For the Write Reasons (Part 1)

The Why Before the How

From an early age, stories and thoughts shared by others often filled the gaps in my life. Areas where I felt something was missing. Void spaces that left me feeling unsatisfied. I wanted to have, do and be like those people who shared those stories. I would often get my fix from reading books, both fiction and non-fiction. Other times, I would enjoy the experience through a show in the theater or on TV. Some of the best stories were those shared in conversation when I could ask questions and dive deeper.

I knew that at some point I had to step out of my imagination and take action. Becoming an active participant would help me elevate the experience. Rather than just going along for the ride, I wanted to get in the driver’s seat.

One example I give in Owning the Experience is the transformation from reader to writer. Instead of just being a person reading someone else’s books, I encourage others to become the author.

Owning the writing experience implies accountability. With every post we either add value or we drain. Even actions that seem inconsequential have a butterfly effect as they ripple across the universe. As a writer, it’s important to be mindful about the potential effect of our words. Does our writing benefit others? Is our intent to educate, inspire or entertain…maybe all three? Are we ultimately helping to improve the well-being of our readers?

It’s in that spirit that I write.

Setting the Stage: The Origin of My Muse

Almost 30 years ago, I started putting pen to paper on a regular basis.

In college, I started a personal diary to capture the details of my fleeting thoughts and experiences. There were so many exciting changes happening, both within myself as well as in the world around me. I wanted to document the details which I knew would eventually get lost in the whirlwind of memories. Memories of lost love, epic failures, daily milestones; and general musings about coming-of-age and the lessons learned along the way.

After university, I continued filling journal upon journal while I lived and worked in Matsuyama City, Japan. I even tried a few entries written in 日本語. It was another exciting chapter in my life and the writing helped me relish every day of that wonderful adventure.

After returning to the U.S. to start anew, there was a major shift in reality. Although I had already been out of college for more than six years, it wasn’t until then that I really felt the pressures of ‘adulthood’. I got married, bought a house and started a family. At this stage, people were really depending on me. Unlike the years in school or my time abroad, this chapter of my life shifted the focus from self-oriented to others-oriented.

In sacrificing time that I usually had to myself, I found it challenging to keep up with my journals. I paused my writing for more than 15 years so I could climb the corporate ladder and be a good provider for my growing family. I even started a few side gigs for extra income. I barely had time to sleep, much less write.

Then about two years ago — a few rungs short of the C-suite — I got laid off for the first time in my life. To make things more dramatic, the businesses built on the side had already dissolved and petered out. Panic set in.

Given the circumstances, I actually consider myself lucky in retrospect. I had time to reflect and sort through all those years leading up to my career break. Looking back, I began to appreciate the unique story of my life and the value of writing it all down. (Because I’m naturally introspective, writing always forced me to organize my scattered thoughts and see what I could learn about myself from each experience. I would even say it was therapeutic.)

Anyway, after stumbling through my emotionally charged thoughts, I realized it was time yet again to start a new chapter. I needed to reinvent myself.

To facilitate the process, I began a new journal. This time I updated my tools to leverage digital hardware and software. Technology had come a long way in those 15 years. Bounded notebooks were replaced by digital entries stored in the cloud.

I then transitioned from private to public. Having been through half a lifetime of ups and downs, some of the experiences documented in my personal morning pages inspired ideas for sharing. I mustered up the courage and eventually pulled the trigger to publish.

About a year post-layoff, I decided to write about the emotional roller coaster ride that ensued thereafter. That was one of my first stories shared on a public forum. I chose LinkedIn Pulse and shared the post with my connections in the corporate world. I felt so vulnerable after hitting the publish button. To my surprise, I started receiving a flood of positive feedback and encouraging comments. The audience was asking for more! I discovered that many people could relate. And for anyone going through similarly hard times, the story made them feel better.

Even if they were just being kind — consoling me in my hour of need — it was exactly the medicine that I needed. The shot in the arm that woke me up and got me started. I decided that if a story I shared inspired even one person — that one person might only be myself— it was worth writing.

Connecting the Dots

That was the beginning. I’ve been posting publicly ever since. Now, at unexpected moments, I get struck by sudden inspiration. Usually when I realize two seemingly unrelated things come together in a meaningful way. I’ve started connecting the individual fragments of my life story and observations to date. It is in those connections, I come to understand things that didn’t make sense at the time. It’s about those connections that I write.

My muse lives in that space between the dots.

If we can find a way to step back and connect the dots, we begin to see a bigger picture of how the individual elements create the whole. This picture tells a story. Your perspective of that story has value. It is worth sharing if what now seems obvious to you, is not as common sense to others.

Up Next

In Part 2, I’ll cover my writing process including:

  • drafting on the go
  • timing the habit
  • writing experiments
  • finding creative outlets
  • visiting the muse

Stay tuned…

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