Chip Laymon: November 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner

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Congratulations to Chip Laymon for Winning the November 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The Challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:

When you think of all the things a paid freelance writing career can give you, what are you most grateful for?

Chip gave a vivid description of his own quest for freedom, with a clever Thanksgiving holiday tie-in. Enjoy his winning submission:

Freedom to Be Me: Gratitude of a Freelance Professional

By Chip Laymon

Each year following the harvest, we as a nation express our gratitude for the bounty that nature provides and symbolically link it to the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were religious separatists who came to America because they felt that both their religious freedom and their way of life were oppressed. They brought with them a strong determination to make a better and enriching life for themselves.

This year, my personal “separatist movement” from the corporate world to one of freelance copywriting parallels the Pilgrims’ history. I began my professional career with trepidation and excitement. I had no idea where my journey would take me, but after 25 years, the reality was undeniable. The excitement was gone and I was lost.

In much of today’s corporate world, competition is high, margins are slim, morale is low, and loyalty is rare. You morph into a culture that unknowingly strips you of your identify. Your biorhythms march to a pace set by meetings, quotas, briefings, reports, deadlines, payday, etc.

I was grateful to have a J.O.B. but I realized the cost was too high. I’d been swallowed by the culture. I’d lost my identity … my individuality. I’d lost my happiness.

Like the Pilgrims, I needed to make a bold change! I needed to discover a new career that allowed me the opportunity to rediscover who I was, my individuality and mindfulness. The freedom to be me!

After a few weeks of soul-searching, research, and contemplating my own start-up entrepreneurial endeavor, I discovered AWAI and its vast resources. I committed to an insanely rapid transition to self-employment. Upon landfall at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Pilgrims drove a stake in the ground and declared their sovereignty. In April, I drove my stake, setting October 1 as the beginning of my sovereignty as a freelance copywriter.

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” — from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

Indeed, the lure of freedom — being one’s own boss, ability to work from anywhere, flexible schedule, financial independence — is a motivating factor for a freelance career. But for me, I feel blessed for the opportunity to control my destiny, to pursue something meaningful, something that resonates with the heart. I am grateful for the opportunity for creativity and personal expression in my work. Happiness cannot be far behind a grateful heart and a peaceful mind.

“Do not let your past rob your future. Each new day is a chance to make a new beginning. Count your blessings, live with gratitude, and love with all you heart!” — Sue Rumack

So this year, Thanksgiving will take on new meaning for me. The Pilgrims showed courage to sacrifice the comfortable civility of their homeland to live in a hostile New World based on ideals from the heart. Knowing my own transition is incomplete and requires additional sacrifice, I am grateful for my own deliverance … and the freedom to be me.

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