Why I Write (and you should, too)
By John Millen
This week marks two years that I’ve published these articles every Sunday. I appreciate your support and thought it would be worth sharing why I write.
But first, let me share with you the exact moment decades ago that my attitude about writing — and my life — changed forever.
I was raised by a hard-working single mother and started life in the housing projects of Philadelphia. We moved to California when I was eight and though our quality of life improved, I was never motivated by anyone to achieve academically. It was mostly C’s and D’s in my early life.
So, when I signed up for a journalism class in my junior year at Hawthorne High School (where the Beach Boys had graduated years earlier), I had no particular intentions.
But something startling happened. My teacher, Konnie Krislock, dropped my first draft of a news story on my desk with this handwritten at the top: “Great work! A+” and she said, “You’re a great writer.”
At first, I thought there had been a mistake. Then, Konnie, which she requested that we call her, asked me to stay after class. Until then, hearing that from a teacher usually meant trouble.
Instead, she asked where I was going to college. I said I wasn’t going to college. I worked at a local plant nursery and enjoyed it. I thought that might make a nice career.
Konnie said, “No, you’re going to college.” And, with her belief in me, my grades became mostly A’s for the next two years, and I won a statewide news writing competition. This led to a prolific campus career at Cal State Fullerton, serving in a variety of roles, including student body president.
Later, Konnie left teaching for a successful business career and eventually made her way back to advising the student newspaper staff at a private school in Newport Beach.
As a teacher, Konnie changed many, many lives. Her Facebook page is packed with testimonials of her impact over decades. She also taught us the value of free speech and has testified before legislative bodies on behalf of students’ exercising their rights to free expression.
Konnie recently retired from teaching and received the Youth Journalism International Journalism Educator of the Year award. Well deserved!
Congratulations and heartfelt thanks, Konnie!
Why I Write (and you should, too)...Continued
During the past two years, I’ve learned that writing Sunday Coffee every week:
Helps fulfill my purpose
A few months ago, I called the CEO of an organization, an acquaintance, to connect him a client of mine who I thought could benefit him. I didn’t realize the CEO read this newsletter. He said kind words about sending it on to his leadership team, then added a line that stuck with me: “It’s so nice you give away all of your secrets for free.”
That made me smile because I write Sunday Coffee from a place of purpose. In my coaching and training, I emphasize that people should find their “why” because it serves as a deep well of energy and commitment.
My “why” is to help as many people as possible to find success in their lives with effective communication, leadership, and personal development skills. Writing this newsletter helps me achieve my purpose by reaching thousands of people every week.
Gives me discipline
Years ago, I had lunch with a friend who’d written a weekly blog. I was amazed that he could keep it up and asked, incredulously, how do you come up with ideas every week?
His answer was that writing, like any other behavior, becomes a habit and continues until broken. It’s true. I had previously considered writing a book but didn’t create the habit. Now, two years in, I have enough material for two books (that’s a threat, not a promise ;-)
Focuses my work
I constantly advise clients on the need to be clear and concise when communicating in a world where all of us are totally distracted. Writing gives us the opportunity to cut the clutter from our wide-ranging thoughts. As I noted last week, Mark Twain had it right when he apologized to a friend writing, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
I know that people will not continue reading if I don’t stay focused on a single idea and explain it in a clear and concise way. Each week I’m forced to be concise. Once I’ve done this, I’ve created a mental path that will be tighter in my speaking, coaching, and training as well.
Keeps me fresh
Every week I get live feedback from you, our thousands of readers around the world, reacting to what I’ve written. You write about your struggles, challenges, memories, joys, and stories. This gives me fresh, instant feedback. As I write, I know I’m directly addressing your real, current needs, which gives me a sense of meaning.
Gives me a challenge
With a live audience and a weekly deadline, I feel the need to up my game every week. I write and research late at night and early in the morning. I’ve written in hotels, on planes, on rides to the airport. I’ve even dictated walking to a meeting in New York City.
I feel compelled to look for and capture new ideas that will give you a unique perspective or strategies to deal with your personal and work challenges.
In the end, I hope I bring value to your life. In doing so, I find that I get as much reward as I give. I derive real personal satisfaction and meaning from writing for you every week.
This is why I write and you should too.
You don't have to create a newsletter or blog, but perhaps a weekly email to your team, or friends, or family. What’s that idea or strategy that’s whirling in your mind? What’s a problem you can solve for people?
If you had the time, what’s that thing you’d really like to learn more about, and could share with others? As they say, if you want to really learn something, you should teach it.
If you don’t feel comfortable sharing at this point, start writing in a journal when you are fresh early in the morning, or before bed. Or keep a document on your computer or phone where you can sketch random thoughts and ideas that might grow over time.
I just ask that you consider this because you will find that writing it down focuses your mind, clarifies your ideas and keeps you fresh. I find great satisfaction in this endeavor.
This is why I write and you should too.
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