In Vino Veritas

My inspiration to start this blog came at Wordcamp Victoria 2012. I was recently unemployed, and like an enterprising recently unemployed person I took advantage of opportunities that came up. My blogger fiancee Tanya was going, she invited me, done deal. Let me let you in on a secret — I love conferences, workshops, seminars, any of that shit. Get people with ideas together in one place I want to be there. So I went to Wordcamp.

Every presenter was inspiring, in their way. Beth Campbell Duke inspired me, as a plugged in job seeker, to get a URL and build a website. (Still working on that online resume!) Raul Pacheco taught me that I’m interesting enough to be the topic of a blog. Craig Spence taught me that it’s ok to air semi-formed fiction in public (thank him for Fiction Fridays) and that, beyond that, it’s ok to try things that may or may not work out as intended. And Chris Burdge taught me that I really did get social media, and that the only sure way to succeed is to get on with it.

But the one speaker that I credit more than any other one in pushing me over the edge is Beth Cougler Blom. Her talk, on genuine blogging, really spoke to me. In a conference that could easily have been driven by popularity contest metrics like page views and comments and retweets, Beth brought it down to what, to me, counts. Beth brought it down to the personal level. Who are you? Why are you blogging? What is “success” to you? Do you blog after two glasses of red wine, or wait for the sober second thought?

In my case, at least, the answer to the last is a resounding “yes”, providing “two” means “an evening of” and “red wine” means “beer and whiskey, the two great malted spirituous liquors, like the good Celt you are.” In Granum Veritas. (Google it.)

Wordcamp, to me, was a kick in the pants. It was a critical mass of voices telling me to get over myself and share. We all give the advice we most need to hear. The advice I want the world to hear is that “yes, honey, you are interesting and worthwhile and people want to hear from you.” Really, it’s of course for myself. I’ve known for years that I’ve been shorting the world by holding my thoughts to myself, but it’s not about knowledge, is it?

The presenters and my fellow attendees of Wordcamp have been absolutely critical in launching and maintaining this blog, especially in the shaky first few posts. Now, I don’t care in the least about comments. Views are nice, please read, comment if you like, but I’m writing for me now.

Two incidents to share with you.

One: I’ve been volunteering to make worthwhile use of my unemployed time. It’s been far more effective than writing and rewriting resumes, even if it was just about finding a job. A few weeks back, I volunteered for an event launching the Launch! youth entrepreneurship program. It’s a joint program of Community Microlending (full disclosure: I’m gratefully and joyfully on their communications committee) and the Community Social Planning Council, both of Victoria. I was invited to live-tweet the event (along with the ubiquitous Linley Faulkner) and host a table for our after-dinner discussion. Ok, confession, none of the previous is critical to the story, but I want to promote who and when I can.

At the event, I caught up with an old friend, Erin Brocklebank. A few years back, she interviewed me for a job at her then-employer. She was the communications director (I probably have that title wrong) and I was to be her assistant. I was, realistically, probably not qualified for the job. (Secret: I’ve never had a job I was qualified for, except maybe when I was washing dishes. But I’m AWESOME at every job I’ve had.) I didn’t get the job. But I had a great interview that inspired me about the possibilities that communication can have in building a better world. (Seriously, Erin, I know you’re reading, and I mean that.) I felt like she valued my experience, and more so valued the enthusiasm I had in the direction of my inexperience.

Erin told me that she reads my blog, and at the risk of getting self-referential and self-congratulatory, let’s just say she likes it. At that time, I hadn’t updated in over a week, and I’d been kinda bummed about my lack of momentum. Let me tell you, if you’re one of the dozen or so internet users that doesn’t already know, nothing motivates like support from someone you admire. Double if they’re in a career you aspire to, even if obliquely.

The next day I finished a draft I’d started a few hours before my chat with her. I posted it. It’s the previous entry in this blog.

Two: Today I was at the walk-in clinic, in their phone-silent waiting room. Being a good member of society, I switched to airplane mode. I also didn’t want to be the guy sitting there playing Angry Birds. So I fished into my bag, looking for a book. I’d left The Hobbit at home. But I did have my notebook. I read through the notes I’d made in the various coffee meetings I’ve set up in the course of keeping productively unemployed. All very interesting. But there’s only so much time you can put into reviewing your notes.

So I wrote.

I’m the type who takes the attitude that it’s better to stay quiet about your writing until it’s written, then drop it on the world. But I’ll let you in on this one.

I have a story bubbling, or stories, or a novel and several comic books and a pen and paper role-playing game, but whatever. You’ve seen snippets in Fiction Fridays. All I’ll say is that if Cascadia was independent, what would happen in the mountain passes to Alberta? Think on it. There would be snow, and wildlife, but what would the people be doing to maintain a fragile peace?

That’s what I wrote, or at least that’s the flavour. (Imagine – World War II era rifles as ancestral weapons.) What I wrote isn’t as important, though, as the fact that I wrote.

Today, I read great advice. I’m trying to find the link for it, but the internet appears to have inhaled the link, and the tweet that brought it to me, whole. The gist of the advice (I hope I can find it) is that, if you want to write, sit down for two hours a day with writing implement of choice in hand (be it pen, iPad, or dictaphone), and no distractions. You will write, if only to keep yourself company.

I can only conclude that this is true, although I’m thankful that I don’t need two hours alone to do it. I’ve spent at least 15 years denying my calling as a writer. I’m not saying I want to be a professional author, and I don’t aspire to be one, but whatever I do, I won’t do it by not writing. Writing this blog, writing fiction, writing RPG scenarios with my friend and for reals writer Steven G Saunders, writing grant applications with an organization I have an immense amount of respect for and hope to be a part of in the future. Writing isn’t everything, but it’s a sine qua non of my future, however it shapes itself. Writing happens when I get out of the way of myself, and that’s becoming more and more natural to me.

I have a voice — I’m sure of that. It comes down to using it.


  1. Beth Campbell Duke

    Cheers on St. Paddy’s Day, Ryan. If ever there was a reason to hoist a pint, you’ve just outlined it.

    Also, employers are often looking more for your human qualities and ability to learn the ‘hard skills’, so I’m thinking you were always exactly what they were looking for. As for that pesky resume, you’ll hammer one out when your new employer needs one to complete your HR file.


  2. Beth Cougler Blom

    Ryan I love reading your words and not just because you mentioned me favourably in them! I love it when people get inspired and write about it. I bet this post was easy to write? Keep it up!

  3. Sarah Schlote

    Hey Ryan, this post inspires me. YOU inspire me. So many of the struggles and inner criticism that limit you echo my own. Who am I to share what I have to say? Actually, who am I NOT to?! Keep writing and being true to who you are.

  4. Tan

    You inspire me every day through your support and words. Even after numerous beverages, you're still just as eloquently spoken and thoughtful (as I learned on our first 'date').

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