How filing for unemployment made me a better writer—and person.

Paul Kix
5 min readFeb 6

And influenced the book I was writing.

Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

You don’t have to see the whole staircase. You just have to take the first step.

Keep that in mind. Because I’m going to tell a story. A story that began a long time ago and ends today.

It ends well. I’ll give away the close up top. But to understand how it could have ended any other way I need to take you back to the beginning.

That would be January of 2021. I’d been laid off from ESPN six weeks prior, in November of 2020, but in January of ’21 my last paycheck from ESPN hit my bank account and I, under advice from my accountant, filed for unemployment.

That unnerved me. I’d vowed to bet on myself and make it on my own as a writer and entrepreneur, but something about filing for unemployment shook the foundation of what I thought I was building in my self-employment.

Who was I kidding? Did I really think I could make it on my own?

These were the questions that lingered behind every unemployment check I received in the weeks and months that followed, questions that, frankly, followed me every morning to my laptop, too, when I opened it and sat down to do work.

I didn’t have answers to those questions. In fact, I kind of doubted I could make it on my own.

I had projects, some paying better than others, but my core one in those days was a book I was researching.

It was on the 10 weeks in 1963 that I believed defined the next 60 years of the American experience. It concerned Project Confrontation, the code name for what civil rights activists and scholars today call The Birmingham Campaign.

Project Confrontation fascinated me. Martin Luther King Jr and his deputies within The Southern Christian Leadership Conference were broke when they went to Birmingham. The city was so racist and violent — CBS’s Edward R. Murrow likened it in those years to Nazi Germany — that many in the SCLC thought they’d die in Birmingham.

King said they were going to Birmingham to either break segregation or be broken by it.

I loved that sort of confidence when I wrote the proposal for the book, back in…

Paul Kix

Best-selling author of The Saboteur. Learn the 7 rules six-figure writers follow to make more money: