Microsoft Word features dozens, possibly thousands, of clever templates that a person can use to simplify almost any writing project. Actually, “simplify” isn’t the right word. Using a template is really just a safer way of completing a writing task. It minimizes the chances of making a mistake. Using a template reduces risk.
I submit to you that nothing worth reading has ever been written by someone afraid to take risks and make mistakes.
It’s been seven years since I began writing weekly columns for the Boone County Journal’s readers. Yes, I’ve taken a few risks. Yes, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And yes, every week when I sit down at my computer to write my latest masterpiece, I forgo the myriad templates Bill Gates and his loyal minions have graciously provided and make the bold choice to click “Blank Document” instead.
Writers are daredevils.
Starting with a completely blank page is at once a daunting, frightening, exhilarating, and liberating feeling for a writer. I would liken it to driving a 1957 Chevy—equipped with 61-year-old manual drum brakes and no seat belts—one hundred miles an hour down a dark, country road. (Not that I would know anything about that. My Bel Air has power disc brakes and lap belts…now.)
I have, in my years as a columnist, offended people. I have made people angry. I have helped start important conversations. I’ve made people laugh and cry. And based on feedback I’ve received on several occasions, I’ve even managed to inspire a few people, too.
And it always begins with a blank page.
It hasn’t been easy coming up with something worth reading week-in and week-out for seven years. I imagine that there have been more than a few weeks when my columns were better suited for lining birdcages than for reading. Having written over 350 columns so far, some of them are bound to be stinkers.
My original vision for my column was to give readers a glimpse into the life of a stay-at-home dad. When I started writing for the Journal in 2011, stay-at-home dads were a relatively new and rare phenomenon. Whenever I took my young kids to the park or the library during the middle of the day when most other men were at work, I would often get curious looks from the moms around me. Many of them engaged me in conversation and asked me about my reasons for dropping out of the rat race. I was happy to talk with them. (Really, I was just happy to have a chance to talk to grown-ups for a change.)
That’s when I realized that perhaps people would like to read about my life as a stay-at-home dad. So, I sent an email to Journal publisher Bruce Wallace proposing the idea for this column. The rest is history.
What those stay-at-home moms at the park already understood, and my readers would soon come to realize, was that there is much more to a person than being “just” a stay-at-home parent. I love taking care of my kids and spending as much time with them as I can, but like any parent, I have interests outside of the home, too. Classic cars, baseball, fishing, substitute teaching, announcing football games, making musical instruments, and officiating wedding ceremonies—just to name a few. And I like to write about those things as well.
Recently, I accompanied my oldest child Alex to the bank to help him set up his first checking and savings accounts. As a co-signatory, I was asked a few questions by the banker to update the bank’s records.
“And Travis, are you still a stay-at-home parent?” When I’d set up my own account years earlier, I had apparently reported my occupation as such. I will admit that the bank employee’s question threw me for a moment. I had to pause to think before I could provide her with an answer.
Am I still a stay-at-home dad? Despite having lots of hobbies and several part-time gigs, my main occupation is still taking care of my kids—especially in the summer when school is out. And I still truly love my job. So, yes, Ms. Banker, I am still a stay-at-home parent. Thanks for reminding me.
And thank you, dear readers, for following the adventures of this stay-at-home dad for the last seven years. I can’t wait to see what the next seven have in store.