The digital world is indeed an interesting one. While I know that some or all of my “digital footprints” will forever remain from former blog posts, emails, Google searches, text messages and the like, there is something refreshing about hitting the “delete all” button on a web site and just starting over. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy writing the content, or reading the comments (which were great, by the way), but sometimes new beginnings are important. This was just one of those times.
Reflecting on the past sixteen plus months of retirement, I find that I sleep more, stress less, and am as busy as ever, if not more so. When it comes to blogging, however, my voice has been relatively silent this summer and fall. This is not a reflection, of course, of a lack of things to talk about. There is plenty I’d like to say. It is, however, more of a reflection on what is best left unsaid. Unlike footprints on a warm, wet, sandy beach, our digital footprints remain with us always.
Most of us are avid consumers of media. For some, watching television is their portal into the world. For others, words on paper still suffice. And yet, for others, the blog sphere and the Internet are their picture window into what happens when and where, twenty four-hours a day, 365 days a year. For the majority of us, however, some combination of the above, or all of the above in moderation, serve as the window that opens our world view.
It goes without saying that I enjoying writing. I doubt, however, that I’ll ever be a John Grisham, a Clive Cussler, or a Stieg Larsson. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, either. I’ll probably not be a nationally or internationally known blogger, either, or write for the Washington Post, the Culpeper Star-Exponent, or even the Rappahannock News. Ditto on the sleep… no lost sleep, no counting sheep, for me. For me, writing, like public speaking, is the resultant product of thinking. I think fast on my feet, and can speak eloquently when called to do so. Writing, however, is more labor intensive. Every word must be perfect, at least until the next (and next and next and next) edit.
What I have noticed, however, during this transition from full-time employment to a more creative, flexible, relationship with “the world of work”, is that I miss the written word and the thinking process that goes with getting those words on paper (or in this case, in digital format). My guess is that those above all write (or, in the example of the newspapers, are written) from a place of passion. Some authors and writers have been writing for years, and others, perhaps, wrote their first blog post only yesterday (and are now famous for doing so, at least for the next few days or weeks).
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a passionate guy. I’m passionate about family, quality public education, powerful teaching and learning, effective governance, leadership that makes a difference, and taking care of the planet. I’m also passionate about making a difference in the lives of others, through servant leadership, which I remain convinced defines the better part of who I am as a husband, father, community member, educator and lifelong learner.
Blogging about your passions, however, especially when you have so many, can be a challenge. I’m not interested in competing with the “big” guys and gals. I don’t tweet and I don’t have a Facebook page. My “voice”, while important (even if only to me), probably doesn’t belong on the front (or any) page of the Washington Post. My opinions are mine, and yes, I have a lot of them, but with no Instagram account nor a Facebook page, I guess I’m still somewhat limited in my ability to communicate. What a relief that is!
This past month I have spent a lot of time thinking about writing. Yes, I love to write, but my former blogger-self with so many different passions (and just a touch of historical baggage) was just a bit too much. The writing felt forced, and I was uncomfortable with that. I’m a bit older now, and I’d like to think that I’m a bit wiser now, too. Letting go of stuff, whether it is an idea (or ideal) whose time has passed, or a Phillips head screwdriver that would make a great ice pick but wouldn’t drive a bent screw into a stick of warm butter, is hard for me to do. But new beginnings are all about, well, exactly… new beginnings. The changing of seasons, the advent of a new job, new friendships or new relationships all bring us to a place where we can let go of the “old” (or just throw it away) and embrace the “new”.
So today, I write again. My purpose is a bit different, perhaps, and I’ll be writing about some of my passions, but the feeling tone, the voice, if you will, will be different. At least I hope it will; you get to be the judge of that, and that is OK with me.
In reality, there are enough bloggers and newspaper writers and book authors out there to last us all a lifetime. One more isn’t going to make that much of a difference. But finding one’s true voice is a challenge that I shall relish. I know it will involve the use of tools, but perhaps tools of a different sort. For a practical guy, who studied and still practices the practical arts, tools are important. Just as important is what you do with them. I feel the same way about words, but it is different now than it was 16 plus months ago.
Head, hands and heart — what a combination. I look forward to sharing with you the product of my endeavors. Who knows where this next part of the journey will take us!