New Year, Past Reflections, Familiar Gameplan

When I was my 15, I couldn’t imagine being 20. When I got to 20, I couldn’t imagine being 25. And now that I’m 30, I can’t imagine being 35 someday. But, I know I’ll get there (God willing) and when I’m 35, I’ll probably ponder what 40 will look like.

Most of us do this – looking towards the future with an unsteady sense of what our next five years may entail. When I’m journaling or being reflective, I tend to look back five years at a time. What was I trying to achieve? What was I trying to avoid? Did I get where I wanted to go? The best laid plans don’t always come out as we envisioned them, but often, the results are even better than we expected. Ironically, one of my biggest life lessons has been to not look too far ahead. But, if I were to look back five years, what did that look like?

From a personal perspective, I’ve done much over these five years. Most recently, I got married. And to a wonderful woman. What a big change (and a big blessing) that has been. You can learn a lot from living on your own, but I think the experience is amplified a hundred fold in marriage. It’s not just you who is traversing through life now; it’s you and someone else. And that means taking on their life adventure, their story, their trials, and their tribulations along with your own. But, it’s not all hardship, it’s the joy of working together too. That’s the big thing. And something I’ve been learning and will likely continue to learn as she and I move forward. I’ve become more active in my faith; something that’s been a real miss for much of my life. I don’t know what’s worse – knowing there’s something wrong with your soul or seeing the same struggle others are experiencing, but never having the words for them. Well, nowadays, I have better words than I used to. Not that I know it all, I just have a greater peace where once I was a mess of things.

From a professional perspective, I’ve had several vocations – insurance, contracting, and even ministry – each of which I’ve learned much about myself and how I work with others. I remember when I used to work the drive-thru at Burger King and how I would become angry with how people treated me. I’d take it personally if someone were upset with the way a burger was made or how their fries were done. I felt like a “good day” meant having no complaints. But, as you can imagine, that didn’t leave many “good days” at all. That being said, I’ve learned not to take things so personally at work – regardless of where I am at. No one is as big a critic on Josh as Josh himself, but I’ve learned that this notion of being a self-appointed critic is incredibly unhealthy. It’s better to be able to receive criticism and feedback rather than beat yourself up all the time. You can learn to take things in stride at a much better pace and be quicker about applying certain changes to your work style, if need be. Again, our biggest enemies are usually ourselves. That’s as much a personal observation as it is a professional one.

Lastly, from a writing perspective, I’ve achieved quite a bit also. I’ve self-published three books in three years, my most recent an ebook on Amazon. I’ve written consistently every day for more than a year. I’ve kept this blog going for more than two years. And I’ve got several projects awaiting final edits before I release them. It’s been a rough journey, but I’m slowly starting to see the break in the tide I feel I’ve been under.

Twelve days into the new year, I feel like my game plan remains the same: don’t look too far into the future, but maintain a healthy focus on what I’m working towards. It may come with age, but my own use of time – and my view of time – continues to change. It’s not as much a commodity as it used to be, and I don’t find myself doodling away when I could be more productive. For me, that’s one of the better lessons I’ve experienced as I move into this new year. That our use of time trickles into every aspect of how we live: personally, professionally, and how we pursue our dreams.

 

Writers vs. Authors – ok, go.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I usually say, “Do you have a couple minutes to let me explain?” It’s not that I’m a raving narcissist and just want to hear myself talk (sometimes), it’s just that I’ve always tripped up on how to describe my life as a writer/author. It’s not helpful that I’m relatively new to this gig either. After six years of working in insurance, you’d think I’d be an expert at selling myself. But in all honesty, the reverse is true.

Why is that?

I suppose the biggest hang up I have is knowing what follows my answer. “Oh, you’re a writer, are you? Well, what exactly do you write?”

That’s a toughie right there. That question can be as broad or as specific as it can get. For if you present yourself as a writer, then people may assume that you’re actively writing. You could be a technical writer for a large company or you could be a beat writer for a local newspaper. You could also be an aspiring author who is looking to make a career out of telling great stories (that one sounds the most appealing to me…). But if you say you’re an author, then people have the perception that you’re established in the publication world. And when that happens, you have to describe just what it is you’ve spent your time writing about. Be it something totally irrelevant or totally absurd to the ears of a questioning acquaintance.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be engaged in both of these conversations. So I know a little something about how this show plays out. When I say I’m a writer, people ask what it is I choose to write about. So I give the answer that I write all sorts of things – experience-based satire, fiction, fantasy, and other fun stuff like that. Depending on what nerve you hit, the other party may probe a little further. “Satire, eh? What kind of satire?” or “So you’re into fantasy stuff? What types?” And from there, the conversation becomes give and take. You share a bit about why you choose to write about those topics while the other person tells you why that topic interests them so greatly. I find this to be very enjoyable. I learn a little to a lot about the person I’m talking to and in turn, they learn a little bit of something about me. Not a bad outing, I’d say.

But what happens when I say I’m an author? Well, I get some rather mixed reactions….

“An author, huh? How successful are you?”
“So you say you’re an author? How many books have you sold?”
or my favorite….
“You don’t look like an author. Shouldn’t you have a big beard or something?”

I’ve discovered the unfortunate truth (and you should too) that people love to address social status when presented with the opportunity to do so. And why wouldn’t they? The term “author” gives the implication of established credit. That you’ve “made it” somehow in your profession. In order for you to be an author, you must have published something significant. No one goes throwing around the term “author” unless he feels like he’s accomplished something, lest he be labeled a fool for doing so. And thus, these are the reactions one can receive for being so bold.

So what do you say when addressed with such inquiries? Well, to answer each of those above questions in order, here are some of my responses:

“Very.”
“More than I can count.”
and…
“I can’t grow effective facial hair but I’m hoping to do so one day, thank you.”

I’ve made certain to rehearse each of those for each situation. It’s the preparation that makes all the difference, I assure you.

But in all seriousness, I’ve published two books to date and therefore take great pride in saying that I’m an author. On the flipside of that statement, I love to write about just about anything so I’d rather not pigeonhole myself in the guise of a particular genre (which just so happen to be short story satire). I plan on writing fictional short stories and I’m dabbling in some fantasy and mystery ideas too. So if I’m smart about it, and recognize that every person I talk to from here on out is a potential reader, I’ll be sure to mention that I’m a writer, first and foremost. That makes the most sense to me anyway. Perhaps one day when I have several more works in the marketplace and I’ve gotten more specialized, I can start talking about being an author. But until that day comes, I’ll stick to being a writer. The more interest I can gain, the better and I’m convinced that if you’re a good enough writer, then you can write about anything and be good at it.

Even without the hefty beard.