Reflections on Writing Connecting Generations
Everyone writes a book in multiple media, not only published authors. Our thoughts form subconscious ideas; our feelings become keystrokes or letters, and our actions are our “published” blend of ideas and emotions. My new book, Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide, was published about three months ago. Twenty-plus book interviews later (see below for links to engaging interviews), here are some reflections on writing that apply to those who want to deepen appreciation for the many gifts that we receive from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers in undertaking any significant endeavor.
Trust – researching, writing, and publishing a book is collaborative work at its best.
A publisher, editors, marketing professionals, and more invest their trust in an author once they approve a book proposal. Roman & Littlefield (R & L) has published three of my books (one of them was initially an Alban Institute publication). With each successive release, I’m more appreciative of their efforts. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval, but sometimes authors (mea culpa) don’t always remember that during our writing. That’s why I want to thank Oliver Gadsby, Linda Ganster, Susan Staszak-Silva, Deborah Hudson, Garrett Bond, Veronica Dove, Lisa Whittington, and Carla Quental, all exceptional professionals at R & L, for their robust support. Writing Connecting Generations has made me appreciate that few of our tasks are solitary. Some may require solitude, but we’re far from solo actors.
Generosity – The subject experts and Boomers and Millennials whom I formally interviewed, and the many individuals from other generations who patiently listened while I described my progress on Connecting Generations, entrusted their stories and insights to me. Stories and ideas are precious personal possessions, but when shared become generous gifts. I formally interviewed or requested help from about 45 individuals, and approximately 40 responded positively. Even more humbling, about two-thirds of them were strangers or barely acquaintances. Greed gets more attention in the headlines, but generosity is still available in abundant supply. Connecting Generations has motivated me to think about how to be more generous with others.
Optimism – If we’re the ones who constructed intergenerational barriers, we also have the power to break them down. I repeatedly heard that there is an eagerness to reopen the channels of wisdom and experience across generations and enable them to flow in both directions. I didn’t hear much nostalgia for a hierarchical past in which only elders were entitled to transmit wisdom down to the next generation, but a desire to create reciprocal pathways so that young and old can replenish one another with their unique gifts. When you listen to people patiently, and they open themselves up, you’re likely to find optimism.
Relationships (and not just “connections”) – If you’re fortunate to find publicists who make you feel like you’re their only client – and these are the publicists who have a full client roster – you learn anew that connections are valuable if they are or become relationships. A relationship is reciprocal. It’s defined by people who celebrate each other’s successes and take turns at instinctively stepping up when the other needs an extra dose of support. Wendy Khabie (Khabie Communications) and Leslie Rossman and Emily Miles Terry (Open Book Publicity) make relationships look easy because they genuinely enjoy connecting authors and TV, print, digital, and radio journalists and hosts. Writing Connecting Generations has reinforced the value of focusing exclusively on each relationship in the moment.
Inspiration – Much of what passes for “news” today is more like toxic waste, and if we ingest too much, we risk our minds and spirits becoming landfills. (There are definite exceptions, and that’s why I support quality journalism with subscriptions to several newspapers and magazines.) To counteract this toxicity, I spend more time with provocative, inspiring books. The hosts who interviewed me (primarily but not exclusively) on NPR-affiliated radio shows are readers and thinkers. They have lists of books and podcasts with authors on their websites. If you’re looking for a shortcut to inspiring reads, start with radio or television shows that host authors. Writing Connecting Generations has reminded me that I’m responsible for seeking and finding inspiration.
Growth – My recent publications have focused on leadership, foresight, entrepreneurship, engagement, and social networks in faith-based nonprofits. I’ve explored how professional and nonprofit leaders can navigate the pull of innovation and autonomy, and the tug of inherited tradition and community. While the topics are of potential interest for leaders in most settings, my audience has generally been those who lead faith-based nonprofits. The premise of Connecting Generations is universal: living with higher purpose by having significant people in our lives who are older and younger than us. Learning to write in a new voice was incredibly challenging and exciting. I had to confront my fear of possible failure if I wanted to try on a radically new style. Okay, I haven’t yet received calls from The Sundance Institute (see above, “Optimism”). But I’m continuing to expand my network of thought leaders and my repertoire of ideas and skills. Is there another book lurking beneath this post? William Carlos Willian said, “I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” I’ve modified this statement to read, “Writing is my therapy, and God knows that I’m a work in progress!”
Trust, generosity, optimism, relationships, inspiration, and growth – these experiences transcend any single endeavor. By paying more attention to the people in our lives, we’ll gain a greater appreciation for the value of our existing relationships and motivation to deepen and broaden our connections with others.
Interview Highlights on Connecting Generations: