Monday, February 25, 2008

I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday.

Several years ago I was fired from a job for the first time in my life.

In retrospect I should have seen it coming – I’d had health problems that had absented me from work for long stretches of time – and fatigued me still to the point where I wasn’t giving this particular job my best effort. Still, a large grant with promises of repeat funding had just arrived the day before from my proposal, I’d just completed work on the organization’s new web site, the quarterly newsletter I’d written and designed (a simple and, better yet, READ piece) was popular with the board and donors alike, and the development calendar for the year ahead was set.

So when I went into the executive director’s office for our weekly meeting, I was flabbergasted when he announced he was letting me go. Particularly when no reason was forthcoming, other than a lame “it’s not a good fit.” This was after a year and a half of work (the longest term of any development director in this particular organization) – and exemplary evaluations. When I pressed for a reason for my termination I was finally told, “you should get a job that doesn’t involve writing.”

I was devastated.

For years writing had come naturally to me and been a part of – if not the focus – of my education and my entire career.

And now I was being told that I should get a job that didn’t involve writing!

I took this man’s words to heart for more days - ok, maybe months – than I care to admit.

When I sat down in front of the screen I quite literally couldn’t write. None of the tips and tricks I’d picked up over the years helped. I couldn’t even make an outline!

Months later I shared my experience with a dear friend. “That was one person’s opinion,” he said.

“I personally don’t find Pam Anderson attractive, but millions do and my opinion doesn’t mean anything to her – or reflect on her ability to earn her living from her looks.”

He pointed out, too, that in this case I was dwelling on the negative. After all, I had written successful grant proposals raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, designed and written countless successful annual appeals, written press releases, newsletters, newspaper articles - a BOOK even – why was I putting my focus on one person’s statement?

Why indeed? Time to make up for wasted time and get back to focusing on refining the craft of writing.

What are you waiting for?

Have you let a few declined grant proposals or the (bad) edits of your boss get you down? Time to revisit your agency's program, speak with some of the recipients of your program, take a refresher writing course ... do something to shake off the staleness. In the words of Les Brown, “you don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”

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