Thoughts on Writing, after Reading Emerson

The way to start writing is to start writing. Not so much to take a first step toward a destination, as to begin a process.


Writing (as in art or any other creative pursuit) derives most of its value to the author in the doing, not in the final product.

In the thoughts and feelings that must be conjured, evoked and arranged.

In the discovery of fresh ideas whose seeds were always there inside you, latent and available, but that are only brought to flower with the application of effort to share some related thoughts with an audience.

In the sweat and toil of it, overcoming inertia, uncertainty, laziness, fear.

In striving to construct an architecture of ideas expressed in language that is honest, clear, compelling, complete and reaches for a measure of grace.

In learning how to advance your craft.

In learning something about yourself by exposing yourself to an audience.

In learning something about your audience by challenging yourself to know them well enough to ensure that what they read into your words is as intended.

In the satisfaction of doing something hard.

In answering the call, shared by each of us, to express and connect.

In the letting go that must come when it's time to put down the pen and allow your little creation to escape and succeed or fail on its own.

Catching Up

Sunday afternoon, late, dusk. Time for a bit of catch-up on the past week's goings on, (during which I did more living than blogging). I'll do it summary style this time:

Next phase of career coming into focus. Most likely trajectory will find me rejoining old friends on a new mission, to help lead the transformation of a grand old company into a compelling new one. On final approach; ETA two or three weeks.

Visit through NYC terrific…

Began with crafty cab driver whose very purpose for living was to gain a car's length advantage over adversaries at every possible opening, real or imagined. Drivers of vehicles many times our size were left cowering.

Continued as we checked into favorite UES haunt, to hearty greetings, personal touches and postcardCentral Park 11 09 1   views.

Warmed further by smiles of mutual recognition exchanged with a piano man of long acquaintance.Chrisgillespie

Have a listen…

01 I've Got A Crush On You

Further still by the visit of fellow with whom I shared a very noisy foxhole during the SBL campaign, and by the sage advice he shared.

Further yet as we retired to a magical place to wine, dine and be entertained by a showman more people should know.Steve Tyrell

After good byes, a nightcap with accompaniment by the evening's third entertainer.

Loston Harris

Pause for sleep.

Morning brought coffee, fresh berries and the NYT, all blessedly late.

Haircut and shave (indulgence, served over the good natured banter of 40 year veteran barbers of Italian descent), then productive conference call.

Upside of being "in transition": you can find yourself DONE at 11:45. I was.

Walked uptown, bought a couple of books. Downtown, some tea, a couple of tea sets (for east coast digs).

After channeling The Thin Man for a bit, decided to take my camera for a walk in the Park. Results were satisfying.

Central Park 11 09 6

Piano man again. Gave him one of two books I purchased (the one about Pops). He gave it back, asking for dedication. I complied.

Dinner at another "local". Al Roker and guest just off to my left. (Saw Matt Lauer earlier.) Season's first truffles (over scrambled eggs).

Secured rented transportation on Thanksgiving morn, and headed east, bulging with luggage.

Met at former family estate by young man who, in my estimation, is the best son a father could have.

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TDay Dinner with all the fixings at a golf club that gets it right every year, (and where I may actually get to play a round next year!)

Son's TDay+ party provisioned by mom. Off he went by sea and land, into enemy territory (MA).

Saturday: up early, bio-reading, tea. A bit of seaside photojournalism.Short Beach 4   Meeting with a small, talented team looking to turn adversity (being laid off) into opportunity (a promising start-up idea). I may have helped, a little.

Woke early again today. Rose quietly, tip-toeing so as not to wake Ellie.  Descending stairs, noticed I must have left lights on last night. No. Ellie was sipping coffee, watching old movie.

More tea.

Browsed online instantiations of old media (there really IS a way forward; don't they see it?). Came across article on HDR photography. Bought HDR software (impulse indulgence). As it downloaded, received Google Wave invite. What to do? One tab for each, I multi-tasked for an hour or so.

Still early, I asked Ellie if she would like a road trip. Nods later, off we went. Sag Harbor. The American Hotel. Bloody Mary, Paté, Lobster BLT, HDR experiments….. double espresso, home.

That's pretty much it. Later.

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2009-11-29 14-01-59 - Version 2 - Version 2   

Why I Do This

So why, exactly, have I chosen to take to the task of recording words here, now on some regular basis? Related: what guides my choice of subject?

A few words on these questions follow.

While having had some experience in a like mode some years earlier, I only started this column in August of this year. It was a time of transition, and I guess that instinctively I felt that thinking some things through out loud, in public, would help me toward choosing my own path forward. I wrote about this in “Looking Back to Look Forward,” one of my earlier posts. I’ve found that it’s served me well in this respect.

I also, it turns out, like to write — I forgot just how much until taking up this project. Don’t get me wrong, this is work, sometimes painful. Writing, like any other skill, improves with practice. That of course directly implies that you have to subject yourself (and, alas your readers) with earlier inferior works, on the way toward those improved ones that your later self will hopefully one day produce.

In addition, I believe, humbly but with no false modesty, that I have some insights (mostly about the world of business) to share. I’ve lived and experienced quite a bit. I've been part of something great, and made plenty of mistakes. I have been very pleased to hear back in comments, a few public and quite a few more private, that at least some of your are finding at least some of my notes useful. I will strive to continue to earn your attention with offered value.

Finally, as one dear friend surmised in a private comment, I’ve found writing about some of the more difficult moments in my career to be genuinely cathartic. The process seems to bring that overused pop psychology word: closure.

Now, what about my choice of subject?

I didn’t really have a plan when I started this. A serial reading of posts from August should make this plain.

I’ve written about business, travel, politics, people, science and sports. (I’ve likely forgotten a topic or two.)

I’ve tried to be as honest and true to my feelings as my capacities allow. Where I’ve found myself editing out potentially relevant details, it’s been where I feared that they might bring unease or disadvantage to others.

I’ve not shied away from opinion, but of the gentle variety and have avoided turning this into a platform for polemics. (Way too much of that in the world today, and it’s not my nature anyway.)

I’ve written quite a bit about my past, but always with the intent that it illuminate the future, starting with the present moment. (I came across the Emerson quote in the banner above just this morning. I liked it enough, with exactly this thought in mind, to put it in place of the earlier one from Twain1.)

Now, three months into this project, it seemed appropriate to step back and ask myself if a different, more focused plan for guiding choice of content in the future is in order.

I’ve decided not, at least for the next lap or two. If this column is not an effective reflection of me, all of me, then why put it out in the first place? I’m a guy with pretty wide, varied and eclectic tastes, interests and (happily) life experiences, past and (hopefully) future. This column will continue to reflect that, for better or worse. I hope that you continue to enjoy it. Thank you for your kind readership,

Richard Bravman

1. That earlier quote read, "A man's private thought can never be a lie; what he thinks, is to him the truth, always."