That Urge to Write–by Steve Harding


I got that urge to write. What is it anyway? I just need to write. Write about what? Write about whom? When does my Pulitzer Prize winning epiphany vault me to the book signing circuit? I know I know. I really need to get a grip. I don’t even have the subject let alone a garage full of self-published soft-covers.

You see I get side tracked all the time, too many thoughts, too many ideas, and too many interests. But I still got to write something. I just need to focus. I know, I’ll write a memoir. Awe forget it. Too boring! Sure I “Made It” from a working class albeit borderline destitute dysfunctional family. So what? So have a whole lot of other people whose journeys were longer and more arduous. If I ever went down this path, it would be along the lines of Alfred Lubrano’s autobiography: “Limbo, Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams.”

Ok, then how about scribbling down some career related pearls of wisdom, something that will pass as mentoring? That’s what we need, another book on management and leadership. I’ve been a manager. I’ve been a leader. On balance, I have both the public and private sectors covered with the full array of top to bottom responsibilities. But really, do up and coming young professionals outside of the classroom and thirty-five years my junior actually care about my pontifications? Maybe? Do you think they’ll like my cave drawings? I know, I’ll include a free download: “The Abacus—Bringing Fun and Dexterity to Analytics.”  I may have to include a $10 Starbucks gift card if they text within the next fifteen minutes.

Yet I’m already a writer of sorts. Academics mostly comprise my audience. There are eleven essays, two magazine efforts, a book chapter, and an academic journal article to my publishing credit. Yet absent a Ph.D. I’m not a member of the academy. Without the union card these efforts really don’t buy a cup of coffee. As Tom Nichols suggests in his book, “The Death of Expertise,” academics mostly speak and respond to other academics. It’s not that I don’t have friends in this arena. I do. Excepting a few curmudgeons, most are very cordial. We just occupy different levels of the caste system. Even with their encouragement, I really am posting to the wrong audience.  Wait a minute there may be something here, something along the lines of: “Travels of a Plebeian—Circumnavigating Patrician Society.” I may have to work on the title.

So I’m back to the same question—Write about what? Wearing my former city manager’s hat leads me to think about a cadre of colleagues that have already crossed this bridge. Books, columns, essays, articles and editing fill their literary resumes. Some of these past and current pillars of local governance have even ventured into the realm of fiction and poetry. Bureaucrats writing poetry–God help us. At least one thing is clear—we all need to write.  For me, it needs to be relevant, have real substance.  Common intrinsic knowledge labeled as the enlightened vocational flavor of the month will not suffice. No one line anecdotes here.  I just hope to add some value. Maybe, just maybe, my future efforts will give others a reason to pause, to contemplate, and to reflect.  My challenge is to instigate interest and eventually action. We’ll see where the narrative goes.

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