I used to write. A lot.
Starting from the time my parents died in 2002, through to 2010, I wrote three books and journaled a bunch more. Perhaps by Stephen King standards, that was hardly a walk in the park. But for me, is was substantial. Especially given that I had never been a writer previous to that time. Outside of the essays I wrote for my college english classes where the best I could muster was a C+ (I think the + was because I flirted with the pretty Canadian intern), I didn’t write.
From college until my parents died, I lived an engineer’s life; solving problems that sometimes needed solving, thinking logically and folding my underwear. Then came 2002; my dad died in April (April 1 actually; an irony that still pays dividends amongst the family) from alzheimer’s, and then my mom died in August. All this coming off the emotional events of 911. So I started writing. To start, more as something to do with my time because I kept waking up at 3 a.m. with my head full of thoughts and I had to get them down somehow, certain that I would go crazy if I didn’t. All this was helped by the fifteen year old mattress we had, causing me to wake early in the morning with backaches. Much like my dad, once I wake, it is very hard for me to fall back to sleep. Thus began my writing and it started out as long streams of conscious thought. Over time it evolved into story-telling and as I began to share it with others, I was encouraged to write more and I did because it was flowing and I woke up almost every morning between 3-4 a.m. to write.
Parallel to this was the start of my consulting business in 2005. I left engineering to start a leadership development consultancy. Yeah, I know. I hear the question all the time…”How did you go from engineering to leadership coach?” The easy answer is I just did. The expanded answer is, in the process of writing I discovered there was a larger purpose in my life than being an engineer, and it had to do with making an impact on people. There is much more to that story, but for now we’ll leave it at that.
All to say the first three years of starting the business about did us in until mid-2008. Hanging by a thread both financially and in my marriage, the phone finally began to ring and I began the long march out of the hole I had dug, until which around 2010 the business took off. All of a sudden we didn’t have to play smoke and mirrors with the bills anymore and my wife and I could look at each other and smile again. Simple pleasures.
By 2011, the business had reached a fever pitch and I hit the wall by the end of the year, having worked straight through the holidays and feeling every bit resentful for it. 2012 and 2013 settled into a more consistent rhythm, though contracts would come and go and we would have the inevitable cycles of flush months, then lean ones, but none were like the early years when I didn’t know how I was going to pay for the mortgage.
And yet, in all of this I began to realize there was a larger price I was paying for the success that I failed to recognize until the middle of this year. I was attempting to jump start the editing on my last book and feeling all too apathetic about the work when it dawned on me that the price I had paid for the comfort the business had provided, was the motivation and creative inspiration to write. Further, I no longer had the old mattress anymore. In an instant, I was sleeping through the night and waking refreshed, sans back pain. Both events had conspired to the same result–no writing.
And then, as quietly as it had disappeared, the writing emerged again. September 26th of this year to be precise. Not to the level I was ten years ago, but I am writing, and I am more proficient at it these days, thankfully having learned a few things along the way. Why did the writing appear again? I ask myself. Discomfort. No, my mattress is still providing great sleep, however my mind is working over time these days for a couple of reasons: 1) I merged my business with another earlier this year and I am experiencing the growing pains of being in a partnership again. I hadn’t realized how much I took for granted being working solely for myself until I was in a partnership again. As much as I enjoy the new venture and appreciate what they bring to the table, it has knocked me out of my comfort zone. It takes energy to focus on how I am responding and contributing to the business. I also put a pressure on myself to contribute more than I am taking, which at times is a tall order. It is a challenge for me to rely on someone else and I am learning how to do that all over again. 2) My frustration over not writing has peaked to the point of writing again. As the saying goes, when the pain of doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, exceeds the pain of change, then change will come.
All of this speaks of discomfort. Even so, beginning again was challenging. I had to set my judgment aside about why I have not written, how bad my writing is, how I cannot seem to follow a thought for more than a sentence or two, and write again.
I still struggle to start. But once I am rolling, it feels good to be here again. Like hearing an old Marvin Gaye song when driving in traffic and I don’t give a shit who is watching me sing along.
Discomfort has been my companion to write. This I have learned, and is my new challenge. As life goes, there will be times of discomfort, and times of comfort. How I will continue to write between the periods of discomfort is the next mountain to climb.
Wish me well.