Today I’m pleased to bring you an interview with my colleague and inspirational dream chaser, Jeff Widmer. Jeff is like so many of us in that he found his calling at an early age. Read on to learn how he turned his passion for reading and writing into a successful and fulfilling career…
Q: Tell us about yourself. What’s your dream and how are you working towards it?
JW: I’m a writer, editor and mentor, living and working in Northeast Pennsylvania. Right now I’m writing about trucks, medicine and finance for a small ad agency. Before that I worked for a magazine, a newspaper, a resort group, a life sciences company and my own firm, LightSpeed Communications. I’ve written two books, including The Spirit of Swiftwater, a syndicated column on music and a lot of articles on many interesting people, including astronaut Michael Collins (Apollo 11) and Phil Woods, the saxophonist on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” as well as a legend in the jazz world.
I found my calling at an early age. Ever since I was in the third grade I’ve wanted to write a book. That desire may go back to the times when my mom and dad would read stories at bedtime, or the fact that dad started his career as a journalist and mom always kept the house stocked with books and music. I got the chance in 1996 when a life sciences company wanted to celebrate its 100-year anniversary by creating a corporate history. I got lucky and sold the manuscript to a university press that wanted to start a business imprint. A few years later the publisher called to ask if I’d like to ghostwrite a memoir. One in a Million became the publisher’s first trade paperback book.
I think thrilled doesn’t quite cover it.
Q: Describe a “gray” time in your life. How did it stand between you and your dreams? How did you overcome it?
JW: I lost three jobs in two years, and although friend and family reminded me it wasn’t my fault—the economy hammered two of the businesses and a merger nailed the third—I still took those layoffs personally. I’d invested so much of my psyche in the job that when the work vanished, so did my self of self-worth. After looking for work for months, I realized that this quiet time could provide an opportunity to reorder my priorities—health, family, friends, then the relentless quest for the perfect career.
After a stint as an editor at a small newspaper, I began picking up freelance writing work, parlaying those assignments into a full-time job. Fueled by a desperation to make enough money to cover the bills, I starting my own company and landed more writing projects. One of them eventually led to the invitation to write the first book.
Q: What fears have you faced as you chase your dreams?
JW: Always the fear of not being able to support myself. That’s the most basic measure of success. Once we climb out of that hole we can enjoy life a bit more.
Q: What inspires you to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough?
JW: The usual suspects: perfectionism, competition, pride. The desire to make good writing better the next time around. The need to stay on top of change. The obsession with accomplishing things others will admire. It’s a drive that has little to do with the accumulation of material goods. It’s a goal that can never be reached. Better to find the serenity to accept ourselves and others as they are.
And then there are the positives, the role models—motivators like Norman Vincent Peale and Earnie Larsen; brilliant writers like John Mortimer, Ruth Rendell and Stieg Larsson; and family and friends who have lived through wars and illness and recessions and managed to pass their spirit of hope and gratitude onto the next generation.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be?
JW: Stay busy, get involved, help others. Find your calling.
Are you actively pursuing or living a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please e-mail me at: Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com.