“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”
–T. S. Eliot

It’s nearly the end of 2010, and also I’m also approaching 100 posts on Leading Space.  I find it quite amazing that an experiment in transitioning from private journaling to public blogging has lasted for two years.  I’m proud of that.  Because of the confluence of the end-of-the-year with the magic number of 100 posts, I was originally going to emulate others on the interwebs and write a retrospective on my top posts of the year. (Cut to the chase: they are Transactional, Transitional, and Transformational Change, Building and Leading Teams Through Conation and the Kolbe Model, and The Crisis Cycle.)  What I found more interesting and surprising was reading the nearly 100 entries over two years, and looking for my voice in my writing.

I looked, and grew worried.

What brought this topic to mind was the quote above and some blog browsing I did yesterday.  In particular, I ran across some simply amazing writing at Read through a few of the posts and tell me you don’t detect a distinct voice…  I sure do.  I was compelled to read more, not in a voyeuristic way (OK, well, maybe a little) as much as I was drawn in by the stories that cried authenticity and transparency in a personal way.  To read the posts is to get the picture that the author really knows herself, expressed through her passion for writing.

(You’re a fabulous writer, Wendy, and I look forward to reading your many books someday.)

I wondered – do my posts speak of similar authenticity and transparency about who I am and why I do the things I do?  Does my passion come through?  After all, those were the reasons why I transitioned from private journaling to public blogging in the first place.

My conclusion: not to the extent I’d like.

Sure, I’d like to blame the nature of the work I do at NASA as to why I’m not seeing more of my true voice coming through, so I will in part.  In my role leading the development and implementation of contract strategies for the work here in NASA’s mission operations in Houston, much of the work product I lead gets tagged with ominous labels such as “NASA PRE-DECISIONAL INFORMATION: SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED – SEE NPR 1600.1” (as if you know what “NPR 1600.1” even means), or “SOURCE SELECTION INFORMATION – SEE FAR 2.101 AND 3.104” (ditto for FAR 2.101 and 3.104).  Frankly, I deal daily with the fear that if I told you what I really thought, I’ll let slip some piece of information that would violate one or the other.  Neither would land me in jail (I think); however, the ethical breach and loss of integrity for violating stewardship of the American taxpayers dollars that could result would be unbearable to me, as would the impact to my pocketbook in potential fines (and don’t you believe for a minute that I and my fellow Government employees are overpaid – no way.)  This year saw less of the above and more of a focus on space policy, as we watched the Constellation Program get canceled by the President in February and the aftermath play out in Congress.  Sure, I wrote a little about my views on space policy, yet even there I held back.  Why – out of respect for the involved leadership?  Please.  If there ever was an example on how NOT to lead change, it was demonstrated this year by how the new human spaceflight policy was poorly rolled out and mismanaged by the White House, Congress, and top NASA leadership.  Then why?

At this moment, I don’t know, and that is the other part.

As a start to answering this question, I’m taken back to writing in high school.  Frankly, I hated it.  I found it so formulaic and forced and stifling that I hated it with a passion, which spilled over into a general dislike for literature at the time.  I lived on Cliff’s Notes and copying others’ ideas.  Yet underneath that dislike was a passion for sharing that was simmering, waiting to be unleashed.  I saw a glimmer of it when freed of the bounds of structured writing in college.  In a college composition class, I excelled.  I wrote about whatever interested me, and I always wrote at the last minute, pulling all-nighters and having nothing in mind except a general idea.  It worked fabulously.  The professor regularly read my work to the class, and heck – I even got the good grades to show for it to match those normally reserved for math and science.

The glimmers I see today are that nearly every one of my blog posts are written in one sitting, with minimal editing, and are inspired by the confluence of recent events in human spaceflight and the works of others that helped me understand those events in the leadership context.  (My favorites in this regard are Holly G. Green, Scott Eblin, and Joan Koerber-Walker.)  The next step for me is to realize fully who I am and allow my passion to come through as I write – less about events in some antiseptic way, and more about what I think and how I feel about them.  NASA, human spaceflight, and leadership together is one of those rare combinations that actually interests some people, so I do have an unusual pulpit as an insider in such an inspirational area, yet one that is counterbalanced with the crushing weight of Government bureaucracy and inertia.  Yin and yang.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

Join me as I explore another voice – a truer voice – in 2011.