Just Write


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

From what I have seen, when aspiring writers ask widely known writers how to do it, the second group always tell the first group to start by JUST WRITING. Write anything. Write all the time.

I have backed off from my fledgling blog for several months. Partly it was due to some life chaos. Then we had the 2016 US Presidential Election... and I had too many words. With that event, of course, we have had a major paradigm shift in just how the world works. There was some shock - like the trauma kind. To quote Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, "Aaaaaaaaaaa! ...as in surprise and alarm!"

I always wanted to write. And I mean write for fun - not like, for the government. I did a freaking load of writing for the government. Not as much as many, but more than most. I'd like to think I'm pretty decent - but a lot of that was technical writing. Contract stuff. Perhaps 900,000 emails. Feels like about that many. I could be underestimating.

Also: fire danger assessments. Situation reports. Policies. Policies about situation reports. Situation reporting forms. Instructions for situation reporting forms. Instructions for situation reporting applications using said forms. More forms, in detail. More group editing than you can shake a stick at. Incident management policies and procedures. Explanations about why we need incident management policies and procedures. Pleas to actually build national incident management policies and procedures. Okay, that last writing was technically whistleblowing, but it was about government.

In my first month as a permanent federal employee, I learned to write the scientific justification for $20 million in severity funding, and probably wrote justifications for $120-$250+ million in severity funding or so over the next four years (severity funding is emergency money in addition to the baseline budget for firefighting resources based on "average" fire load / fire danger). I should have kept track of the millions: more volume for my LinkedIn profile.

I wrote an annual state fire report for 18 National Forests in California for four years, complete with what I thought were complex Excel tables. Until later, when I wrote an annual report presentation for an emergency notification system with like Excel tables on crack.  Big data adds some intensity.

Just thinking about that makes my head cringe. I don't know how a head cringes, but that's what big data does to mine. I have loved much of the work I've done, but I'm going to tell you right now that I love this more.

There is something about creative writing that is absolutely freeing.

ALL of that work - it needed someone else's approval. Or involvement. It was written for effectiveness, or to achieve some end.

THIS writing: this is written for those who read it, and whatever any of you might get out of it. I hope that somewhere in some of it that there is some takeaway. I don't know what that will be up front. I do hope there's something of interest there. There are meant to be tools, too.

The writing is also for me. This is me doing what I feel compelled to do. It is me finding my voice. It is me creating art.  It is also a tool - for processing, for sharing, for building connection.  For breathing.

I have had these artsy friends over the years, and have not always fully understood them. Until I started to create. And look, I suck at quite a bit of art. Mostly because it just does not resonate with me. It's not something I need coaching on (the part where I say I suck) - because it simply doesn't resonate with me. What does is writing.

One of my artist friends told me in the fall that I just needed to do it. Do what I feel compelled to do. He doesn't function well when he doesn't create. I get that. It's a huge piece of why I felt so drawn to leave government - so that I could get my full voice. So that I could use it.

My mom is the first person who encouraged me to write. She had picked me up from college for some reason - whether for a visit, or for a summer at home - I don't know. What I do know is that I can tell you exactly where we were on the interstate when she told me that I was a good writer, and that I should think about writing a book someday.

We never know what will plant a seed, but I reckon that did. And I've committed to a blog rather than a book, but that's a story for a different post.

So now I'm writing. I'm back to it. In the world after the election, I have been finding words - but so far, I've put most of them on Twitter, or on Twitter here, or on Facebook on countering fear. I have written a freaking ton on my personal Facebook page. Because it's easy. Because with the post-election news tsunami; it was more efficient.

In the coaching world, we say that it is helpful to make a public declaration about what you are up to, and what you are fixin' to do next. This is mine: I am fixing to write. A lot. More than I - or the people I know - may be comfortable with. More than I've ever written.

I don't know what will come out. I don't know if it will be one of the hundreds of blog post ideas and tools I've already outlined, or some of the not-yet-edited writing I did last spring. I do know that it will make some people uncomfortable. I am certain that it will make me uncomfortable.

Every time I post something on the interwebs, I take a breath. Be it a Tweet, a Facebook commentary, a LinkedIn note, or a blog post - every time, I take a breath.

We are living in an amazing world. A beautiful, mysterious, stunning, shiny world.

It's also a world of change - and we've got some big change coming. One of the ways we can handle that change is to find coping mechanisms; ways to process - and perhaps also ways to help other people.

I'll be writing. I'll be doing other stuff too, but I'll most definitely be writing.

Find your anchor.

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