sitting at my best friend’s dining room table over Thanksgiving break (like I’m in college) cursing InDesign and drowning in anxiety over the right hashtags, email automation glitches, and recipe accuracy, and missing entirely the pre-turkey day chill going on around me. Worse even was the fact that I wasn’t the only one hovering over my laptop in a cold sweat. At the end of the table another guest was stressing over a work deliverable and across from me my friend was hammering away at her own side hustle. Hustle and break don’t have much in common. In fact, it’s impossible for them to share the same table. Collectively, our priorities were off.

At the time I remember thinking that there was one formulaic way to get a blog right. I was wrong. And praise God for that. I’ve repeatedly tried my best to put on the mind of a marketer, to value the analytics, but those things have never motivated me. At the end of the day, I just love to write. I like to talk to people about the things they dream for themselves and the mostly internal obstacles that keep them from pushing forward. And I like wrestling through those things for myself too. But I spent so much time marketing and analyzing and perfecting the thing that I rarely ever got to the thing itself. Once again my priorities were off. And for how much mental space it ate up, I was barely in-tune with life around me.

Fast forward a few years. In a few days I’m jetting off to North Carolina to a writing conference to present a book proposal to a few major publishers. It’s something I have no business doing at this stage in the game but suffice it to say I’m doing my best to write. Not to market, promote, or analyze the writing (which I can hire marketers and editors for) but to actually do the writing. It seems we’re always after our call, right? Forever questioning what we’re really supposed to be doing with our lives? How do we find it? If and when we do, how will we know? Is this it? Is it not? What if I pour myself into something that turns out to be a complete waste of time? What if I’m supposed to be over there doing that thing instead? I often wonder if the hours I spend pouring words out onto the keyboard are a total waste of time. So much so that my tendency is to bury myself in the marketing tasks. At least with an Instagram post I can check a box. The sound of a pencil scratching off a task is deeply satisfying for my Type A soul and because of that it’s all too easy for me to get caught up in little things. The satisfaction is short-lived though, and the progress illusory.


This morning, like most, I was avoiding sitting down to write as I took a few minutes to mindlessly tidy up my apartment and out of nowhere I got that tingling sensation in my stomach like I was falling. I realized, now that the business cards and the book proposals are printed, I have nothing left to do but write. I’ve run out of ways to top, bottom, or back hustle my way around it. There’s only through it. And I’m nervous.

I used to think that once I finally discovered this elusive calling (which, upon reflection, was really quite clear) that it would manifest itself in my life beautifully wrapped and instantly successful, accompanied by a thorough set of instructions, an insurance policy against failure and confidence to boot. It did not. I would have to figure it out one awkward and self-conscious sentence at a time. And I would have to convince myself that even though many of those sentences would never see the light of published day, they were just as purposeful as the ones that would.

As part of this book proposal I’ve promised to market the hell out of myself in places where I’m a fish out of water, like social media. And I’m apprehensive about it. Mainly because the temptation to hide in that kind of busy work takes me back to that dining room table just a few Novembers ago where I’d lost sight of the real thing I wanted to do. Awareness doesn’t make me infallible. But it’s a start.

So hey listen, if, come this December, a series of curated posts surrounding Advent start popping up in your Insta feed please don’t take me for a hypocrite. Such a thing has been on my heart for a couple of years now. And I think I’ve got my priorities straight(er) this time around.

how to make this roasted butternut squash soup

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Peel and dice a large butternut squash. Toss it with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread onto a sheet tray. Roast until tender and caramelized, 25-35 minutes. Meanwhile dice one yellow onion, one large carrot, two stalks of celery and mince several cloves of garlic. Add it all to a large stock pot with a quarter cup of olive oil and a few pinches of dried thyme or oregano. Cook over medium heat until softened. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Add eight cups of stock, cooks choice, and the roasted squash. Simmer until everything is soft enough to break down with an immersion blender. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve topped with fresh herbs, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized pecans, and a drizzle of oil.

Abby StolfoComment