This really should have been my first post. In keeping with the idea of documenting this change in my perspective and life, I want to put down the thought process that led me to start writing.
[Note: This will start off pretty bleak. One week in, I can see that I had hit bottom from a self-actualization perspective. That’s OK- I believe this story is one of positive transformation.]
First, this is NOT a “poor me” story. I am grateful for the life that my wife and I have built for our family. I have no lottery dreams of quitting my job. The work that I’m paid to do supports my family and for that I am grateful.
I work in the insurance business. This was happenstance. I ended up here by chance but the company has been good to me. The company I work for operates in an ethical manner. I have a great deal of respect for many of the people with whom I work. I feel valued and compensated fairly. BUT- this is not what I dreamed of doing…
I have had a number of jobs since beginning work at 15. To the best of my recollection, they are:
- Moving stuff in an auction house
- Working in the Bindery for a Printer
- Page in the U.S. House of Representatives
- Making pizza (x3 places)
- Laborer in heavy construction
- Apprentice in the Plumber’s union
- Administrative Assistant
- Real estate appraiser
- Roadie for a Vegas-style music and comedy act
- Laborer at the Dept. of Public Works
- Banquet Server
- Law Enforcement in the U.S. Air Force
- Night manager at a topless bar
- Loss Prevention manager in a distribution center
- Surveyor in heavy construction
- Private investigator of insurance claims
- Working in the Claims organization for an insurance company
This is a pretty good list but the one job I’ve always wanted to do does not appear- writing. For a while in school, I thought that I’d like to teach English. I figured this would be a great way to support myself while I wrote the ‘Great American Novel.’ I ended up on a different path and today am a middle manager in the Claims organization that appears as the last entry on that list. I’ve also been with this company for 6 ½ years, which makes this the longest job I’ve ever held.
For a long time though, I’ve also been repressing anything related to this idea of me as a writer. Ironically, I’ve surrounded myself with very creative people. My wife, already a skilled stage actress and very talented singer, began a blog some time ago and she’s written a number of really funny pieces. Most recently, she has started her own business creating and selling hand poured, organic soy candles. My mother-in-law works as a motivational speaker and has written and published a number of books. My youngest brother is becoming quite the viral media personality. Another brother has a funny blog and contributed the “Blog, you fools!” cartoon from the other day. I’ve hated them all for their ability to put something out there and be creative.
I even went through the trouble of finding a quote to justify the inaction caused by my fear. John Adams wrote to his wife in 1780 saying
I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine. [source]
Now, this is a great quote- but in my mind this was yet another rationalization to avoid anything remotely creative. I saw myself as falling into either the first generation (with my military service) or the second generation (working in the insurance industry) but was giving my children the opportunity to study more creative pursuits. How could I argue with one of our founding fathers? Surely, I should put aside these childish ideas about “writing”.
No more. This is my turning point. At age 40, I’ve realized that the fear of failing at writing has stopped me from even attempting it. In hindsight, I know what scared me. I tend to have this all or nothing perspective. Either I’d write my first story and be an instant success OR I had no talent and would never produce anything worth reading. So if I put myself out there by writing something and it had all the rough edges and imperfections of a first work, I’d view that as meaning I would never be a writer. This is a childish perspective but it stayed in my blind spot for 40 years. I allowed it to influence my decisions (like avoiding any profession remotely close to the one that I really want to be doing) without ever stopping to consider whether the thought process made any sense.
I now believe that the skill of writing is a skill like anything else. The more effort and work I put in, the better my writing will become. In fact, you could probably make the argument that it is only through failing that we really learn things. This blog will be my platform to be creative, take risks, fail, and recover.
As I wrote in “Documenting This Transformation”, I think there’s value in capturing my observations as I go through this process. I see two distinct tracks of writing emerging from this. The first is the content that expresses my creativity and humor. That should comprise the majority of the “Essays”, “Fiction”, and “Funny- ha ha” sections of the blog. The second track in my writing is this self-observation and documentation- me stepping back and looking over my own shoulder as I’m being creative. Look for that in the “Open Notebook” category. (I’m sure that in a month I’ll come up with another method of laying out the pieces in the blog. I make no guarantee that those labels will apply 30 days from now!)
So- I’m not anonymous here. I will put myself out there by writing and sharing. I’m not going to let fear of failing stop me. So I ask you, dear reader:
What has fear stopped you from doing today?
What are you prepared to do about it?