Tag Archives: corporate

What I Know For Sure About Writing

When I attended retirement planning seminars over the course of my career, the psychologists who provided guidance on how to mentally prepare for the transition always seemed to ask the same question: What do you want to do in retirement?

To me, the answer has always been a no-brainer: writing.

My first glimmers of self-awareness about writing came in high school and university. Of all of the assignments in a students’ life, I enjoyed writing essays and compositions the most – and the longer the better – despite the groans from my fellow classmates.

When I stepped into the career world, by some strange stroke of luck, I often ended up in work teams where my colleagues were more than happy to let me raise my hand and volunteer to write lengthy reports, business cases, user manuals and web content while others would probably rather raise their hand and volunteer for root canals.

Writing tasks made me so happy because they presented learning opportunities in an area for which I held a keen interest in becoming better and better.

I enjoyed writing for my managers and executives, as it presented a unique learning opportunity to learn and adapt to their respective writing styles. With the knowledge that I wasn’t writing for me, I was writing for them, I never took personally any comments about what I produced. In fact, after working on a few memos, I truly relished getting to a point where I could receive a request, get a few key points about what is intended in the message, and go back to my desk to draft, edit and return a product that was exactly what they wanted and in their own voice. There was no greater compliment to me than when they said “André, this is like I wrote it myself!”

And then to be able to change on a dime and write something for one executive (in their voice) closely followed by another piece for another executive, I truly felt like I could become a “literary chameleon”.

There were also those times when some products were hard to write, like a message to deliver disappointing news or a message to take something complex and making it sound simple without missing a critical detail. Those were the times that I tapped into what I felt were fine architectural or engineering skills that were needed to build the right message. The successful completion of those products was the reward in itself.

The work days that consisted of mostly writing or editing, I’d finish more energetic than when I started. It was very much the same feeling after completing a long composition or an essay in school. Writing is that one thing that energizes me, the more that I do it.

But more than that, I think my 33 years working in the corporate world was truly the best training for what I hope will become a second career in the creative writing field. Some of what I learned in corporate writing does indeed translate to creative writing:

– I realize that even the best ideas need time to refine and develop, and I have the patience to ride it out until the story is just right.

– Working on a piece that doesn’t come to fruition immediately doesn’t bother me. I know when to keep working and when to take a break.

– The best of ideas come to fruition (i.e., publication) when they are meant to be. No amount of pushing can accelerate them or make a square peg fit in a round hole. I am comfortable with writing a story and leaving it on my hard drive until the timing is right.

– I can write quickly and effectively under tight timelines, but my preference leans toward planning out my work and writing steadily in consistent iterations.

And then the things I learned on my own along the way include:

– I found out that a blank page doesn’t scare me. Writing is that one thing I can do that doesn’t fall into a trap of analysis paralysis (anymore).

– I don’t write with the intent to become rich and famous, I write out of a yearning to tell stories not told before or in a voice not heard before.

– I accept that not every story will appeal to everyone.

– I accept that I still have a lot to learn.

– Over the course of seven years and almost 400 blog posts (which would be equivalent to four or five novels), my interest in writing doesn’t seem to be wavering. If anything, it keeps getting stronger.

– As I witnessed with this blog, making a connection with a total stranger who says “hey, something like that happened to me as well. I know what you mean” is a delight for me.

– I have more than one story within me, so if not story A, or story B, maybe stories C, D or E will get out of the gate first. For that reason, I don’t really fear rejection letters. To me, they just mean “not this one”, “not for me, thanks” or “not now”.

– In reading autobiographies of authors and playwrights, I have come to accept that change is inevitable between the first submitted draft and the final product. If an editor suggests cutting or changing some parts that don’t advance the story (if I hadn’t realized it myself by then) I wouldn’t take it personally. Even in movies, some material ends up on the cutting room floor and that is just a fact of life.

– I don’t know how to shut off the “ideas generating” module in the back of my mind, and thankfully I took notes along the way which is why I have so many journals, sketch pads and index cards of ideas.

I don’t think it was an accident that many of my work assignments over my career required me to write as much as I did and have me working with some outstanding mentors and coaches, for whom I will always be so very grateful.

When you take all of those factors into consideration, those were the moments which contributed to my knowing for sure that writing was my passion and my calling.

In a nutshell, I think it would be fair to say that I didn’t choose to write. It chose me. That is what I know for sure!

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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My Growing Disconnection from the Corporate Ladder

With retirement just a few months away, what has been interesting to me has been taking a moment to step back and to observe how my mindset has changed, without deliberately doing so.

Things that used to occupy a significant amount of thought, energy and a constant state of preparedness have slowly faded into the background.

I think it started around the time I made the decision that after five times accepting short assignments filling in for a manager, that I decided management really wasn’t for me and that climbing the corporate ladder was off the table.

After so many years of being groomed for management, and having so many people say that they believed in me, it was a difficult decision as I didn’t want to let my mentors down.

But the reality was that while I was indeed capable of managing a team, I felt more fulfilled when I was rolling my sleeves up and delving into the technical aspects of the work, more so than when I was leading others through the work.

It also made me appreciate that much more the job I really enjoyed the most over the span of my career to the point of jokingly asking my boss for a “no trade” clause, as I had made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do until it was time to say farewell.

Those two decisions alone brought me so much relief in not having to actively look at job postings anymore, or going through the lengthy processes of applying, testing and interviewing, which always seemed to feel like “homework” when there were other things to which I would prefer to devote time and energy. Continue reading

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What I Missed Most As a Manager

Over the span of my career, I was most fortunate in being asked a few times if I would be interested in a short term assignment as a manager, to fill a vacant position until it could be staffed permanently.

When that happened, I always felt like an award show nominee. The fact that someone thought highly enough of me and my work to extend such an invitation was a huge honour and for that I was most grateful.

I chose carefully and I accepted five times.

But looking back, even though I was told I did fine, I didn’t always think so. I was pretty hard on myself. I always thought I could have done better.

The bigger questions were why was I so exhausted when each assignment was over? Was it me? Would more training have helped? Was it a right fit for me? How did so many of the managers I looked up to make it look so easy?

As I reflected back over my agonizing decisions to accept, and the dissection of events when the assignments were over, I believe I should have paid more attention to my gut and to the struggle I was feeling.

After the last assignment, I realized that even though our society and our culture keeps telling us that climbing the ladder is a good thing, management might not be for everyone. I knew conclusively that it wasn’t for me and I finally knew the reasons why. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Misc blogs, Writing

My Love/Hate Relationship with Software Updates

As a blogger and as a writer, a well-functioning computer is absolutely essential to ensure the smooth flow of ideas from the brain to the device.
But to get to that point, do the software updates have to be so long, painful and intrusive?

Whether at home or at the office, it seems that computers have a mind of their own when it comes to updates. Even though I have Windows Update on a strict schedule to seek, download and process updates in the middle of the night (an option for which I am so-o-o-o grateful), it’s the other software applications that need to take a lesson if they don’t want to be deleted from my life.

How many times do I have a glimmer of creative brilliance, only for my keyboard to stop responding in the middle of it, as a dialogue box pops up telling me to save all my work for an urgent update that will download in 5 minutes? Of course, as Murphy’s Law has it, updates like this happen most in the middle of corporate emergencies with tight deadlines. Stupid machine!

On another occasion, I showed up for work knowing I had a meeting 5 minutes after my arrival. I just needed to see where the meeting was being held and I would be on my merry way. But no! My computer wouldn’t allow me to check my calendar as it needed to make an update as soon as I got in. Why couldn’t it do it just before I arrived, when it was on but idle? Stupid machine! Since then, before leaving the office, I review my calendar for the next day in case of early meetings… just in case! Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, pop culture, Writing

My Writer’s Uniform

For as long as I can remember, spring and fall were usually times to head back to the malls and hunt for a few new items of clothing to refresh the wardrobe.

I would assume that the timing has its origins back to childhood when fall meant “back to school” and spring meant replacing the t-shirts and shorts I outgrew from the previous season. Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in years and “outgrowing” holds a different meaning today, the traditions of shopping for spring and fall fashion stuck with me.

But the paradigm of seasonal shopping is starting to shift. With retirement just a few years away, my clothing needs are changing.

I would like to think that until now, for my work life and my social life, I had cultivated a look that struck the right balance between the office dress code, what allowed me to feel comfortable and confident and what pleased me personally.

I developed a uniform of separates I truly loved, that fit me the way I wanted. Through carefully selected long sleeved shirts, sweaters, blazers, dress pants, cotton pants, jeans, shoes, and socks of all colours, it was very easy to mix and match the pieces to achieve a multitude of looks, appropriate for the weather, the occasion, and how I felt on a given day.

I also had on hand the obligatory suits for interviews, weddings and funerals.

Similarly, I knew exactly which pieces traveled better than others, which took the guesswork out of packing for a trip. Continue reading

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