In April of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend the Author 101 event in Los Angeles. It is an event that I had been trying to attend for the last 10 years or so. My schedule just had no leeway when the event was scheduled. Then, voila! I had a week open up at the right time. Although, I have written blogs, articles and crafted many hours of curriculum for delivery in a classroom or online, and contributed to a book on project management, I have never considered myself an author. With great trepidation, I walked into the first day, my cold and all, prepared to be disappointed, underwhelmed or bored. Was I wrong? I learned more in that first day than I had in the last three conferences that I attended.
I am an educator by passion. It means is that the message from the front of the room better be engaging or I am ‘out of there’. If you aren’t focused on the person in front of you, we aren’t going to learn. If we aren’t going to learn, then we should get our money back. Trust me. This wasn’t a money back event.
Key lessons that I learned, learnt for the purists among you, during Author 101:
- I am an author. As a project manager, I author all kinds of project collateral. As an educator, I author course outlines, manuals, case studies, quizzes, and other collateral aimed at adult learners. I realized that we all write. It is just what we write that is different. For some, it is fiction; for others, it is non-fiction; for yet others, it is business and trade publications; and for yet others, it is business reports, presentations, curriculum or a myriad of other documents. In the middle of the first morning, I realized my project teams author a schedule and other project collateral. We don’t so much develop documents as we author them. We are all authors. Only the audience is different.
- If you don’t have a story or outcome to communicate, there will be no document, book, poem, song or message. This statement is true whether you are writing a book, a report or an email. If you don’t’ know what the message is, how can you possibly write anything? One of the first reports that I ever wrote was the most painful document that I ever wrote. Why? I didn’t have a story to tell. I couldn’t tell them if the recommendation was a good one, bad one or an potentially ineffective one. To this day, I am sure they thought I was incapable of communicating how to buy eggs at a supermarket.
- It starts with a single idea. We all have ideas. We all have thoughts. We all know something. What we don’t all do is write them down. Rough them out. Polish the stone. My sister, who is the best writer I know, should be out there with J.K. Rowling. The stories are amazing to read. She writes for herself. Someday, I will see her name in print. You just need an idea, a pen, paper, a word processor, and a little courage.
- Never let anyone modify or change your story. You are going to have people who review your article, report, book, or document, you absolutely must own your position. I can tell you that others will try to craft your message to mean something different. Tell them to take a hike. It is your story, your message, and your voice. You are you. Own it.
The reason there is still a book inside me is because I didn’t believe my story was worth telling. No matter how many times I was told to write the book. I would say that it wasn’t a story worth repeating. In the tradition of my Celtic ancestors, I will now pick up the mantle of storyteller. The stories will not be about fairy tales, mysteries, or other genres, but I will use the principles of storytelling to educate, inform and collaborate.
To Rick and the team, my sincere thanks for validating the storytelling tradition.