I have not written anything in the last five years, at least nothing like the introspective and thoughtful sort that used to come to me naturally.
I don’t take this lightly. For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of the written word. I had won poetry contests in grade school. I moonlighted as a copywriter and rock journalist in college. I eventually got hired as a communications specialist at a luxury hotel. Later, and quite unexpectedly, I found myself taking charge of the bully pulpit — for a Cabinet secretary, a Senator and then later a head of state. The rudiments of back-breaking wordsmithing for different genres have become familiar to me, and the journey to mastery was rather enjoyable.
But when my life started to crumble, writing was not the most efficient lifeline. It helped get my ducks in a row during rare reflective moments, but it did not offer a way out of the financial black hole I found myself in. Business did. Because I poured thousands of dollars into an overpriced education with money I didn’t have, I knew I had to learn how to sell tangible goods to a guaranteed market . Writing, which demanded focus, time, isolation and creativity, was not a solution to an urgent dilemma. It had to take its place in the back burner while I struggled to climb up from the edge of despair.
As I stretched my threshold for adversity, I had learned to empty my cup, and let new perspectives influence my thinking. I began to read voraciously, averaging 10–13 books a year since 2015 when I first discovered what it was like to get fired from a job. To restore my confidence, I used idle time well and read the biographies of Steve Jobs, FDR and Aretha Franklin. Then I read a ton of self-help by Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill which proved necessary companions when I hit the nadir. In 2017, when things started to look up again, I learned to read with intention. This means an eclectic selection of literary options that broadens my horizons and keeps me on track with my goals. A whole gamut of talent satisfied my curiosities and allowed me to venture into strange domains: Michael Lewis, Daniel Kahneman, George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Aldous Huxley, Yuval Noah Harari, Peter Thiel, Thomas More, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Viktor Frankl, Neal Stephenson, John Le Carre, Bob Woodward, Seneca and so on…
Now that my life has been filled with newfound wisdom, ideas swarm in my monkey brain constantly, usually as I am about to fall asleep. I find mobile apps helpful for the light bulb moments, but I think long form writing is still the best tool for thoughtful articulation. I have spent many a Sunday writing up 2-page briefs for projects I plan to work on, companies I want to build, or business strategies I want to sell in the future. One such project — the preservation of local rock and roll legends through a documentary series — has been picked up by a good friend turned collaborator. My ideas are no longer just mental files bereft of details. They are ripe for a pilot test.
I also realized that while reading is a great habit, action is much sexier. The good deed may just be in writing again and writing more often. Inspiration may be few and far between, but no one ever struck gold without determination. Here’s hoping empty schedules are not so scarce.