Writing to Change the World

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I am writing to change the world! Well that feels like a bit much, eh? But, there it is, on my website, as the tag line. You see it on every page. I am putting it out to the world. So what troubles me about this claim? The scope! When I say I want to change the world the first thing that comes to mind is that what I do must have some kind of global impact. The earth knew I was here because of the seismic impression I left. Therein lies the rub. The scope of the ambition leaves you feeling small and hubris at the same time. 

So what do I really mean when I say I want to change the world by what I write? I mean I hope to influence the world for good, I want to be among the contributors, not just the cynics. Of course, I would like my words to reach the masses, but that’s not the main motivation, not even close. If it was, it could taint what I write. I would find myself always chasing the popular new thing looking for more eyeballs and possibly lose sight of the goal. The goal is to impact the world around me for good. A forest is a mighty thing but so is a tree. To reach the one has value, to develop your skills has merit, even if only a dozen see it. I do want to change the world but I know that may never be on the scale it sounds like. 

I’m so very grateful for those who have impacted me in my life, few of which are NYT bestsellers or have monetized their talents in grand ways. My widowed neighbor taught me at church and welcomed me into her home. She was, for me, a much needed surrogate grandparent. She was never interviewed by Oprah and didn’t “make it big” but she changed the world by changing me. School teachers, church mentors, friends, coworkers and of course family, have all blessed my life and almost without exception did those things in obscurity. But, make no mistake they changed the world by changing me.    

So why do I write? Why not just be a nice guy? Well I am trying to be a nice guy. I’m trying to be a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good husband, a good father, a good Christian etc. Part of that for me means trying to push myself in new ways and develop my talents so that I can be of value to those around me. One risk we have when we pursue this course of action is comparing ourselves to others finding, ourselves lacking and then quitting. I am sympathetic to that, and I’ve written about it on at least two occasions ( Check out those posts here and here).

We can’t let whatever we aren’t yet stop us from becoming what we can be. We also can’t minimize what we are doing because we haven’t maximized the impact. Six years ago I had the distinct impression to spend more time on social media and be more purposeful about it. That journey has led me to write more, think more and be more brave. Since then I have, little by little, accomplished a lot! Here is a brief list:

  • Finished a 40k word middle grade book
  • Joined the Society Of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators
  • Joined a writing group
  • Learned how to query agents to represent my projects
  • Began my blog 
  • Reached close to 10,000 views on the blog
  • Have had near 500,000K views on social media (this is an educated guess because FB analytics are tricky for personal accounts) 
  • Finished (almost) with the first draft of my second book
  • Created a website 
  • Learned how to better brand my work
  • Met new people 
  •  Made new friends  
  • Improved my skills 
  •  Gained new skills 
  • And in some small way have made a difference 

Perhaps the most satisfying thing that has happened is the personal messages I get. So many times I have felt like a humbug, gotten discouraged, or have been ready to walk away from everything, when someone will reach out to me and thank me for something I have written. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and support I have received and humbled by the impact it’s had on myself and others. So yes, I may never monetize my work, and yes, I may never reach the masses, but I am changing the world, one word at a time, and that’s okay by me.

Confessions of a Sports Convert

In small town America sports are king. That was no exception where I grew up. For many kids that was torture. If you didn’t like sports or couldn’t play well it was tough. If you fit both categories it could be a nightmare. 

 To say I was uncoordinated would be a major underselling of how bad by athleticism was. I was partially blind as a kid and that subsequently caused me to shift from being right-handed to left-handed and totally threw off my hand eye coordination. Not to mention I had a natural gift for being afraid of any and all things flying toward my head. I was terrible at everything. Throwing, catching, hitting, running, jumping, ball handling–you name it, I was bad at it. 

 As a result I didn’t like sports. I therefore didn’t watch sports, so, of course, I couldn’t talk about sports with any confidence. This led to a lot of isolation as a kid and even some bullying. So like many people I know, I learned to hate sports. Junior High and High School deepened my loathing of sports. Stereotypical high school jocks and the dreaded PE class, shirts and skins.  Need I say more? It wasn’t until High School I came to know and associate with other sports haters: the yearbook staff, theater, speech and debate. I hung out with people who shared my interests–finding fellowship with my like minded nerd peeps.   

 Now almost thirty years later I have a confession to make. I love sports! No really I love them! I can honestly say I would rather watch a ball game than about anything else. So what happened? Two things really: my children and moving to Indianapolis. As my kids got older some of them liked sports and where athletic (they 100% did not get this from me). I began to take an interest in their interest. It was fun to watch them play and enjoy it. 

 Secondly, we moved to Indianapolis. We had only been in town a week or so before I noticed we were the only family on the block who every Friday during football season were not wearing Colts Jerseys (I am not kidding about this). Grocery store clerks, bank tellers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, nurses, school teachers all wore Colts Jerseys. In 2009 you could go to any public park in Indiana and yell “Hey Peyton!” and a half a dozen children (boys and girls) would turn their heads wondering who called their names. Sure, they loved they Colts, but Indianapolis (Indy) loved all sports. 

 In a  very real way sports saved Indy as this 2013 article by David Masciorta points out.  Turns out in the 1970s Indy, like many other midwest industrial cities, was in trouble. Their aggressive plan to turn Indy into a thriving sports hub paid off. Subsequently, Indy faired better economically and got a jump start on their downtown revitalization compared to Detroit, Cleveland or Pittsburgh (all of which are amazing cities that I highly recommend you visit).  Not only does Indy have 11 professional sports teams it is the host for the national headquarters of the NCCA and often hosts many collegiate and professional sports tournaments. So it was easy to fall in love with sports there. I started watching more games so I could hold a conversation with my neighbors and friends and found that now that I didn’t feel the pressure to play sports I could more easily enjoy them. Moving to Boston has only amped that up (sorry Tom Brady I don’t care how much you win–I’ll always be a Colts fan).

 Over the last ten years I’ve grown from having a tacit interest in sports to becoming a full throated fan. I love the drama of not knowing who will win and who will lose, not to mention the community feel that comes from being part of the local team. 

 I also love the virtuosity of the athletes! What they can do is amazing! I find sports to be an escape from the complicated, nuanced world we live in. I love this new part of life and the joy it brings me. I am also glad to let go of the burden sports felt like as a kid. I do, however, feel bad when I am talking sports with someone and I see another friend or family member roll their eyes like “Gross, sports.”  I want to say, “Hey, I get it!  I used to feel that way too but trust me, it’s better than you think and you may even come to love it!” So I say, play ball!             

 

Be Careful How You Edit the Past

We are the product of all we have encountered. Like most of you, I have engaged in revisionist history when it comes to the narrative of my life. Like Professor Slugworth’s muted memories of Tom Riddle we blend together, erase and dub over the parts that might reflect poorly on us or that caused us great pain. This is normal and perhaps even a bit healthy.

Recently, I was reminded of some of the dangers of our life redactments. I had the opportunity to visit with a friend from high school.  Someone who had been a great friend then but, as happens in life, we lost connection for 29 years. We connected via social media a year or two ago but nothing more than seeing each other’s family pics, etc.

As he and I reminisced I was reminded of moments that were transformational for me. Moments that helped determine my direction and ultimately led me to become the person I am now. So much of that time of life was painful for me that in my attempt to forget the pain I unintentionally redacted much of the good, even parts that were formative and essential to who I am now.

My walk down memory lane with this friend had a real impact on me. It made me wonder how much I may have missed by trying to move on from who I was. I reflected on others I owe a thank you to, people who saw me for what I could be, not just who I was. In my rush to move on I have overlooked key events, experiences and most importantly people that helped me grow into the person I am now. A person I like very much.

Memory is a funny thing. I wonder how years of filtering the past have warped our perception of the reality of what was. I guess none of us every really experience life as it is but more as we think it is. In an age were we put a premium on authenticity I wonder what role our filtered memories play on who we are or who we think we are.

So I think I’ll be brave and try to review the past. Looking for my own story through a less clouded lens. Looking for those moments that helped me set a course to the destination I am now at. More than just forgiving my past me, I want to understand him, thank him and those along the way who helped me find the version of myself I was always meant to be