Updated: Nov 16, 2022
I have wondered about that myself. Maybe I can figure that out before I finish this post.
For most of my life, I would have never considered myself a writer. Writing was a necessary evil. One of the side benefits of pursuing a degree in engineering was the fact that I knew there would be far less writing than a liberal arts degree.
If engineering required little writing, I figured the Marine Corps would require even less, and it would involve smaller words.
So, imagine my surprise when shortly after reporting for duty as a brand-new second lieutenant, my commanding officer summoned me with a “special assignment.” He wanted me to write an award nomination for another officer, who I had only met briefly, for an achievement I knew nothing about. Not to mention, I had no idea what the criteria for the award was. I gave the Colonel the only response available to me in that situation, “Yes Sir! When do you need it?”
I spent the next week researching criteria for the award, interviewing people who knew the officer being nominated and writing the nomination. I was certain the outcome would be that not only would that officer not get the award, but I would be transferred to a remote Marine outpost in northern Alaska.
Things turned out worse than I feared.
My Commanding Officer loved what I wrote, and I was named the Squadron Awards Officer, a collateral duty I hated with a passion.
As it turned out, the joke was on me. No one told me just how much writing there was in life, particularly after the creation of that sinister thing known as email, so when I was forced to start writing for a living, as most people in Corporate America do, I was completely ill-prepared. I would right voluminous emails, which rambled on for pages with no clear message for the reader.
I am sure that many of the emails I have sent over the years have left at least more than a few people scratching their heads wondering what the heck I was trying to say. I blame most of that on haste. It is just so easy to bang out something on the keyboard in between meetings and hit send without thinking. We all do it far too often.
One of my favorite quotes on writing is by the 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascalm, who wrote, “I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” It took me years to realize that slowing down and thinking through the message you want your audience to receive does at least two things. It forces you to structure your thoughts in a way that more effectively communicates your message. More importantly, it ensures that you, yourself, are clear about what your message is.
It is the latter that leads me to write these blog posts. I have twice the number of drafts sitting on my hard drive than published ones on my website. More times than not I start with a question, as I have done here— “Why do I write this?” Answering that question in writing, forces me to think more deeply about the topic. Knowing that others may read it keeps me honest. I frequently start writing about something that is on my mind, only to find that there is something entirely different that I want to say.
Earlier this year, I self-published a memoir. Conventional wisdom said that a self-published memoir by an unknown author was almost guaranteed to be a failure. How wrong that was. Today, Seeing Clearly is number 271,403 on the best-seller list, and I have learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined. I hope the quarter-of-a-million books above me on the list were equally successful.
If you ever want to really learn about something, spend some time writing about it. You will be amazed about what you learn along the way.
So that’s why I do this, and I appreciate those who go on this journey with me.