“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” — Lily Tomlin*
Today I begin a new journey. In some ways, it’s a familiar journey. I’m officially a writer now. It might sound silly, but it’s important for me to write that down. Both for me to feel as I type it out on my keyboard and for you to read. Sure, it doesn’t pay the bills (yet), but I’m a writer.
It’s a strange thing though, I never particularly liked writing when I was in school. I don’t think I was all that good at it then either. In fact, I’m still not sure if I’m good at it. I often find writing to be the best way for me to process how I feel. My wife, Allison, can attest to this. There have been numerous occasions where I don’t say the right thing or I get stuck in my own head while the rest of the conversation speeds past me and I’m left in the dust trying to figure out what just happened. But then later that day or the next, I sit down at the computer — or go analog with a pen and paper (I know, how primitive of me)— and work through the emotions I felt or express how I wanted to show up better in those moments.
So what the hell are you going to write about?
Great question. In the past, I wrote pieces mainly about business-related topics. Let’s be honest, I wrote them because I was trying to break into the tech world and it helped to have some pieces that showed how I think about that world. I enjoyed writing them, yet it was hard to stick it out and write about that stuff regularly.
Instead, I’m going to write about life. The messy life we all deal with every day. The ups and downs. The crap bouncing around in my head, which probably bounces around in yours too. The funny, insightful, inspiring, annoying, terrifying, and poignant things that happened to me. Or, you might say, they happened for me because now I get to write about them and share them with you.
I read this quote about writing recently: “If you want to be a great writer, go live an interesting life.” Well, I’ve certainly done that: my experience in a major-label band, playing poker professionally, working for and founding early-stage startups, having a kid with special needs, and a bunch more. My life has had its highs and lows and I’ve grown a ton along the way. Not that I’m perfect now. I still struggle — like we all do — and I’ll be writing about that as well.
My goal isn’t to impart my almighty wisdom upon the masses. Instead, it’s to be vulnerable and tell good stories that teeter between funny and heartbreaking. I believe funny and heartbreaking are often two sides of the same coin.
Cool, sounds good. But why now?
Why not now?
I don’t know, aren’t you kinda old to be starting something new?
Damn, you know how to cut right to the core, don’t you? Trust me, that has crossed my mind way too much in the last several years. But you know that since you’re me. Or you’re my subconscious? I’m not sure. Let’s put it this way, I am in the lucky position in life right now where I can carve out time to work on something I’m truly excited about, so don’t ruin it for me.
Ok, but that didn’t answer my question.
Listen, does it matter how old I am? If I have something to say and a valid perspective on the world, age is irrelevant. In fact, you could argue age helps. Remember how I mentioned living an interesting life a second ago? Well, what better way to live an interesting life than to have lived more of it. Jeez, back off man.
Point taken. You have a family and a full-time job though. How are you going to do this too?
I’ve been able to consistently write almost every day for several months now. At first, I was setting a specific time on my calendar during the day. An hour where I could take a break from work and focus on my writing. That proved to be difficult with work email and messages piling up, which made it hard to flip the switch over to being creative. For a while there, I was disheartened about it, thinking I wasn’t going to be able to stick to my goal of at least an hour of writing each day.
Then one night, when I was feeling dejected about my lack of a regular writing routine, I was listening to a podcast while trying to put my two-year-old daughter Emily down for bed. The guest on the podcast was a non-fiction writer and researcher who had also battled with creating his own writing routine. He mentioned an interview he heard with a prolific author who has written over 80 novels. Yes, 80. As in eighty. This novelist often gets questions about how he does it. His answer? “I write 200 crappy words per day.”
If you’ve sat down to write something, I’m sure you’ve experienced this thing where it can be hard to start at first, then once you get going you get on a roll. That’s his point. By starting with writing 200 crappy words, it will usually result in much more than 200 words when you wrap for the day. Like right now, I’m at 885 words (before edits) and I’m feeling good about what I’ve accomplished so far.
That’s awesome! So what’s the point of all of this?
The point is to be creative and to put a piece of me out into the world and see if it resonates with others. I also have a book project I’m chipping away at. But for now, I’ll be sending out a weekly email with a piece of writing I’m excited about with the goal of growing an audience and developing my voice as a writer. Perhaps some of those pieces end up being chapters in the book, or perhaps not. There’s really no master plan behind the scenes.
Can I hang out?
I have a feeling you’ll be making an appearance often.
*I came across this Lily Tomlin quote in a great book I read recently called Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D. Highly recommended read, especially if you’re feeling like you haven’t accomplished what you’ve wanted to in life.