Grownups Make Mistakes All The Time

I saw an interesting exchange between a father and son on the street recently. A gaggle of girls in their late teens or early twenties, who were walking ahead of the boy and his dad, crossed against the light.

The boy, who appeared to be about six or seven, old enough to know about looking both ways, started after them. His dad grabbed his shoulder and guided him gently back to the curb.

“We gotta wait for the walk sign, buddy. Remember what I told you about watching the sign to know when it’s time to cross.” He pointed up, where the red hand still blinked.

“But Dad, they went across!” the boy protested.

“Just because they crossed doesn’t mean you should.”

“But Da-a-ad, they’re grownups!”

Without missing a beat, his father replied, “Well, grownups make mistakes all the time.”

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If only more parents were brave enough to embrace this idea and to spread it. That is, idea that there is no such thing as an infallible person with infallible wisdom, no matter how they look or how confident they look while doing it. Therefore, we must always be responsible for paying attention, doing our own thinking and coming to our own conclusions.

As the child of divorced parents, I’ve long been aware that some grownups make mistakes. But as a child, I assumed that outside the sphere of my flawed, human home, other adults were keeping a stiff upper lip, doing what needed to be done, keeping the lights on.

Now, thanks to the recession, and more recently, the government shutdown, yet another generation has lost the belief that the grownups will keep the lights on for us. Grownups, as it turns out, do make mistakes all the time. Might as well get used to it, kids.

Of course, it’s one thing to point fingers at the other guy; it’s quite another to admit your own flaws. After all, when you tell a child (or friend, or partner, or employee) that you’re not as omniscient as you seem, they might begin to ask questions you can’t answer, or make decisions that don’t square up with yours. That can be scary.

It can also be scary to be stripped of the ability to blame the “grownups” (or friends, or partners, or bosses) when you find yourself in a bind. After all, if you can’t claim innocence, you’re liable to be found equally guilty.

But the truth is that ceding your decision-making power to another “grownup” is still making a decision. And if you choose to trail behind instead of looking ahead for yourself, you’re still going to get hit if you choose the wrong people to follow.

Conversely, if you choose to look out for yourself, you’ll often find that the information you need is available to you, in plain sight. Before the layoffs, there were likely graphs presented publicly in meetings, with the arrows pointing dangerously down. Before the implosion of the family finances, there were likely other signs of a loved one’s impulsiveness, objects no one could afford that sat heavily, even elephant-like, in the room. The power to act, or avoid acting, is always there.

To be clear, this is not about victim-blaming. As the psychiatrist Anna Fels wrote today in the New York Times’ Sunday Review, there are plenty of cases in which intelligent adults don’t see the signs–because other intelligent adults have taken care to keep them hidden. As she says:

Our culture may embrace the redeemed sinner, but the person victimized — not so much. Lack of control over their destiny makes people queasy. Friends often unconsciously blame the victim, asking whether the betrayed person really “knew at some level” what was going on and had just been “in denial” about it. But the betrayed are usually as savvy as the rest of us. When one woman I know asked her husband, a closet alcoholic who drank secretly late at night, how he could have hidden his addiction for so long, he replied, “It took a lot of work.”

In these cases, the victims in question deserve our full support. As I said above, to be an adult is not to be omniscient. Sometimes, there are no signs to be read, no guiding white bars on the asphalt to glow and show the way – just the unmarked and dark country road of love and pain, to be navigated as best one can. I myself have been privy to many of these painful crimes, personal car wrecks involving people I love. I have seen the shame and the self-recrimination that comes from being robbed of your life story by an unforeseen betrayal. It’s not fair and it’s not okay and sometimes, it is just not your fault. Sometimes, it is the other guy (or girl) who made the mistake, and we’re the ones who get hit.

But that is all the more reason to look out–not just for our own sake, but for others. Because the red hands blinking “STOP” above the crosswalk are often there, if we have the courage and the presence of mind to look. To read the news. To understand our finances. To study our history.

And more often than not, there is time, plenty of time, to stop and think. To change careers or partners or plans. To make sure everyone gets home safely. To ask the hard questions the grownups don’t want us to ask. To teach ourselves what we don’t necessarily want to know. And to face the uncertainty on the other side of a tough decision and the risk of messing up.

Because that is what grownups, real grownups, do. And if you can read this, if you have the literacy skills and the technology and the maturity to get this far, then you are grown-up enough.

It is denial at worst, and naive innocence at best, to believe that by avoiding the work of making your own decisions, you can also avoid the consequences of the decisions that are made for you. Unfortunately, none of us are safe from that. In fact, this mentality makes us less safe than ever, because it means not asking other grownups the hard questions that they need to hear, in order to keep from messing things up for the rest of us.

So let’s build a future in which we teach kids to make their own way through the wonders of the world, not just follow others blindly through it. Let us teach them how to read the signs for themselves, because grownups make mistakes all the time–and they need to be kept accountable, too. Maybe that will be the move that makes the world a safer, more enlightened place.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Creativity and Accountability: A Pre-Fall Reading Roundup

The end of summer, for me, always brings a new level of mental clarity and a hunger for substantive thinking, planning, discussing and doing. Here’s what I’ve been reading to prepare for a more focused fall. (And please, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!)

- If you’re lamenting the fact that you did not catch up on all the inspirational books you planned to read at the beach this summer, you can take the easy way out: entrepreneur and blogger Derek Sivers has detailed notes on a lot of different books that you might have wanted to read but didn’t have the time to, like Personal Development for Smart PeopleStumbling on Happiness, and Seeking Wisdom. (Hat tip to Dawn for the pass-along.)

Note: Sivers also has some good advice about freeing up more time (for things like beach reading), which he describes as his “Hell Yeah! or No” rule. 

- Speaking of succinct summaries of profound philosophies: creative mastermind Seth Godin was recently featured in this Happy Monday podcast. If you’re not familiar with his work as it relates to making things happen, this is the perfect primer. (Because I, too, am short on time, I usually listen to these while making lunch or dinner.)

- Speaking of primers: prolific dynamo Marie Forleo has put together a fall curriculum of her most popular MarieTV videos (which now total 154 in all) in order to help broker change in her community of solopreneur hopefuls. MarieTV can sometimes be silly, but Forleo’s interview with Stephen Pressfield about “going pro” has a gravitas worthy of your time, not to mention a lot of great lines about self-accountability.

- Speaking of accountability: I recently stumbled across this thought experiment about “unsafe houses” for abusive men (versus safe houses for abused women). As we come to the end of a summer that has included many troubling stories about gender and power — the Steubenville rape case, Miley Cyrus’ theoretical debasement of or by Black culture (as fellow media martyr Rihanna looks stoically on), and here in New York, the compulsive betrayals of politician Anthony Weiner of his wife and would-be supporters — the act of imagining a world in which we create systems encouraging accountability for all is a mental balm. Though we may consider ourselves above or immune to the actions of this summer’s heavily profiled villains and victims, we all have the power to change the dynamic in which these actions take place, even in small ways.

- What kinds of small ways, you ask? Well, I particularly liked this recent post on the Good Men Project: Dear Daughter, I Hope You Have Awesome Sex.  Like my earlier post about my dad, this piece argues that 21st century caregivers need to be brave, creative, and even downright iconoclastic when it comes to structuring healthier attitudes towards gender, power and accountability. (And that goes for us currently-childless teachers and mentors, too.)

So, tell me: what are you reading to get ready for fall? What projects are you hoping to accomplish by the end of 2013? What thoughts, tools, texts or textiles are you using to support yourself as you head “back to school” this year?

On Balance: Maintaining and Returning

Image

(Photo courtesy of the eminently well-balanced Dawn Kang.)

Yesterday, I put my laptop into my bag, slung it over my shoulder, and left the house for a long day in the city.

Millions of people do this every day without incident. But I woke up writhing in pain the next day. See, I have a slipped disk in my lower back. So when I carry an uneven, heavy weight on one side, it can easily shift the disk out of place, kinking my spinal cord like a foot to a hose and throwing my whole body off-balance. Which it did. It took me and Tom, my kind physical therapist, an hour and a half of my Tuesday to repair the damage of my Monday.

So why did I do it?

Because I was giving in to a common and foolish hope: that this time, carrying too much weight would not also carry its consequences.

This one gets me every time, and not just when it comes to my sartorial decisions. (Because it was, ultimately, a sartorial decision–I thought the bag looked cooler than my usual, evenly-balanced backpack, and I wanted to look cool.)

This constant risk of imbalance pops up frequently in my life as a freelancer, where it’s up to me to track my workload and my hidden pain points — and to avoid negative consequences for myself and my collaborators. And when too much stuff goes into that imaginary “career” bag, as it can easily do for almost any ambitious and hard-working person, it often pulls everything off-balance.

I experienced this scenario this summer, when I said yes to a number of things that individually felt right to me. I started graduate school, a lifelong goal, at the Bank Street College of Education. I wrote and edited for a Department of Education initiative called GEAR UP, which inspires inner-city kids to explore advanced post-college career opportunities. I joined a group of journalists from Narrative.ly in penning passages for Readworks, which provides thousands of teachers across the country with free, high-quality reading material for struggling students. And I helped to plan and pull off Yelp Helps, which raised a large sum of money to support the youth-focused Red Hook Initiative.

Everything was in my wheelhouse, up my alley, consistent with whatever emerging personal brand I’ve theoretically got going. Every project was led by people I admired and respected. Every task promised to help me develop crucial expertise in my desired field. And most of it was fun.

However, it was simply too much of a good thing. I struggled to meet deadlines, lost sleep, and left my partner doing double the dog duty more often than I’d like.

My full professional plate also left no time for spontaneity or changes in plan. When my younger brother’s doctor sent him to New York from Buffalo for a last-minute second opinion on his brain cancer at Sloan-Kettering, I had to struggle mightily to make room in my house and work schedule. This, for someone who should always have a corner cleared in my life. (The kicker: I’ve even written advice on this kind of corner-clearing for others!)

By the end of this marathon month, I barely recognized myself in the mirror. I had allowed myself to be pulled painfully off-track.

What I’d forgotten was that balance and integrity in my home life define me just as profoundly as do my professional projects.

What I’d had to relearn is that it’s just not possible to put all of my energy into one or the other, even for a month; they support each other.

I truly believe that work-life balance is not, as employees at Amazon reportedly joke, for “people who do not like their work” (though I’d imagine that one is at least partially tongue-in-cheek). It is for people who love their lives. When businesses falter, when marriages end, the story always seems to contain a moment when the parties involved lost their balance between work and life. I don’t want this to be my story. Do you?

I also believe that even the most skilled Buddhist monk can never truly stay balanced, will always slip away from his focus in on the meditation mat, in mind if not in body. That is the nature of being human. But as one such monk in South Korea once told me, meditation is “never about maintaining your focus. It is only about returning to your focus. Seeing that your mind has gone astray, and reminding gently it to come back.”

I would add that the same is true for work-life balance, an issue that is blissfully always fixable. We move forward in time. We finish classes and consider new ones. We re-negotiate chores at home and contracts at work. We can always return, like a meditator to her mat, to the basic breath and balance that is ours for the taking.

Put another way: having the honest determination to return in a dignified way (not the imaginary ability to maintain some kind of perfect life, nor the self-punishing compulsion to maintain a bone-crushing workload, or the secret desire to maintain a victim-like view of life in which you have no power over your work), might be the best way to define responsible behavior.

So, for the first time in this blog’s short history, I have gone away. It may not be the last time. But I will always work hard to return, responsibly and gently.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who has also found themselves off-balance lately, and what your rituals are for returning.

Connecting Fatherhood and Feminism

“Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.”

– Beryl Markham

This Father’s Day, I called my dad to thank him for all the things he’s never done.

My dad has never shown anyone how to treat me like a lady. He’s insisted that I learn to mow the lawn, tie a proper knot, drive a truck and use an electric drill.

My dad has never protected me. The most dangerous things that have happened to me–being caught in a flash flood, rolling an SUV into a ditch, confronting a rattlesnake on a remote country road–have all been under his watch, usually during family camping trips. (He stayed calm; I was not so calm.)

My dad: clearly indifferent to the danger of standing on cliffs.

My dad: clearly indifferent to the danger of standing on cliffs.

My dad rarely seems to anticipate his children’s needs. Once, during a long and lonely teenage summer, I had a meltdown over dinner, telling him that all my problems were his fault, and worse, he wasn’t doing anything about it. Exasperated and confused, he maintained his composure long enough to tell me this: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you do want something from me, or from anyone, please start by asking for it.”

My dad did not work hard to keep alcohol or drugs out of our home. A psychologist, he understood very well that prohibiting something makes it irresistible to a teen. He was, however, always transparent with me about his own use of these substances, and the consequences. As I recall, our Big Anti-Drug Talk began with “Did I ever tell you about the seventies?” and ended with “So that’s how we ended up stranded in the desert with an overheated engine, completely convinced we were ants.”

And my dad did not insist that I bring boys home for inspection. Instead, he gave me good advice on how to choose them myself. “Don’t decide before you decide,” he told me once. “Pay careful attention to how you feel, and to what they do. Try to see what is, not what you want it to be. That way, when you have to make a decision, it’s really a decision. You’re not just looking selectively for information to justify an impulse.” I still follow this advice (as my boyfriend can attest, after four years of courting). And not just when it comes to dating.

As a result of my father’s obvious neglect, I have grown into a woman who values self-sufficiency over chivalry, calculated risk-taking over playing it safe, moderation and exploration over shame and self-denial, and equality with others over protection from them.

I’m not the only one who has been thus scarred, either. Recently, I discovered that Florence Nightingale’s affluent father defied all norms of his day to home-school his daughter in science and medicine. This ruined her marriage prospects–and earned her countless accolades as a pioneer of modern nursing and health policy. Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, was allowed by her father to hunt lions in colonial Kenya. And the madness continues: on Father’s Day 2013, , the founder of BoingBoing, allowed his teenaged daughter to pass with her midriff “uncovered” through the LA airport, even standing up for her (and penning a very pissed-off think piece that later went viral) when she was chastised by a security guard.

"Nightingale Receiving the Wounded," by Jerry Barrett (via Wikimedia Commons)

“Nightingale Receiving the Wounded,” by Jerry Barrett (via Wikimedia Commons)

Now that I am the same age as my father was when I was born, I find myself thinking often about how I will parent my own children. Especially now that fatherhood itself is a role that’s under revision.

In fact, several publications this week, including the Wall Street Journalthe BBCCNN,  and LearnVest, used the holiday to examine paternity leave–or rather, the illusion of it. Though it’s increasingly available at many companies, most men are still afraid to take it, for fear of losing their jobs or otherwise being penalized for refusing to “wear the pants.”

This means that while feminist fathers today can choose to free their daughters from oppressive gender norms, they still cannot free themselves.

Does this seem wrong to you? It does to me.

In the future, I think parents must fight together, creatively, to fix the rules of fatherhood. We may have to role-play with our male partners, as many articles advise us women to do before salary negotiations, pretending to act like scowling bosses as they practice the words “I’ll be back in two weeks.” Couples may have to develop new income streams to pick up the slack should fathers be fired for prioritizing their children. (Feminist crafts, anyone?) And we should all find new ways to praise the fathers in our lives–for their acts of parenthood, not just their manhood. “You know, sweetheart, I’ve never loved you as much as I did today, when you were showing our daughter how to use that power drill.”

Though the work itself won’t be easy, the choice should be. Should we choose creativity and resourcefulness, or continued oppression? That feels easy for me to answer.

Then again, I guess that’s just the way I was raised.

Image

To get anywhere, we’re going to have to row together.

Why there are so many blogs about fear

I’m a creative person in the 21st century, which means I read a lot about fear.

Fear of failure, of success, of being vulnerableof your inner critic, of your secret desires, of being rejected.

It’s been written about, exhaustively. Flip or click through the pages of Fast Company, 99U, Behance, Seth’s Blog, even Forbes, and you’ll find fear’s fingerprints everywhere.

There are now entire blogs and publications dedicated to fighting fear. Generation Meh and Cash and Joy come to mind, but Jenny Blake at Life After College and Emily Wapnick at Puttylike tackle this topic regularly, too (and do it engagingly).

Why are there so many kinds of fear, and so many words on the Internet about them? And why are so many of them written by young women like myself?

Here is my theory, in three parts.

1) We’re angry at ourselves. We know we’re capable of doing many incredible things, but we’ve internalized the message that we’re not capable, and it’s always causing us to hesitate. This is true for men and women, but female insecurity is its own special hell. (See also: male dominated society, fairy tales, the advertising industry.) Add the pressure of our own amgydalas, which amplify these messages and turn us into quivering anxiety machines.

Blogs are a way to fight back and express anger about this “shithouse” status quo, in a world that does not allow young women many healthy avenues for fighting back or expressing anger. Bonus: blogging allows us to do so constructively, by helping others. The way we were trained to do as good little girls. Insert tail in snake mouth.

2) We’re angry at each other. In a world where internalized insecurity is crippling souls like some kind of metaphysical polio, some succumb more quickly. Symptoms include: forgoing interesting-but-frightening opportunities, settling for partners that don’t treat you well, indulging self-destructive habits, and shelving still-viable degrees and dreams. It happens to the best of us, and it’s tragic every time.

When cornered by the victims at parties and pumped for advice, survivors eagerly offer it. “Yeah, actually, I just went to this website and…” They know that it’s hard out there, and they want to pay their good fortune forward. Then they watch with despair as the victims listen intently before looking away, murmuring, “Aw, man, I dunno. I just could never do what you did. Good luck, though.” And both people go home feeling sad, and strangely angry at the other.

Eventually, as we trudge towards enlightenment, some of us come to realize that there’s something wrong and unsatisfying about being angry with our survivor friends, or our victim friends, or ourselves. That there’s something bigger going on here. So we decide to take our anger and advice to the street. We can’t always save ourselves or our loved ones, but we can, we hope, save someone.

3) Many of us have an impulse to save, to give, to make on a grand scale that is intrinsic and never satisfied, even by success. It’s human nature, embodied in blogs, and it is here to stay.

5264272784_9af5617433_b

Thus sayeth the Millenial blogger: go forth and be fruitful in your freelance career, and be sure to watch that TED Talk I told you about!

(Image credit: Biblevector via Creative Commons)

I can think of worse ways to spend my time than encouraging myself and the people around me to face our fears and make our art. So, I’m going to keep doing it.

I do realize that there are those that may say ,”Who are you to tell others how to live? Maybe they have better reasons to be afraid than you do.” (At least, that’s what the fearful voices in my head say to me when I’m writing pep-talk posts.)

But blogging about facing your fear isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about bossing other people around and creating more fear (of failure to face one’s fear). Or setting up new and unreasonable expectations for people to meet. Or shaming those who’ve been temporarily paralyzed by insecurity, as if it were not a larger cultural issue. All of those things are things that I have done, so I speak from experience when I say that they tend to perpetuate the problem.

When a writer like me chooses to focus on fear, I would argue, she is trying to fight fear with hope. The hope that by putting fear under the microscope, by calling upon others to help sequence its DNA, and by sharing her findings with the world, she can help to lead the charge towards a cure for us all.

Backup singer or solo artist?

From the film's official website: "Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer at the mic for a stirring rendition of 'Lean on Me'." Fitting, no?

Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer sing ‘Lean on Me’.

Sheryl Sandberg or Mark Zuckerberg. Annie Sullivan or Hellen Keller. Lisa Fischer or Mick Jagger.

The divide between those who seek the spotlight and those that sing backup–and the positive and negative consequences of choosing to do the latter–is set to be highlighted in an upcoming film, “20 Feet From Stardom.”

And ironically, Lisa Fischer, a woman who has for most of her career preferred to sing stage left, has been placed front and center in both the film and in a sympathetic profile in the New York Times.

In the profile, she talks about the trajectory of her career, which began when she was a “young and cute” backup singer auditioning for Jagger, took her through the sometimes-forbidding, sometimes-fantastical territory of solo stardom (she won a Grammy), and finally, saw her clicking her heels and going right back to backup singing. Fischer says she prefers it.

“I reject the notion that the job you excel at is somehow not enough to aspire to, that there has to be something more,” Ms. Fischer explained, speaking with her eyes closed, as she tends to do. “I love supporting other artists.”

She continued: “I guess it came down to not letting other people decide what was right for me. Everyone’s needs are unique. My happy is different from your happy.”

Though her words sound defensive–one can imagine she’s had to deliver this speech to incredulous friends or relatives before–few of the people interviewed for Fischer’s profile doubt that she’s being disingenuous about her true intentions.

Says her colleague Merry Clayton, the pair of lungs behind the Stones’ famed “Gimme Shelter” solo (and an aspiring soloist herself):

“When you’re carrying the bulk of all those people on your back [as a soloist], that gets a little heavy….Lisa, she just sings and picks up a check, honey. She keeps it movin.’”

It’s clear that many viewers of the documentary, even those outside the music industry, are picking up on what they believe to be the embedded message: that performing a support role versus hanging out your own shingle is, to some, the highest expression of their art. As the film’s director, Morgan Neville, recalls:

“A guy stood up after a screening and said: ‘I’m a middle manager at a company, and I’m O.K. with that. We make a good product, and I’m proud of what I do. I just realized that I’m a backup singer.’”

By the end of this profile, I was also singing this middle manager’s tune, to some degree. I’ve served in highly visible positions and hidden in the background, placed myself squarely at the center of a narrative and edited myself out of stories completely in order to more truly tell them, and I am about to start grad school to become a teacher–which is, in a way, the ultimate backup singing gig. I’ve enjoyed the selflessness–and the simplicity–of my “backup” gigs immensely. And I do believe that some of us truly are primed to find happiness in helping others as much as ourselves, if not all of us.

That said, I think that Fischer’s story contains more complexity than seems apparent on the surface. There are implicit questions that are not explicitly asked and answered. This is not a problem, because the questions I have in mind are ones that would be better directed towards ourselves, whether or not we choose to see the film (which I plan to).

Questions, for example, like:

Are you choosing to sing backup in this scenario because it’s the best way to showcase your particular talents and the talents of those around you, or the best way to deflect criticism from those who do not appreciate your talents to those around you? 

Are you choosing to sing backup in this scenario because it’s a wisely conservative strategy that will pay dividends over time, allowing you to lead a good and balanced life without undue stress, or is it too conservative, leading you away from what you truly want, but fear to pursue? 

Are you choosing to sing backup in this scenario because you don’t want your boss’ job?

If so, why not? 

If so, what do you want? 

I don’t doubt that Fischer, at age 54, has asked and answered these questions for herself to her satisfaction. She’s been to both Oz and Kansas, and she’s made her choice. But I do think that there are many others who might wish to believe that their choice to avoid the tornado of exposing themselves to the spotlight in the first place is the same kind of choice that she has made, and it’s not.

What the Internet has given and taken away

Image

(Photo of Ernest Hemingway courtesy of Wikipedia)

A few months ago, the Boston Globe announced the closing of the Boston Phoenix. 

Though I never, during my days as a Boston journalist, wrote for the Phoenix, I know many a talented writer who has.

My friend Chris Faraone, who used to write for me at my first job (at a now-also-defunct new media company), recently launched two books from his perch there as a a politics and music reporter. My friend Lissa Harris, who used to edit me over at the Weekly Dig, used her freelance money from the Phoenix (in very small part) to finance the launch of a new, online-only paper called The Watershed Post in the Catskills, the first local rag that region has had in decades. And my former boss and professor, Mark Leccese, who still teaches at my alma mater and oversaw my internship at The Boston Business Journal, got his start at the Phoenix twenty years ago. Now, this incubator of talent is gone forever, and with it, countless potential careers, small publications and seasoned reporters that might have been.

At times like this, if one is in a particularly self-pitying mood, one wonders why the man or woman upstairs has singled out the writers of this generation for this torturous round of mass layoffs and buyouts. (Was it all those articles about pedophilic priests?).

Other times, one waxes nostalgic about what print “used to be.” In fact, for me at least, until the auspicious demise of the Phoenix, it still felt possible to believe that it would rise from the ashes—and with it, bring back the expense accounts, the foreign bureaus, the bottles of whiskey hidden not-so-secretly in bottom drawers. The romantic past version of what writers used to be. The romantic future Millenials like me envisioned for ourselves when we signed up to make $17,000 a year.

But these impulses are more or less futile. It’s time to properly mourn and move on. The media of the past deserves that much.

It’s time to answer the question that always comes after grieving and acceptance: what now?

My humble suggestion is for all of us—both the so-called professionals and the so-called amateurs—to keep writing. In fact, my suggestion is that we write more, and better. Because we know we need to, and because we know we’re still needed. Because we all know stories, our own and those that happen around us, and we are primed as a species to tell them.

Sure, some of us may have more style and flash than others, but before the days of print journalism, you didn’t need permission from a professor or a publication to put sharpened stone to tablet. And guess what? You still don’t. In the age of blogging, you can assign yourself any project you like.

We need to stop acting like it’s somebody else’s job to write—much less a job we do not have. The Internet hath taken away, but it has given, too: tools for writing online, teachers and books for improving ones’ skills, and an audience far larger than your local newspaper could ever have dreamed of during journalism’s so-called “golden age.”

As my mentor Mark Leccese says, “I would love to get high on $15-an-ounce pot and go see the J. Giels Band blow the roof off the Boston Garden with a four-hour show, like I used to. But the guys in J. Giels Band are all in their 60s, pot costs who knows what, and they tore down the Boston Garden years ago. It’s OK to be nostalgic, but, hey, times change. Change with ‘em, is my motto.”

This blog is dedicated to helping all current and aspiring writers to change for the better. Keep reading (and please subscribe!) as I discuss all the ways in which we can tackle the writing work we were all born to do. Because in the future, no one else will be around to do it. And therein lies this generation’s biggest opportunity.