I spent almost a decade as an executive speechwriter and advertising copywriter writing for corporate clients in the comfort of my home office. It was a rare opportunity to blend the challenge of building a writing business with the privilege of fatherhood. What could be better than doing what you love to do and “being there” to watch your children grow?
At 6 and 8 my sons would pull a chair up to my desk and begin their own writing project just to be close to me. On a busy day, I would close my office door. To not disturb me, they had a secret knock but they would not speak in case I was on the phone with a client. When I got off the phone, I would find them to address their pressing need, typically a dispute over a toy, a glass of lemonade on a hot August afternoon, or a request to join them in a game of backyard football.
I remember putting an executive speech on hold to build a makeshift tent in the backyard. A simple design would do; a card table chair duct-taped to each end of a seven-foot pole. A blanket draped over the pole. Blanket edges stretched to form the A-frame tent. Without stakes to fasten the blanket to the ground, we used weights, you know, bricks, paint cans from the garage and toy trucks from the sandbox.
Was this a major interruption from writing the speech? Yes! Was I on a tight deadline? Yes! Today, do I remember the speech I was writing on that warm summer day? No. Will I ever forget playing in that tent with my sons? Absolutely not!
Today, my youngest son, Mark, works in product management for a leading sports apparel company in California. My oldest son, David, is, well, a writer working for a big company in the largest city in our state. David is pictured in this photo with me during my freelance years. He is 11.
For years, as I watched my sons grow, they watched me write. I never suggested David should become a writer. Instead, his natural bent, God-given talent, and gift with the English language landed him where he is today. He writes for a living. He is a creative blogger, an articulate speaker, and is clearly more talented than I was at his age.
As I ponder his writing career, it suddenly seems more important than mine. How can I help him chase his dreams? How can I help him go further than I have gone?
How about you? Think about who has been an inspiration to you and then ask yourself: Who can I inspire?
As I survey my life, particularly my writing life, I realize that my legacy is not what I have had printed on a page, but what I have imprinted on a heart.
One heart in particular.
This blog post is dedicated to my son, David.
May his writing career far eclipse my own.