Challenging myself

Orange sky over Rye, NY - November 2011For those who don’t know me well, I am not a religious person. I don’t hold claim to any one belief system or ideology, nor do I reject any. I hold a high level of respect for everyone’s individual beliefs or lack thereof. It’s not my intent to prove or disprove, rather, it is to learn facts, listen to stories, and understand our world as it exists today. This level of comprehension includes the natural world and human societies and cultures, for which many are built around belief systems and have significantly impacted on the natural world – good or bad. I am also a strong advocate of the sciences.

In needs to be stated with regard to our current polarized climate of religion versus science, that science does not exist to debunk or counter religion. Nor is science a belief system. It is a methodology applied to the pursuit of facts in how things function in our world. It is the exploration of our intelligent minds, the ocean depths, and the minuscule building blocks of the trillions of atoms that make up each of our bodies.

My views on religion – of any faith – are straight-forward, if not over-simplified. When the supernatural elements are removed they provide frameworks that help some people live their lives, to cope with difficult situations, to provide a community of like-minded people, to serve the less fortunate in times of need. In this high-stress, fast-paced digital era of individual isolation – think of how often people are outdoors talking with neighbors as compared to the pre-Internet days of twenty-plus years ago – religious organizations hold an invaluable role in fulfilling a need to belong to a group and provide a purpose in life. I acknowledge that not everyone seeks these fulfillments, or maybe not in a faith-based setting.

So here I am, embarking on what is the most challenging journey yet in my professional creative life. Without giving much detail away at this early stage, I have committed to writing a biography following the lives of two sisters, where religion and gender identity are major factors in their life stories. Funny enough, the challenge for me is not in taking on the subject of gender identity, it’s learning in close proximity about the high value and trust in a faith that is rather foreign to me, one that I may not agree with at times.

Through this writing exercise I have finally reached a point of clarity consistent with my views: a story about another’s beliefs is not reflective of my own.

My dream job

Storm cloud | source: instagram.com/dtgriffith/I was recently asked by my friend, former MFA classmate, and successful entrepreneur Joe Klemczewski, PhD, what my dream job is in terms of stepping into a company and how I would contribute to improve it. This is a question I’ve heard in various forms on job interviews, which has never been easy for me to answer. After reviewing what I had written in my response to Joe, I thought it would be worthwhile to share and elaborate on my final dream job answer here on the blog.

While it’s hard to pinpoint a specific dream job title and role, I want to ensure that I am contributing in a meaningful way, like helping employees by creating growth opportunities and a positive culture, giving back to a community through volunteerism and donation of goods and services, and improving the business’s bottom line, of course. That said, I would take a holistic approach to any type of business, big or small, by addressing the following broad areas:

  • Branding, which includes public perception that goes far beyond logo design and corporate identity, such as how employees interact with the public, how products or services are presented, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Publicity, public relations, and corporate communications. These tie directly to branding, in how brand initiatives are communicated internally among employees, and externally for promotions and in crisis situations, to name a few.
  • This, too, falls branding umbrella: the elevation of products or services wherever there is an opportunity to improve public perception, improve quality, and increase profitability.
  • Work with marketing, sales, and creative teams along with other stakeholders on strategy to achieve the above points.

Within the points listed above tactics and projects would include, but are not limited to: all forms of advertising, web and social media, print and out-of-home media, streamlined internal networks like CRMs to support these initiatives, implementing collaborative tools for employees to improve productivity and efficiency, improvements to the product and service development and management, and corporate storytelling.

I realize this is a broad scope description of a dream job with several functional verticals, but it is how I perceive businesses I become involved in. Everything listed above can be boiled down to my two core skill sets – creativity and communication. These endeavors are applicable to large multi-national corporations and small independent book publishers – the objectives and thought-processes are the same regardless of the scale and the methods are adaptable.

Some may call this commercial development or holistic branding; I’m sure there are more that aren’t coming to mind right now. No matter the term, this is what I do … this is my profession.

 

 

 

 

The future is never certain, but we knew that

question mark coverI would be lying if I said losing my job this month didn’t adversely affect me, so I’ll take delicate steps around the truth. I’m not hear to bring anyone down. I was laid off thirteen days ago along with several other great colleagues due to corporate downsizing. Right in the midst of the holiday season. Not ideal for anyone.

The job hunt commenced that same day as I don’t like like to waste time, particularly with long-term financial security at stake. I’ve put story and book projects on temporary hold – again – so I could resolve this quickly and efficiently, though that now appears to not be in my best interest.

I’ve written at length about such situations before here on this blog and in my graduate thesis: a negative situation or environment spawns bad moods and low productivity. A lack of productivity creates a sense of loss, misplacement, and depression. Not good.

Therefore, I am challenging myself to write every day going forward, whether it’s here on the blog, my fiction, or for other opportunities. This will keep me accountable and my creative brain active as I continue my job search.

Catharsis

Westport-Boardwalk-20140926I just had one of those moments realizing how many talented people I know in the various arts. This includes published writers of fiction and nonfiction, actively exhibiting visual artists, musicians with a steady stream of performances, and actors who have appeared in various feature films as well as TV and theater. I know two authors in the real world whose books are now in the process of becoming motion pictures, one of them starring Will Ferrell last I heard. Each of these accomplished creatives are all active and enjoying every moment of it. Their emails and posts on Twitter and Facebook are impossible to pass by without feeling both proud for their accomplishments and a bit envious.

Here I am, sitting at home for several weeks now on medical leave from my job following brain and spinal surgery for Chiari Malformation, only recently regaining the ability to write properly. I have book and web projects lined up that I can’t even touch until I’m fully recovered, the required energy and focus alone are beyond my capabilities at the moment. This downtime has given me a lot of time to reflect and refocus my creative efforts among other important matters, particularly the health of both my wife and daughter and wellness of other family members.

Mix in the step-down process of pain medication, and it becomes a scary time for my brain to enter this space. Self-loathing is a demon looming in my periphery; I can see it grinning as it watches me, just waiting for that last barrier to drop so it can enter my mind and take over. Contemplation over those what if moments fuel that demon, like the stupid choices I made as a kid in school due to low self-esteem or career decisions I made as a young professional as my confidence in my abilities wavered. These thoughts will plague anyone who find themselves in long periods of bed rest or some other incapacitation. I’m finally ready to put a knife through their figurative hearts.

I have thought about writing this piece for a few weeks now. It’s a cathartic effort to help unburden my mind and realize it’s okay that I’m not entirely well yet; no one expects me to pull off miracles for my job and my various creative projects right now. They want me to heal.

This post and other recent ones like it have become a sort of memoir. That was never intended, it just happened. I’m usually writing reviews about books, promoting projects I’m involved in, and advising other creative professionals coming up in their careers and enduring the corporate world. I’ll get back to that soon. If you took the time to read all of this, I truly appreciate it. Now it’s time to move forward.