Starting the timer
I’m a firm believer in setting deadlines and benchmarks, however artificial, to keep on track. Deadlines help me stay on target even on off days.
That said, life has taken me in directions that no deadlines, lists or structures could override, and I finally hit a point where the pace of change for my life was no longer acceptable for me. That, I realized, required a BIGGER TMER.
The 100-day countdown
I’m not embarrassed or apologetic of the jobs I’ve worked to take care of my family (see my About Me section for if you’re interested in the range of jobs I’ve actually had). I’ve been involved in interesting things, from lobbying for sustainable businesses at the U.S. Senate to being a small part of history (I handled press releases for automakers and banks during the first housing crisis). I’ve worked in factories, freelanced and hustled in manual labor. I come from a working-class family, and although I was born a creative wandering soul, that working class hustle is and will be part of my being.
Additionally, my jobs and side hustles have allowed me to meet interesting people, from the CEO of an Irish brewery to a multi-millionaire entrepreneur to Hollywood actors. I’ve been on think tanks with leaders in the sustainable business world, had lunch with the head of an organic cotton farmers cooperative, told jokes with antique hunters, bounced ideas around with an innovator in digital fiction, and drifted among a cast of colorful and quirky individuals all finding their individual expressions in this world. I’m honored to have met them all and everyone of them have taught me valuable lessons, regardless of whether they were viewed as successful by society or not. I definitely can’t complain.
At some point, though, perhaps later for me than others, perhaps not, I felt I was too far off the path that I personally needed to travel in terms of my creative pursuits. Sure, I’d been engaged in corporate writing for decades for newsletters, papers, magazines, ads, copy, social media, white papers, speeches, presentations, blah blah blah. That was fine, but I was always a traveller passing through. For me and me alone, I realized I needed to fully identity internally as a creative writer.
To do this, I used a trick: a public timer. I removed my About Me section on LinkedIn and replaced it with the number 100. No explanation. Just a number.
Every morning, I would manually reduce the number by 1, so, for example, the following morning I changed it to 99, and then 98, and so on. This was my visual reminder of time passing and to stay focused on what I needed to do.
But what happened at 0?
The concept wasn’t that I was counting down to a happening. There was to be no job quitting, no drama, no song and dance production. Instead, the idea was that at zero I was to fully own the identity of being a writer, regardless of external circumstances. During those 100 days I was to hustle to put the systems in place to better my chances of external success, and the counter gave me a sense of how time can slip away. I prioritized projects, sent pitches, entered competitions, built my network, and did the things I needed to do.
Prior to the 100-day countdown I of course had been continually working on projects and I have been writing for decades, publishing a number of projects over the years. The countdown, however, was to change my focus, and at zero I was to retool my work persona.
So why let people peek behind the curtain?
So why, you might ask, would I acknowledge day jobs, countdowns and even past failures at getting pieces published if I’m retooling my public persona? Shouldn’t I be creating an orchestrated illusion of who I want people to think I am that is based on aspirations rather than truth?
Trust me, I thought about it. Many pieces of writing advise that route. That, however, is not who I am. I stand by my meandering path, even my past mistakes. I might not like all of it and many of them are painful to acknowledge, but they got me to where I am today. I don’t run from my mistakes, and they make for great writing.
If someone takes the time to read this content, then they have an interest in what I’m doing for whatever reason. I sincerely appreciate people giving their valuable time, whether it’s to read what I wrote in this blog or in a book or script I penned (with a digital pen, of course). For that, when I write about my life, I want to give back the truth. It’s the way I want to live.
My countdown is over. The party is in full swing. Yup. I’m a creative.