Random thoughts with a spattering of thoughtfulness.

Archive for October, 2011

What I Love To Do

To me, the most inspirational part of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 was this, “You’ve got to find what you love…the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I love to write. And, it’s funny, because for as much as I claim I love to write, I haven’t been doing a lot of it lately. Actually, I’ve been doing pretty much none. I’ve had ideas floating around. I’ve worked on some plot development and some character sketches, even some research, but I just don’t feel ready to actually start the writing process.

I think it would be amazing to weave an intricate and suspenseful story that affects readers deep in the core of their being, inspiring them to be better people. I want to create characters to which readers can relate, but also to act as mentors offering advice for life’s difficult moments. My dream isn’t so much to sell books, or even to be published, just to have a story that will inspire people.

So, I’m tossing around ideas. More accurately, an idea or two are gasping for air in the muck which is the day-to-day activity of my grey matter. These ideas will remain just that, maybe not indefinitely, but for a very long time, I’m sure.

Why? Because I’m insanely intimidated. And, I fear I have no imagination. Or, maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to sprint to the finish line when I’m not even steady on my feet.

Another quote I find very inspiring comes from the renowned rapper Eminem. In the song “Airplanes Part II” by B.o.B featuring Haley Williams and Eminem, he rhymes, “Because he never risked shit, he hoped and he wished it, but it didn’t fall in his lap so he ain’t even here; he pretends…”

I’m realizing that I’m doing a lot of hoping and wishing, but I’m not really working. Just like it wasn’t easy for Steve Jobs or Marshall Mathers (Eminem), it won’t be easy for me. I’m not going to sit down in front of a blank screen and effortlessly churn out 500 pages or so of literary excellence.

Dreams can come true, but only for those who are willing to work for it. So here’s yet another of my favorite quotes. An American entrepreneur just after the Great Depression, Arnold H. Glasow, once said, “Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” I like to interpret his meaning as work. One must endure grueling work to enjoy abundant success.

I’ve tried to set myself on fire a few times. I’ve told myself I’m going to hone my writing and creativity with daily practice. More often than not, I find that the only thing I managed to set on fire was my ignorance. Once that sputters out, so does my determination.

Ignorance on fire. This is a turn of phrase that has stuck with me for nearly 15 years. I first heard this during my, very brief, career as a telephone sales representative—the kind that advertised paid training, after which was about where my career ended. Anyway, as the room of new sales representatives neared the end of a week’s worth of training, the instructor explained that many of us will do very well as soon as we hit the sales floor. He said we’ll make ridiculous sales mostly because we won’t really know what we’re doing. We’ll be like ignorance on fire!

I seem to approach every aspect of my life with ignorance on fire. Once I realize how much work is really involved my determination fizzles out fast. This happens with pretty much everything; writing, relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc. The few things I have completed required some form of outside motivation, typically manifested as financial or contractual obligations. Sometimes, even that doesn’t stop me. I believe I already mentioned how fickle I can be, no need to revisit that topic.

To be honest, although I know I enjoy writing, I really have no idea what kind of writing I prefer or what I want to write about. A large portion of the writing I have done has been dedicated to journaling–probably why blogging seems to be a natural next step, although I was skeptical for a long time. I’ve dabbled in poetry and the occasional short-short-story, but, other than that, not a lot of creative writing. As much as I would love to write the next literary classic, I’m not sure creative writing is my strong suit.

I’ve found that I enjoy business writing, even with occasionally dull subjects, because of the challenge of limited space. I enjoy writing with abandon then having to go back and cut out every non-essential paragraph, sentence and word trying to whittle from 700 words down to 300. Something about editing your own work to such a degree is strangely exhilarating! Of course, this is something I should do regardless because, in really good writing, if it doesn’t add essential meaning, it shouldn’t even exist.

My New College Degree

There’s not a lot of “enlightenment” in this first post. But, give me time. I’m sure I’ll track some here and there as I muddle my way into blogging. So, here it goes…

My New College Degree

I got it. Yay! Now what do I do with it? When I applied for graduation I was excited at the prospect of being finished with school, at least for a little bit, and the idea of transitioning into a career I might actually enjoy. But, I received my diploma the other day and now I feel more disgruntled than anything else. Here are the reasons for my vexed feelings, in no particular order:

  1. I majored in Communication Studies. While this is a subject with which I am absolutely enamored, it’s also very broad. On a positive note, I can apply it to almost any industry. On the other hand, I can apply it to almost any industry. For the past 15 years of my life I’ve struggled with what I wanted to be when I grow up. Majoring in Communication Studies certainly didn’t help to narrow my options.

    On top of that, of everyone I know, I’m probably one of the more–if not the most–fickle. In the last two semesters leading up to graduation I wanted to pursue a career in: technical writing, education, journalism, graphic design, editing, publishing, creative writing, grammar, public information, linguistics, speech pathology, instructional design, etc. The list goes on and on. Not to mention, I changed my mind at least every two weeks and at the very moment a new ambition sauntered in, the old was already forgotten. I have no idea what I want to do with my life and I got myself a spinning arrow for a college degree.

  2. The job market sucks. Even if I had the slightest idea as to what I wanted to do, I seriously doubt I’d have any luck finding gainful employment doing it. I have this fancy, schmancy degree now, but I have no experience. With a crappy job market and no experience, my options seem limited to a massive pay cut for a highly competitive, low- to non-paying internship. Actually, this reason alone wouldn’t be so bad if not for the burden of my current predicament, which leads me to reason #3.
  3. I have a job that pays well. Granted, I’m miserable doing it everyday, but it’s a nice paycheck. Of course, this was never my intention. When I was hired at my current place of employment it was for an entry-level position paying little more than minimum wage, which was fine with me. All I needed some sort of income while I finished school. My hiring position was only ever intended to be a job, certainly not a career. Well, I managed to make myself a victim of my own success. I’m a fast learner, hard worker, and produce a quality product, so I was promoted to a new department within six months. Six months into that position, I was promoted again. That department held on to me for a year before I was promoted to my current position (which I’ve held for just over two years now), so, in less than five years, I’ve more than doubled my original starting salary. I certainly can’t complain in that arena, so why am I miserable?

    My job isn’t even very challenging (which may contribute, at least in part, to my misery), but it’s just not what I want to do. I work in the entertainment industry, which, for some people, may be a dream come true. In the beginning, I’ll admit, it does hold some level of grandeur. Some people love it and want nothing more than to create memorable experiences for patrons who attend their events. That’s great for them. For me, working in entertainment has the slow, cumulative effect of leaching every ounce of joy from my soul. The great and powerful wizard just isn’t the same once you’ve seen the man behind the curtain. I don’t want to have memorable experiences at entertainment venues because, when I’m off work the last place I want to be is at work. Also, anytime I attend another venue I spend more of my evening criticizing how they operate than enjoying the show. It sucks the fun out of everything, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get more-than-fair compensation. So, as much as I hate it, I’m comfortable with my salary and I don’t know how to get away.

And that about sums up why I’m less-than-excited about my new college degree. I feel like I should be ecstatic, but I just can’t when my prospects seem so bleak. Of course, I can’t pretend that I know what the future looks like. As much as I try, I can’t see into even the immediate future. Perhaps one day–sooner rather than later, I hope–I’ll be thankful I paid (and am still paying) the $50,000 for a BA in Communication Studies.