I was fortunate to have a long career in Government, during my almost 40 years of service to our Nation, I worked for 4 Federal Agencies; US Navy, National Gallery of Art (NGA), Department of Agricultural (USDA), and the General Services Administration (GSA). I have shared with you stories about my time in the Navy, and walking the galleries at NGA, and with an employee at GSA. Of these 4 jobs, only 2 US Navy and GSA required I write.
In the Navy I wrote annual performance evaluations, (that was my complete and total writing effort) for up to 15 sailors any one of my last 4 years in the service. Of course you can’t do an annual eval without the semi-annual eval. So all told during the last four years of military service I wrote approximately 120 such reports. These documents in reality were quite simple to do. You checked a box (1 thru 4) for 5 items, and wrote a paragraph defending your numeral grade. The hardest part was writing a paragraph why a sailor sucked at a particular item without using the word sucked! Trust me no one was going to get any awards for their writing skill in the Navy. But, if you wrote a good evaluation for a good sailor, he appreciated it, if you wrote a good evaluation about bad performance, while the sailor may not appreciate it, at least he understood where his short falls were. That was the key ensuring that the good knew they were good, and the bad knew they were bad. And you had to do this without using the same adjectives again and again. Folks, the 1st time I was required to write evaluations, it took at least 40 attempts to write those 15 evals. You find out quickly that a thesaurus is a handy tool, and that “he walks on water” can get over used quickly. But you also find that writing evals has its own; rules, phrases, short cuts and acceptable definitions of what constitutes good, better, best and great, and let’s not to forget; needs improvement, poor, inadequate and unacceptable.
When working at the NGA I had zero responsibility to write anything. During my time there, once I completed the paperwork you must do when hired, I don’t believe I even signed my name, yea I probably had to initial something each night when I picked up the .38, but I wrote nothing.
Initially while working at USDA I had no writing requirements at all, I typed a lot, and then typed some more but I did not have to create any document. Later as I climbed the ladder of success, I had to do some analytical writing to support the numerical information provided on an annual basis. I also got to write a brief history of the organization I worked for when we handled our millionth message.
Writing did not become a major component of any job I had held until I came to GSA. I was hired into a group that did government contracting. Immediately I was thrown into the mix of writing all manner of solicitation documents for future telecommunications government contracts. I wrote 1000’s and 1000’s of pages of technical requirements, technical specifications, evaluation plans, evaluation criteria, critical elements, technical proposal reviews and other solicitation specific documents. I wasn’t a contracting officer, I was a “subject matter expert,” that title and 5 bucks got me a coffee at Starbucks. My point is that writing for government, and specifically to write for contracting had its’ own rules, when you used “shall” vs. “will.” when you could use the word “must,” and on and on. Once you learned the jargon it applied to almost every contractual document you created. And these documents were always laid out in a very particular order, the format and formula was easy follow, and it didn’t take much to notice when you got off track. Creativity, while not encouraged, was frowned upon. Of course being a manager, I had the personal evaluations to complete twice a year, but my navy experience, and the jargon I learned there was easily translated to evaluations for civilians. During the 24 years I spent with GSA, I believe I wrote at least 1,000 pages of technical material, yet not a single page was for pleasure, nor for me. In addition I must have reviewed at least 150,000 pages of solicitation documents created by the government, and gosh I can’t even calculate the number of pages of vendor provided documentation I reviewed during my career.
Once I retired, my writing stopped until I started this blog. At the age to 62, I began to write with a different mission. Until I started the blog other than the writing of love letters to my wife, I never wrote with passion and deep felt emotions. Other than a few notes in Birthday and Christmas cards, I have never written for pleasure.
In June 2012, I started this Blog, I have now posted 143 posts or an average of one every 2.5 days for 13 months. Each and every post has been for pleasure, most filled with passion, many because I wanted to share. In the beginning I wrote about COPD and even today I do. Once a week I write a “How I Feel Today” post which is a direct reflection on what impacts the disease has on me. From time to time I write about specific aspects of the disease and how I deal with it. Other days I will write informative posts about the disease and how I deal with those. When I started I wanted my blog to be a focal point, a forum for COPD sufferers. Unfortunately I have only reached a few via my blog. But they are cherished. But writing about COPD is no longer the sole purpose I write. My blog has become my forum, my soapbox, my pulpit, from which I write about me, about Allison my daughter and about Cari my granddaughter. I don’t write much about Steph because in reality she is a very private person, and writing about her would violate her privacy. And while she may not be mentioned in a lot of my posts, she is still a there in a significant way.
Today I write because I truly enjoy writing. My grammar doesn’t have to be correct (though I try) all the words I use (for the most part) are spelled correctly, but maybe not the right word. I can turn on my REDNECK charm or act as professional as I want. I don’t need to dress up or down, nobody cares what I look like. I can as explicit as I need and only edit myself for the sake of my granddaughter. I enjoy the reflection it takes to bring fragments of memories to words, and to make those words into stories that others enjoy. Today I will write about anything that stirs a memory, I will make a comment in one post only to have a friend or fellow blogger suggest that I expand upon that comment and I have done so. I have taken complete thoughts from other bloggers and created my version (I also shared where the original thought came from). I write about things that my granddaughter doesn’t have a clue. My daughter has advised me from time to time she doesn’t remember events the same way I do. I have told her that’s because they are my memories and not hers, and if she feels strongly about it she can write her version and publish it on my blog. Smiling, yes I do write for my daughter as well. Creating conversations we might never have the chance to have.
Most of my posts today fall under a category I call “Grandpa Stories.” These stories were written with daughter and granddaughter in mind, but mostly for Cari. This will be one of the ways she will learn about me after I am gone. In reflection I wish I had more information about my grandparents. More stories of their childhood, and as they became the people they turned out to be. Where were the places they lived, what events helped shape them, what kind of jobs did they have, and what were their dreams. Heck I wish I had more memories of my parents reflecting about their lives, sharing their stories. I have touched many of these subjects already, and I still have more stories to share. My passing will most likely come in mid blog.
Folks, thank you for allowing me to bend your ear. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask. Take care, Bill