How a lunch break hobby turned into a novel – and saved my career.

by Todd Foley


I love words and always dreamed of making a career out of them. I slaved through my undergrad years, signing up for as many writing courses as possible and taking on whatever gigs I could land. By the grace of God, I nailed a writing and communications job at an awesome non-profit following graduation. I grew professionally, managed projects and expanded my portfolio – and I got paid for it!

One year later, though, I hit a wall and realized something was missing. Work had become work as I lost my zeal for words. Talk about an identity crisis.

I needed something more. Something apart from my 9-5 world. Something to rekindle my passion for telling stories. What stories did I have to tell? Who would even be interested in these stories?

Upon Anne Lamott’s advice in Bird by Bird, I started writing letters – to no one in particular – on a number of themes, lessons and stories; describing my homeland (a small island) to a stranger; sharing elements of my own life and circumstances I observed in the lives of others.

I felt the passion return as I discovered beautiful combinations of different letters. The more I wrote, the more I saw the various pieces fitting together. Before I knew it, a novel was born.

I spent every lunch break at a nearby park with a notepad, hashing out ideas, getting to know the characters and discovering the story. As the project developed, I found the creative energy spilling over to my work – and it resulted in my best work yet.

What started as a lunch-break hobby evolved over a two-year period and resulted in Eastbound Sailing. More than anything, it saved my career by re-igniting a passion for words and storytelling. Whenever I hit a wall, I’m quick to remind myself that this wall isn’t the end of the world; rather, it’s the opportunity to tell the next story.

This separation between my professional life and my creative world caused the two to positively influence one another: Discipline for producing my art and inspiration for breathing life into my work.

How have your hobbies influenced your professional life?