When it's time to walk away from a creative career (and why that's totally OK), with Julia DeWitt

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Julia DeWitt spent most of 2020 at a Zen Buddhist monastery and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

So...why is she on the Autonomous Creative?

Because for the prior eight years, she had an incredibly successful career in podcasting.

I met Julia in 2012, while she was l interning at “Snap Judgement,” and I was working on my book, Out on the Wire.

In this episode, Julia walks me through the last eight years, filling in the blanks on how she rocketed from intern to senior producer.

And most interestingly, why she decided to leave it all behind. Though Julia ultimately pivoted away from creative work, her quest to prioritize the work most meaningful to her is familiar.

We discuss the challenges of walking away from a career — and identity — you’ve invested so much energy in, and Julia explains why she considers her past work a necessary “honing.”

We also examine how outside forces influence art, whether it’s pressure from the market or feedback from editors and collaborators. When should you make compromises and when should stand your ground?

More from the episode...

  • In the early days of her podcasting career, how did Julia go from an eager outsider to producer at one of the hottest podcasts? How did she find the courage to put herself out there and make connections?
  • Julia shares some the conflicts arise when telling other people’s stories when producing stories for podcasts like "Snap Judgement."
  • Julia tells the hilarious story behind her infamous anonymous phone chat story "The Superchat," and what it taught her about being clear with her personal boundaries that feeds into her relationships and work today.
  • We discuss how external forces affect creative work. Are they innately problematic? How can you stay true to your vision while finding market success?
  • After building a hugely success career, when and why did Julia realize her career in podcasting was no longer fulfilling?
  • "I became interested in more parts of my life than my career." — How sobriety and Zen Buddhism prompted Julia’s massive career pivot.
  • What is the underlying thread that connects Julia’s passion for storytelling with her new career path in social work?
  • Julia looks back on her career in podcasting: "Those things are exactly what needed to happen so that I can understand this next career move.”
  • We get real about the personal toll of career pivots, including how to cope when your identity is deeply rooted in past work.

Additional links:

The Superchat: https://podcasts.apple.com/is/podcast/the-superchat/id84389707?i=1000237939720

Rocky: https://www.npr.org/2015/09/18/441446074/rocky

Lefty Disco: https://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/feature/lefty-disco

Out on the Wire: https://jessicaabel.com/out-on-the-wire/

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