Yesterday I graduated from my Masters of Public Policy program at Temple University, as of now tied for valedictorian with three other of my classmates. I’m incredibly proud of the work that I did but what was more validating was proving to myself that maintaining a perfect academic record was possible if I took my own necessary steps. It required me to plan ahead, build schedules, and then keep them. But mostly, the Masters of Public Policy program forced me to write, at length, and then be comfortable with the product that I wrote.
I hate my own writing. This honestly wouldn’t be so bad if I would keep typing and edit afterward. The problem is that I will write one paragraph, delete that paragraph, and then re-write a completely different paragraph. Paragraph two is incredibly difficult for me. For instance, this paragraph that you’re currently reading has now taken 7 different attempts to get here by re-writing the one above it. It is currently taking every ounce of willpower and several years of practice to delete it.
I enjoy the act of writing. I enjoy the act of storytelling. I enjoy the act of creating rules and systems for others to follow. I think that if I had had more confidence in my abilities as a youth I could have made it in the entertainment industry but that second paragraph problem always killed me. It kept me from completing coursework, kept me always second-guessing myself, and from turning anything in because the idea of turning anything in sub-par was far worse than turning in nothing at all. The first two-thirds of my life was punctuated with 100’s and 0’s. When I was a child I was told I was just lazy. I agreed with them because I really didn’t have any other way to describe it.
My first breakthrough in solving the 2nd paragraph was going away to Airman Leadership School when I was in the military. Long story short- I finished first-in-class, not because of my extreme love for learning military bureaucracy but instead because I was angry. I was angry at myself for past missed opportunities, I was angry with others for rightfully doubting me, I was angry at the idea that I couldn't escape this merry-go-round of self-inflicted wounds, metaphorically speaking. The wrong lesson I learned through this time in my life was that if I just white-knuckled it-I could achieve the success that I desired.
Anger as motivation isn’t sustainable. The second paragraph problem didn't stop when I left the military. It plagued both my professional and personal life. Even at times that I would have enormous victories at the outset- I’d quickly find a problem or a hiccup that would dissuade me from dealing with the tiniest of wrinkles to overcome and simply quit. I had genuine concerns that I would forever be this way, destined to drift from half-completed vision to the next. My ship started to turn around when I met my wife Ali.
I love my wife. She is patient, she is kind and she is wise beyond her years. She’s an exceptional listener and she always believed in me as a husband, father, and even a writer. She gave me room to fail and then would reassure me when I did. I won’t shift all of the credit away from myself, I certainly did some maturing and was able to not rely entirely on The Panic Monster to achieve anything but it was her love that sustained me and gave me hope that I might one day be able to beat the 2nd paragraph.
I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try to find joy in writing. In my free time, I’m going to be working on a massive new project, which will be writing an entire role-playing game system, streamlined enough for the casual player but nuanced enough for the veteran. It’s a system that I’ve been kicking around in my head for years but I think I’m ready to tackle the second paragraph. I’m going to wrestle with my thoughts in public to give my self more incentive to keep moving forward. In my next post, I’m going to elaborate on what I plan to do and how I’m going to get there, and I’m going to need it because I’ve had the audacity to force myself to finish it in one year. I invite you to join me by engaging in activities however you feel creative and tell me how that’s going, I’m excited to find out.