I was shooting a mini-documentary of my buddy, Steve B of Steve B Leatherworks, who has built a nice business creating custom leather products for bikers, housewives, executives and everyone in between. Steve, a marketing veteran who started Steve B Leatherworks as an invigorating hobby, now combines his thriving leather business, marketing consulting and journalistic writing as a career. As I was shooting him over the sewing machine working on his latest belt, he summed up his career by saying, "These days, we're all stitching it together."
Sometimes, the perfect pun appears when you least expect it.
Back in the day, you chose a career, then a company, and basically stayed with that company for most of your career. That evolved into choosing a career, and trying to stick with it even as you bounced from company to company.
Today? Everything is up for grabs: the career path, the company, the industry, and everything in between.
You might start out as an accountant with a passionate hobby of collecting baseball cards, only to be deemed redundant and unemployable in a shrinking industry. Then, those baseball cards you've been collecting? They could become your best new source of income.
Maybe the baseball cards become part of your income through a consignment booth at a collectors mall, along with contract work in accounting, and maybe a bit of teaching at the adult ed center. And while the transition from one steady job to a series of disparate gigs may seem frenetic and fearful, you may discover you like the action and adventure of reinventing yourself. You may love turning a lifelong passion into a career. And you may find that the chaotic entrepreneur world actually gives you more control than the now tenuous nine-to-five thing.
That's what stitching it together is all about. And like Steve B, that's what more and more of us are doing — and having fun while we're at it.
A brilliant architect, Frank Lloyd Wright designed by his own rules, in harmony with the environment around him. He had the creativity and vision to see what was possible, and the perseverance to see it through. To accomplish his amazing architectural feats, Frank Lloyd Wright needed a blueprint -- just like writers need an outline.
Let it all fly in your outline.
There’s nothing more liberating than writing an outline. It’s your chance to let loose with any thought and idea, without worrying about word selection, structure or flow.
Your testing ground.
The outline is where you can put down all those off-the-wall ideas, approaches and thoughts, just to see what sticks. With the outline, anything goes, in any language you want: bullets, blurbs, hell, even curse words. Whatever makes you feel comfortable for getting thoughts down, use it.
Here are a few suggestions to get you cranking:
Some writers, like Stephen King, work without an outline. They like to be surprised by what they come up with. I admire their talent. But for me, I’ll stick with an outline.
If it works for Frank Lloyd Wright, it works for me.
Even in the digital / visual / social media age of micro-mini attention spans, writing rules. Whether you want to persuade, explain, entertain or sell, if you can’t get your ideas across in words, the rest of it is just eye candy.
To hone your writing skills, take a look a writing rock star: Plato.
The classical Greek philosopher Plato was a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy of Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
He was also one of the first regular users of an alarm clock (a water alarm clock, specifically). And that makes him a writing rock star.
Set an alarm, spare the writing angst.
How many times have you sat down in front of a blank page and froze? Like I do on just about every piece I write, including this one. You think about how much you have to accomplish, how many pages to fill, what to say, how to say it, why it needs to be said, and on and on and on.
Minutes, hours, days later, and the page is still blank.
That’s why you need to take a lesson from Plato and make a simple alarm clock (or timer) your most important writing tool. Here’s how:
Michael Schwartz is an amazing writing, dramaturg and assistant professor.Kathleen Kerns is such a good director, she took one of my plays and enabled it to win the Samuel French Festival some years back. So the fact that they're including one of my plays in a festival that includes works from award-winning playwrights like Daniel Damiano, well hell, I'm tickled pink. It's in Indiana, PA, so if you're anywhere near there, check it out. Or even if you're not, it'll be worth the road trip.