From Pretender to Author

This Groundhog Day (February 2, 2013), we’ll watch with some amusement as the residents of Punxsutawney, PA don funny hats and old-school suits to watch a rodent predict the future. 

Here’s the history of groundhogs and  American winter predictions.

It’s also the day when I release my first book, “Destination:Reinvention”. I chose this debut day for several reasons, one of which recognizes my procrastination in creating it, and the satisfaction of overcoming the resistance.

After I was laid off from my previous job, the event that killed my career, I started writing about the experience. It was 2010, and the American economy was two years into a horrid recession. Companies were laying off workers by the millions. It was a painful crawl through the mess to discover a new way to earn a living.  I found passion by doing the work, realizing I was competent, and enjoying it more and more. I wrote about every day of the experience. This blog was created in June 2010. Writing every day about reinvention, the job market, and the character of successful professionals was my way to warm up to penning a book.

I completed v.1.0 of the work in early 2012, and then it all stopped.

Like Groundhog Day, I woke up every morning and the same thing happened – I wasn’t finishing it. The resistance came under several disguises; it didn’t feel like it could be transformed from manuscript to something tangible. Then I thought no one would want to read it. Then I thought it was terrible. The demands at school took my eye off the ball.

People would ask, “What are you doing these days?” I’d respond with comments about school, and then I’d say , “I’m writing a book.”

It’s a good line. The next response would be a version of “What’s it about?” but it’s also a clever way to pretend. All of us could spend years telling everyone we’re working on a screenplay, book, album or sculpture. It’s a way to pretend we are actually doing the work. It’s a way to extend the conversation, possibly trying to convince ourselves that we’re the genuine article.

Infographic on writing tips
Click the infographic to see more.

Last semester, I was giving a lecture in my COM611 class and we were discussing content creation. I had the printed manuscript of my book in my briefcase. I pulled it out and started telling them how this started, then was stalled.  I slammed the pile of paper on a table and announced, ” I am not an author. I am still a pretender. I am not an author until it’s finished, published, and made available in the marketplace.”

That declaration seemed to have re-ignited the project.

On Groundhog Day, I will be a published author. I will have achieved the goal. I don’t know if this is a good book – that’s not the point. The goal was not to write a “Fifty Shades of Grey” blockbuster. The goal was to finish what I started. The marketplace will take a look at it and judge it. I will accept the outcome with humility.

I will then begin writing book number two. I will write for the rest of my life, and these words in the future might very well be awful. Maybe they will be epic. I will never know unless I follow the advice offered in the above infographic.

Signature photoJohn Scott is a media instructor, online education coordinator and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. 

Follow John on Twitter @johnscottsf.

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