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An authentic life

Some people know they want to be writers from the day they are born. Jim Higley isn’t one of them. Here’s the story of his successful but unlikely writing career:

I’m an accidental writer. Making a career out of the manipulation of 26 little letters was never on my radar screen.

But I’ve always been a passionate storyteller. A card-carrying member of the Heartstring Club. One of many Pied Piper-types who enjoy taking people on journeys of self discovery. Finding their own memories and emotions.

I never met a goose bump I didn’t like.

A few years ago, life tossed me a couple of back-to-back curveballs. Part One was titled, “Surprise! Here’s Cancer!” That was immediately followed by another life-changing sequel, “Surprise! You’re a Single Dad Raising Three Kids Alone!”

While those story lines brought a fair amount of pain, they also gave me the resolve to live a more authentic life. Fear of failure no longer was a roadblock to my dreams.

And I decided to become a professional storyteller. Whatever that meant.

That decision came one morning as I lay in bed after spending the night with a sick child who had projectile vomited his way through the wee hours of the night. And, as tired and grossed out as I was, what I found myself reflecting on was how much I loved this boy. And how crazy — and fulfilling — this parent gig really was.

So began my blog. And I wrote my first story about finding meaning in life’s nooks and crannies.

Somehow that turned into a weekly column on parenting in the Chicago Tribune for their suburban paper, TribLocal. That leveraged into other writing opportunities for the Good Men Project, Man of the House, LiveStrong and others. I was pinching myself. More importantly, I was finding fulfillment as a person. Enriched.

Very few stories received compensation. But I worked my way through the maze of it all believing there was bigger value in what I was doing and with the people I was meeting. Soon I was named the first “Dad” correspondent for NBC Universal’s iVillage. Then I was given a weekly radio show to host. And there was a book — Bobblehead Dad — which was really a collection of letters and lessons I wrote for my children durng my cancer journey. No one wanted to publish it when I first wrote it. Not a soul. But somewhere, somehow, through this crazy trip it found believers and people who made it happen.

And it all started with a puking son. And a belief.

In the power of storytelling.

—Jim Higley

Jim Higley, a member of the 2012 Bombeck Workshop faculty, is a full-time stay-at-home father, writer and the inaugural winner of Man of the House’s inaugural “World’s Greatest Dad Challenge.”

Reflections of Erma