Works in Progress
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
A few hours after I published my first blog post, yesterday, I received a text from my brother. I had shared the link to the blog post with him just after I published it, but I did not include any context for the link.
A lot of our communication is web link based, I am starting to realize. He will read an article or see a video, think of me, and send me the link. I will often reply with an appropriate emoji (or more often, a wildly inappropriate emoji) and then follow that up with a link of my own. It is strange how much has changed in the way we communicate with one another nowadays. I can’t help but think that we may have sacrificed a lot of intimacy in exchange for simplicity and convenience.
When my brother received the link, free of context and unaware that I had decided that day to begin a new blog, he read the post oblivious to the identity of its author. It was not until about half-way through reading it that he began to recognize the series of events described in the article. When it dawned upon him that this was not merely an article I shared, but rather one that his little brother wrote and shared with the world, he stopped reading and sent me a three-word text.
“Wow Mike. Wow.”
It was my first feedback, as nobody else had at that point read a single word of the post. It is an interesting text, if you stop to think about it. I had to ask for clarity, “Is that a good ‘wow’ or a bad ‘wow.’”
Perspective matters. One aspect of my recovery has been to acknowledge the fact that I am a recovering people-pleaser. “While praise and kind words can make anyone feel good, people-pleasers depend on validation. If your self-worth rests entirely on what others think about you, you’ll only feel good when others shower you with compliments” (Morin, A. 2017).
I needed to know if his reaction was positive or negative, and through the bright, clear lens of hindsight it is obvious that he was impressed. It was a ‘good’ wow, but for a brief moment as I read his three-word text, I needed it to be spelled out for me, unambiguously.
I’m a work in progress.
He called me afterward to speak about my blog post in more detail. His first question was a practical one, an effective icebreaker in my opinion. He asked what kind of a deal I got on the four new tires I had to purchase for my truck. I explained the circumstances behind the purchase, even knowing that he only just read about the incident, just because I was too nervous, somehow, to guide the conversation toward the blog post. What if, I wondered, that was a bad 'wow' after all?
Our conversation was empowering, and I got my validation from him; he loved my post and was proud of me for taking these first steps toward what I hope to become a career in writing someday. However, more than that, I learned from him that until he knew I was the writer, he was captivated and needed to know where the story was going and how it would end.
Even once he knew that what he was reading was an account of my experiences this year, his familiarity with the events of my life did nothing to diminish his desire to see how the story progressed. His ‘wow’ was not about the story, itself; he was moved by the way it was written.
He motivated me to carry on. He said this was something I needed to do, and I think he’s right.
I have previously mentioned a desire to become a writer. I used to work as a police dispatcher, and one of the few things I did in that job that truly instilled within me a sense of self-validation was the effort and care with which I wrote blotter narratives and memoranda. Every incident where a police officer interacted with a member of the public was a story, complete with a beginning, middle, and end, and I took great pleasure in telling that story so that at some later date and time, when an officer or detective, administrator or attorney needed information regarding that specific incident, they would find a well-organized, clear, concise, and useful account awaiting them.
I also have written a few short stories, or at least portions of them. Back in the gray days, I would write a few pages, or a few dozen, or a few hundred in some cases. Something would change in my life that had nothing to do with writing, and I would be taken away from it. Life happens, right? By the time I would get back to writing again,
I would have lost faith in the work. It would seem insufficient, inferior, and unworthy.
My perspective changed from the moment I typed that last word, eager to return to my story, to the moment when I sat down again to write the next word. It seemed to have had so much promise and potential. What changed? Who wrote this? I am a worse writer than I thought, I guess. I was deluded. This was never good…
I have recently been re-reading some of the stories I wrote years, even decades ago. I rediscovered my love of writing, and I wanted to see how far I might have come since then. You know something? None of it is really bad at all. I have been too harsh a critic of myself in retrospect, and not just about my writing. Those stories did have potential. They still do, in fact.
They aren't abandoned, insufficient, or unworthy. They are works in progress.
Just like me.
Let’s return to the conversation I had with my brother last night for a moment. As we were discussing the blog and my plans for it, he cautioned me not to get caught up in the trap of making every post a basic rewrite of the last. His concern was that I was going to make every story I wrote match too-closely the tone and scope of my first. He said that I should be ready to ‘throw some curve-balls,’ and ‘keep if fresh.’ He was right, of course, and that brought me to the realization that I should probably decide what this blog is going to be all about.
I want to be a writer, and according to guidance I received from my brief research on the topic, “if you want to get published, first publish yourself; building your online platform is an essential first step.” (Reed, J. 2019).
My primary goal with this blog is to escape from my old ways of writing a few pages, or a few dozen, and then let them languish and die on the vine. The first step is to admit to myself that what I write is worthy of being read, and to leave it to the reader to decide its merits.
My second goal is no less important to me, however, and it is completely compatible with my brother’s guidance to throw curve-balls and keep things fresh. I want to help people. I always have, and that is not due to my people-pleasing tendencies. Like I discovered back on my birthday, the right words spoken at the right moment can completely change a person’s perspective and potentially, save their life. My hope is that someone, someday , will read this blog while trapped in a gray moment of their own, and they glean some insight, a smile, an a-ha moment that changes their point of view in a positive way.
Even if I cannot find a career as a writer, if I can change just one person’s day for the better, if I can help just one other soul escape their own gray moments, this will all have been worthwhile.
Morin, A. (2017, August 23). 10 Signs You're a People-Pleaser. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday,com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201708/10-signs-youre-people-pleaser
Reed, J. (2019, December 20). How to get published - 6 steps to a traditional publishing deal. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from http://www.publishingtalk.eu/getting-published/how-to-get-published/