Guest Post: Taking the Leap — An Amateur’s First Year in Military Writing

Bourbon & Battles is pleased to welcome Nick Alexander as today’s guest author. Check out Nick’s bio below the story!

I wonder if I can?

Sitting at a conference listening intently to a senior officer in the Australian Army start the organisation on a journey of professional mastery, the following derivatives of this question are what really got a fire burning within me.

I wonder if I can meaningfully contribute to the revolution?

I wonder if I can grow?

I wonder if I can build a network?

I wonder if I can help to solve wicked problems?

So I walked away motivated, and my first stop was to read. Everything.

Step 1 – Read everything

I’ve read fiction, non-fiction, long form, short form, doctrine, journals, blogs, poetry, tweets (if you want to get good at brevity, you simply must tweet). This year I have read more and with more purpose than any of the previous 28 years of my life.

A funny thing happened after a few months of voracious reading. I wanted to talk more about all of these new ideas, concepts and epiphanies that were striking me. I desperately wanted to be part of the debate. So I started to write.

Step 2 – Start writing

It has to start somewhere. So I put pen to paper—or more accurately finger to key—and wrote something. Originally I wasn’t totally sure what to write about, but my first forays were on topics I was passionate about; they addressed issues that really got me emotive, and in this way they just flowed straight out. But they were rough as guts. They needed finesse, experience and some literary fertilizer. So I put them in front of trusted advisors who had already tended dirt like that which I had before me and turned it into gardens.

Step 3 – Find mentors

utb1tlfd_400x400This is really where all that reading paid off. By now I had met people that were already contributing to the discussion I wanted to be part of. Many of the people I’d read were also willing to bring more people into the fray and build the network of thinkers and communicators. So I sheepishly lay my work before them, listened intently to their critique, learned, adapted and polished. These mentors also guided me on the next step of getting my work out there for broader consideration, matching my voice to the platforms that were the best fit.

Step 4 – Match the platform to your voice

The CoveThere are so many different platforms and mediums to explore, and none of them are more superior to the next in terms of participating in the discussion around military matters. But I’ve discovered my voice is clunky in the wrong form. I’ve tried essays, blogs and poetry in my first year and I think my voice is better suited to the latter two. Developing a style has been where the real fun to the process has lived. Once found, matching my voice to particular platforms has been fundamental to getting my work out. If I’m going to play, I’m playing to win.

Step 5 – I can do it

Less of a step, more of an affirmation. Over the course of a little over 365 days I’ve gone from writing never; to having 3 blogs, 2 book reviews, a poem and whatever this is accepted for publishing across 3 separate platforms. On top of this success there are many other pieces sitting on my hard drive that will thankfully never be seen by another human, and that’s great too. Trust me when I say, if I can do it, anyone can. As a ballet dancer, turned physiotherapist, turned military officer with no experience in the literary arts and a non-traditional pathway into service;

I can contribute to the revolution,

I can grow,

I can build a network,

I can help to solve wicked problems,

through the art of the written word.

About the Author:
Nick Alexander is a Combat Health Officer from the Australian Army with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Graduate Certificate in Pain Management. He’s passionate about optimising soldier performance through building both a physical and intellectual edge. He also wishes more of his mates would show an interest in Dr. Who. You can find Nick on Twitter @Nick_Alexander4.

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