We are sharing what we and our partners have been learning through reflection in our Looking Back, Moving Forward blog series. This series is part of our Reflection, Analysis, and Planning (RAP) Process, which the Foundation is engaging in as our Moving the Needle (MTN) 2.0 strategic plan draws to a close and we prepare for what comes next.
I started this job a few months ago, and at first I loved the idea of coming to this place. The work is right up my alley, and the team has been amazing and very supportive as I’ve been feeling my way around. I’ve been given the flexibility to dig into areas of my work that I find engaging and exciting, and I’ve felt challenged in a way that I haven’t in years. So far, so good–right? Where’s the catch? There’s always a catch.
As a part of this small but incredibly efficient team, which includes 12 people with various levels of experience, perspectives, and areas of expertise, we are full of passion to save the world and do great things. We were celebrating all that we did and all that we could do at a staff retreat, and I’m right there with everyone else, happily patting ourselves on the back.
Then...the challenge: Write a blog post. My colleagues enthusiastically took the challenge head on, typing and scribbling away like they couldn’t keep the words from just pouring out. I, however, struggled.
In preparation for this assignment, it was made abundantly clear that everyone’s perspective mattered and that each of us has plenty to share with our grantee partners and the field of philanthropy. And sure, we’d gotten some support on storytelling and blogging and speaking and yadda-yadda-yadda….
But I was still riding the struggle train to nowhere.
I’ve avoided anything beyond technical writing for over 20 years. Writing about how I see the world–my feelings, my opinions, my fears–is NOT something I enjoy doing. In fact, telling my story–writing with me as the protagonist–is a skill others have actively trained out of me as my previous jobs required me to share data and other people’s stories. And while I’m fine engaging on social media, I don’t make a point to pontificate or go deep. I looked at my screen and wondered if I’d have more luck climbing Mount Everest than making words appear on it.
They say it’s as easy as following an outline:
Write about what you know
Write about something you’ve learned about or that you have a new perspective on
Share evidence to support what you’ve learned and have the data to back it up
Share how your perspective has changed
Give your audience a call to action–compel them to do something in response to your story of accomplishment or failure
The framework makes it easier, sure. I mean, at least that gives me a place to start. So, here I am racking my brain trying to think of something I’ve learned and want to write about. So let’s see...I’ve learned:
I fear writing more deeply than climbing Mount Everest
I fear not recognizing–or, maybe more importantly, not appreciating–that I’ve learned stuff
I fear that writing will reveal that I’m not very good at it
Sitting in the room with my team–remember they are really excited about this–and listening to them click and clack away at their keyboards, I sit in silence having an internal and well-masked (if I do say so myself) freak-out session about this assignment. I mean, they are going to town all around me! The absolute silence beyond the sound of their keystrokes is downright profound. It’s a persistent reminder that I’m still sitting here with no ideas and no inspiration to start except that the clock is ticking. Did I mention this was a TIMED ASSIGNMENT?
It’s at this point that I just start typing. It’s not a blog yet. It’s just a list of notes from the flip charts around the room. I capture the notes on what I’m supposed to be doing–trying to internalize them in a way that makes a blog flow from within, like trying to have a spiritual experience at a stenographers’ conference. I’ve started humming Van Halen’s eternal classic, “Right Now.” For inspiration, of course. No pressure, Van Halen–THANKS!
It does nothing to further the process except somehow make me feel one with the clickety-clacking racket in the room.
Quickly realizing that this TIMED TRIAL of blog writing is going to result in fluffy garbage (my default writing style and the reason I hate doing this), I pack up my things and move outside. The sounds of clickety-clacking racket are lessened out here and I decide, with 15 minutes to go, to just start writing a blog post about writing a blog post. Or perhaps it’s a blog post about the anxiety of writing a blog post. All I know is that I’m still not sure what to write and, well, this, for better or worse, is my thing (I’m definitely not calling this a blog post–that’d give my tormentors too much joy).
I’m sitting here, still writing, and if I haven’t completely failed (Are you still reading this? Really?! Why?), I think I’ve learned a lesson (thank heavens for those educational flipcharts). My lesson here is that if you’ve ever wanted to write a blog–or perhaps you’ve never wanted to write a blog but are forced to in the name of #ProfessionalDevelopment–just know that it can be as easy as putting pen to paper, fingers to keys, or Apple Pencil to iPad with even the most ironic or flippant of thoughts.
Before you know it (or before your TIMED TRIAL IS OVER), something will take shape. You can massage it later, critique it later, erase it later–but guess what? You’ll have a blog soon enough (although I’m still working on mine).
And in the words of Van Halen, still playing on loop inside my brain, “Don’t want to wait ‘til tomorrow–why put it off another day?”