I started writing as a personal journey.
It wasn’t about my family or my kids in all honesty. I could easily sit here and act like I had planned this all along, but I would be lying. No one would know, of course, and I probably could even generate more claps and likes with that story.
But lying isn’t why I began writing and I’ll never forget a part of On Writing by Stephen King where he tells us that as writers we must be willing to tell the truth. I think of that line every single day when I write, including today.
So, to be perfectly truthful, when I took the first steps to design my life around being a writer, I never really thought of what impact it would have on my family. I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I had decided to be a writer for myself. It was a purely selfish decision.
But early into my journey, something strange happened. I started to see what a profound impact that my decision had on the most important role in my life, my role as a father. Until today, I had never really sat down and spent any time to reflect on how such a personal decision can so quickly affect those that mean the most to me.
My article today was supposed to be about something else, but one thing I’ve learned early on from writing is that many times is that while I may be the one behind my wheel in my road-trip to becoming a writer, there is more often than not a hidden navigator telling me where to turn each an every way.
Writing has set an example of courage for both my kids.
Letting strangers read your work, especially early in your journey can be terrifying, at least it was for me. Early on, I made the intentional decision to share my drafts with my family without edit. I had been trying to help my son share his music and have always encouraged him to use the safe-haven of his family to practice being vulnerable, knowing that it was an environment of love and support. But me telling him this wasn’t convincing him, I needed to show him.
It wasn’t easy at first, but I did it, and once I realized that this would benefit my kids, suddenly all my fears melted away. They became my first readers, even if they weren’t necessarily fans of some of my early stories.
Suddenly, within a few weeks, my son decided to record himself playing four different instruments to create his first jazz song. Within a couple of hours, he had recorded it, posted it to a music sharing site, and on his personal Instagram feed. Even more surprising was the fact that one of his “fans” actually gave him a small amount of money for the song. Overnight, my 8th-grade son, a kid who I struggled to convince to publish a song, had made money off of something he created. Not only could he officially call himself a professional musician, albeit a very poor one, but the pure joy he had watching his “engagement metrics” motivated him for weeks to come.
The idea that my selfish decision may have helped inspire him to create and share his work is worth more than any money I could ever get on Medium or my personal blog.
I read more, and talk about what I read with my kids.
We all know that if you want to be a writer, you have to read, a lot. So, the more I began to write, the more I began to read more, and like any enthusiastic dad, my family became the lucky recipients of my constant book reviews.
Suddenly, we were talking about books as a family more, and with more adult-like discussions. Instead of the conversations being around simply encouraging them to read, I was able to share the inspiration and guidance I was receiving from the books helping me along my journey of becoming a writer and discovering my own creativity.
Suddenly we were having conversations about Tim Ferris and Stephen King. One book in particular by Chase Jarvis turned out to have a couple of chapters that were very helpful in helping my 5th-grade daughter with a personal struggle. Without writing, it would have been highly unlikely for a 10-year old to read the story of an action photographer.
I am showing them that there are more important things in life than making money.
My road to becoming a writer has brought me a lot of things, but riches is not one of them. In fact, I recently estimated that in terms of pure earning potential, my role as CEO has about a 5000x better return-on-investment.
But yet I write anyways, sometimes sacrificing business opportunities to finish a short story or article. In many cases, the moments the kids used to see me running my business in my “free-time’, have been replaced by them seeing me chase my own dream.
On a recent road trip, my wife took over driving so I could finish an article. As I was reading her my draft (as I normally do), my daughter (who has a CEO mindset despite being 10) interrupted me…
Her: “Dad, if you make enough money writing, can you buy me an iPhone 11?”
Me: “umm, sure sweetie, but by the time that happens, you probably will want an iPhone 200”
Her: “ugh..that sucks. Why do you do it then?”
Now, as a parent who loves to teach his kids(or lecture as they may call it), there are few better opening questions from a child, especially during an 8-hour road trip where they had no choice but to listen.
It helped share the story of my life, and my family’s life, with my kids before they knew us.
A few days after publishing an article on how a few small decisions helped shaped my career, my grandmother passed, which prompted me to write about her and share the article with my family during the funeral.
As my family read the article on this blog to learn about The GhostWriter that was my grandmother, and that started a flood of stories of her life, the lives of my parents, and my early childhood.
Fortunately, my kids were listening and they were able to hear first-hand accounts of their parents at their age from other people, many of which were family they barely knew at all. In turn, my family and my kids started to ask and learn about each other and for a few short days, my kids became connected to their large extended family in a different state.
Would this have been possible without my article? Maybe. But the article proved to be the difficult conversation starter between generations and long-lost cousins who only saw each other every other year.
Now, my kids have a little bit more confidence that their mom and I were actually their age at one point, with the same struggles and challenges they face today. It will help bring our past to their future and allow the family to grow together.