Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The writer's journey

Back in late 2003, I was working in the brand of corporate hell and “cube farm” that spawned Scott Adams’ Dilbert empire. During that period of darkness, I began to get serious about writing. Spurred on by Stephen King’s admonition in On Writing, to write, I took his advice literally. Who was I to argue with his success? If he said “write,” then write I would.

It’s been a slow, uphill slog. Like Sisyphus, pushing his rock up upwards, there have been times during the past five years that I thought the stone would turn and crush me. More times than I care to admit, I wanted to pack it in, lick my wounds and use terms that I hear a lot from those with a fraction of my output; “writer’s block,” or, “I’m struggling to locate my muse.” When you find her, let me know, ok?

Lo and behold, an adage my mother used to use on me—nothing worth having, comes without pain and sacrifice—has become one of my mantras.

When I’m up before dawn, while other “aspiring” writers are still sleeping soundly, or banging away at my laptop, long after the Red Sox radio post game is over, writing is a lonely pursuit.

Occasionally, I’ll be somewhere and a spark of recognition occurs; someone connects my name with my first book, When Towns Had Teams. It’s rare, but once in a great while, someone I meet has read the book and they’ll say really kind and thoughtful things, like “I read your book and loved it,” or the other day, I met someone in Maine that I’ve watched from afar; I’ve been given an opportunity to partner with this person and she happened to mention to her husband that she had met the author of “the baseball book” that he loved; she emailed me and mentioned that he was impressed. These are little things, but everyone craves respect and even a little recognition, now and again.

Forgive me for sounding so self-indulgent, but when you are a writer whose next book will never be a bestseller and will sell a couple thousand titles (if wildly successful), sometimes navel gazing is all you have at times.

Actually, I began this post to say that considering where I started, five years ago, I’ve made steady progress. I’m finally beginning to access the networks and the people that I wanted to connect with, but wasn’t ready, or proven enough to warrant their attention. All that seems to be changing, which brings me back to the recognition that I sometimes am too impatient; I need to be more cognizant that good things take time.

Yesterday afternoon, I met with a group of people that I used to daydream about sitting down with. Even more improbably, they were asking me questions, tapping the wisdom, knowledge and skills that only come experientially, if you pay attention along life's crooked journey.

Life is humbling at times. Some of us are late bloomers and take a circuitous route to where we want to go. During our sojourn, we face struggles and trials that test our mettle. But like silver's need to purge its dross, these tough times only reveal the purities inherent in who we are.

One of the advantages of pushing through the tough times and believing in yourself when only one or two others do, is that eventually, you arrive at a place where your experiences resonate with others, because you're not talking theory, but are plugged into some deeper truths.

My own experiences grant me credibility and a hearing with many of the people I work with. In turn, it helps them have a willingness to take the next step they need to in their lives, towards realizing their own unique potential. When they understand that I didn’t have it all figured out and that I wasn’t born with a silver spoon and special advantages, they connect with my transparency. When I ask them to be willing to take the challenge to struggle and persevere, these aren’t empty words. They’re truths forged in the various furnaces of my own life's experience.

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