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The Power of Secret Work



I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.







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College was the time in my life when I realized I was an overachiever and I basked in it. I felt a lot of purpose in being so busy. I liked having a full calendar and a status on campus.

Every activity I did on campus revolved around events. Planning them. Executing them. Being a leader. I forged an identity through these things. Putting on events on campus was a front-and-center kind of role. I think there were parts of me that liked being seen and recognized for the work I was doing. Don’t we all?

I can’t tell you exactly where the shift happened, only that it did. I went from trying and executing things that I loved to being as involved as possible in as many things as possible. I was happy, yes, but I was burnt out. I think I was desperately trying to prove something but I’m not sure if it was for other people or for me.

The culture we live in will likely never stop praising the busy… the hurried… the ones getting after it. And I still love a bit of hustle. I look back on those late nights of starting More Love Letters, a few years after college, and I smile because I felt really alive during that time. But that’s the thing I want for you: I want you to feel alive. Like, really alive.

In my junior year of college, I did a journalism internship with the Worcester Telegram and Gazette– a major paper in my college’s city. I’d loved every opportunity I had before this one but this was something different. Something I’d only felt when I was younger, knee-deep in the art of storytelling. I felt so much purpose and I knew I wanted to follow this feeling.

Because of this internship, I was asked to be the assistant editor of the college’s newspaper because of my journalism experience. I had no idea how hard the newspaper staff worked to create the paper twice a month. Countless hours were spent in a basement office tucked away from the rest of the bustling Student Activities corridor. I’d worked hard before but I always felt seen and spurred on, thrust into the spotlight for all the good things I was doing.

Much of this work was thankless. Occasionally someone would praise an article or thank me for my column but they never saw the long hours or the late nights where the software would crash and we’d have to start from scratch all over again. They never saw us huddled in the newspaper office til 2 in the morning. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t need anyone to see it. I felt so alive and so on fire. For the first time in four years of college life, I felt the most “me” I’d ever hoped to feel in a completely unseen role.

I felt the need to constantly prove myself beginning to fall away. I wanted more of this feeling– this feeling that I was getting closer than ever to who I was made to be. I feel it most when writing.

Writing, no matter how technologically advanced we get, will always be secret work. It will be working with less praise. It will be working in the trenches. The best creative work is always done in secret.

So what about the praise? The praise we’ve become wired to seek in every aspect of our lives…

What if it’s not about who praises us? What if it’s pointless to work to create post after post, reel after reel, just to get traction from other people? Approval. Likes. Follows.

None of that holds any weight if you aren’t alive in the process… if the thing you’re creating doesn’t light you up and make you want to run laps, regardless of who sees you running the laps.

But friend, if you can do that, if you can work your tail off without the need for other people to validate you, you’ll learn to validate yourself. You’ll learn that secret work matters. You’ll learn that creation is a process and never a quick fix. It will become less about the image you put out there to others and so much more about the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a labor of love.

I hope we don’t forget that. I’m praying with everything I have that we don’t forget the way it feels to create in unseen spaces. To show up for the craft instead of the applause.

Applause is fleeting. It never holds. Find the thing that makes you feel alive. Follow that thing. Carve out space for it. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of space. Just 15 or 30 minutes a day, doing something that makes you feel so much like yourself, is the best medicine for the soul. It will keep giving back to you as you pursue it and it will likely make you thrive in other areas of your life.

Who cares if no one sees you at work? Who cares if they don’t know about the long hours? You do. You know this matters. That’s enough.

I’d love to hear from you:

In moving my blog to a newer platform, I sadly had to let go of the thousands of comments and conversations that came from readers over the last 10+ years. This grieves me deeply but I know there will new conversations, fresh words of wisdom, and opportunities to create close community once again. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. I’ll be reading + replying on a regular basis.


  1. Rosa says:

    WOW Hannah! You certainly have a gift for making deep points… simply but boldly. I’m a 71 year old fan of yours and you are teaching me! I love your vulnerability and willingness to share your ideas and life experiences. Great work!

  2. Melanie says:

    I needed to hear this when I feel like people are actively rooting against me. The devil likes to work overtime. So thanks for putting in the secret work to make this post.

  3. Lisa says:

    Thank you for the always needed, timely reminder <3

  4. Abbi says:

    Love this! I quilt for a hobby, but being a working mom doesn’t always leave me feeling like it at the end of the day. Sometimes I set an alarm for 20 minutes and tell myself I’m going to work on a project for 20 minutes. It usually lasts so much longer because once I start I feel so much better. And other days that 20 minutes is all I need to reset.

  5. Theresa says:

    Such good advice, Hannah. For years now I have realized that I need to do something creative (hopefully daily for 20 minutes or more) on a daily basis to relax and feel alive. And yes, few people see what I do. It might be baking scones. Playing the piano. Doing a paint by sticker picture. Cross stitching. Bottom line, it needs to be me using my hands to create something. Lately I have been making picture from beads. Not because I could sell them or decorate my walls with them (although I now I have enough to do both), but because it feeds my creative soul. The truth is I need this, and I function better as a human when I feed my creative soul.

  6. SK says:

    Thank you for these words, HB. Thank you for pouring out wisdom, challenge, and encouragement. My soul needed this today.

  7. Laurie says:

    As always, you got the best words! Thank you for this reminder!

  8. Mary Lou Kleveland says:

    This resonated with me so much, Hannah! Your words are ones I plan to ponder. Thank you!

  9. Tola Babalola says:

    Needed to hear this. Thanks, Hannah.

  10. Stephanie Branyik says:

    I subscribe to a number of blogs, but your, it’s by far my favorite. No more Monday blues when Hannah’s sage words are waiting to enlighten. Your ideas feed souls.

  11. Zhong says:

    Thank you for speaking into the secret places where we work tirelessly. I sometimes long for someone to acknowledge and validate what I do. And yet also doing the work that brings me alive means being okay with not being acknowledged and putting in the secret hours no one knows. Thank you for putting words to many of my own experiences. 🙂

  12. Charity says:

    Hello Hannah

    Greetings from Nairobi Kenya.

    I love your vulnerability and so relate with this post.I know how it feels to get so busy that we almost lose ourselves and how writing brings me back to life.

    As a Christian writer,I have purposed not to allow my day to day busy-ness rob me of the joys of that which breathes life back to me.

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

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  14. Amanda says:

    Beautifully written and such a good reminder.

  15. Tammy says:

    Hannah, Thank you so much for your blog. It truly brightens my Mondays. I have followed you since you started More Love Letters and I have hidden quite a few of them myself. Leaving those letters and thinking about the possibilities of them brightening someone’s day made me feel alive. And I would never have done that without your help. So, again, Thank You. <3

  16. Deb DD says:

    am so glad I recently found your writing! I just love it!
    God’s continued blessings upon you!

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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