Growing up and in college, the thing I wanted to be in life kept shifting. When I was little, my best friend and I decided that we would both become pediatricians, working in the same office. Somehow that dream changed with time and in college, I majored in Art until my well-meaning parents convinced me that although I was very creative, I likely would not be able to even eek out a meager living as an artist. So I did what I thought would help put me on the path to financial security and changed my major to business.
But I always wrote.
I won my first poetry contest in 5th grade. I remember writing the rhyming sentence “a great friend is always around the bend” and it felt great to win but it was a funny feeling to me because at the time, it seemed easy and even a little… silly. Why the fuss? As an introvert, I spent a lot of time in my head, and wrote little stories about alternative Star Wars characters that carried around blue orbs told them what to do. When I was a teenager, I wrote a screenplay for the show Miami Vice. It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit but looking back I understand why I did that. I wanted to be close to the words so I could be as close to the characters as possible. It was my favorite show at the time and writing about it made it somehow a little more mine.
It would take me a few more decades before I would come to understand how powerful words are. I think it’s important to note that I write because I’ve always been an avid reader and love it when an author is able to make me stop in my tracks and actually make me feel in my bones the deeper meaning behind the words. For me, stories are everything because I respond best to written words and the nuances that can often be found in between the lines. A certain sentence may land one way for you and another for me. That’s what art is.
I worked in a corporate environment for most of my career as a Human Resources professional and the interesting thing is that as my career progressed I started writing more and more. I often found myself selected to create communication for the leaders and it always felt surreal to hear the words I wrote spoken by someone else. I also started to journal almost every night and in a lot of ways those journals helped save me when my first marriage was unraveling. It was a safe space where I could unpack the heartache and jumbled feelings that I kept hidden during the day and clear the space I needed in my mind to function. My journal was my closest confidant and helped me rise from that broken place, one word at a time.
But still, I was didn’t really consider myself to be a real writer. Real writers wrote best selling books or sold out plays. I wrote about policy at work and my private life. A true writer worked diligently from a cabin in the woods or in a little alcove, tucked away in some sponsors house. I used to feel like you had to be picked to be a writer. Some benefactor would come along, read one of my pieces and then sweep me away to a hidden location where I could write in peace and where tea and biscuits would quietly be left for me on a silver tray outside my door.
In other words, I believed that writers were special and for a long time I didn’t feel particularly special. I was confident in a lot of ways but when it came to writing and actually becoming a writer it always felt like that was a life meant for someone else.
One day while I was at work, an email came through for an essay contest. The company I was working for was looking for real life stories about how working for the firm helped us in some way. At the time, I was in the middle of graduate school and my bosses at the time were incredibly flexible so I could attend class and complete my requirements. I hesitated submitting anything and nearly talked myself out of it. But then, in a flash I wrote the essay in my mind first. I’ve come to learn that’s how my best ideas and writing come- in a flash and I have to write it down immediately before the words disappear. It took me about twenty minutes to write the essay. I hit the submit button and less than a week later received an email telling me that my essay was one out of ten from a submission of 500 that was selected for publication!
It was a thrilling feeling! And at the time, I wasn’t thinking, “I’m a writer”, I just was marveling at having something I wrote selected and published. I remember at the time, I was working in the Tax Department and was struggling to get a professional position on the business side of the firm. One of the managers read I wrote and said, “maybe you should forget this whole business thing and write.” Instead of taking that as sage advice, I was insulted. She knew I was earning my Masters in Management and was trying to get a role on the professional side. At the time, I couldn’t see writing as a valuable or even respectable pursuit because again 1) I wasn’t special and 2) I had been working my tail off to finally become “legit” in the business world.
Oh how I wish I had listened to those words.
I spent the next fifteen years working as a Human Resources professional and always longed to do something else. I enjoyed the coaching part of my job and some of the rare projects I did but mostly I felt out of place. I couldn’t name why I felt that way but towards the end of my career, I was feeling like most people do before they quit their job- I was miserable.
In 2012, I started my own little company. I was coaching introverted professionals and helping them with career advancement, presentation skills and how to tap in to and leverage their natural strengths.
Things went well until they didn’t.
As it turned out, I was connecting with already really successful introverted professionals who didn’t need my help with their career. So when I took a step back and found the courage to ask what they really needed, most of them told me that what they could really use help with was how to talk about themselves and their work in ways that felt good and natural.
I knew that I could write, it was one of my strengths and I also knew that I was really good connecting with people and a masterful listener from my experience in HR. I spent some time thinking how I could put that together in some kind of offering and what came to me, again in a flash was storytelling. I started posting offers in small networking groups to small business owners offering to help write their story in a way that would help them stand out from all the noise in their marketplace. I had no idea at the time how it could work but I just dove in and started asking each person who signed up with me deeper questions and this helped uncover how valuable their life experience was and I showed them how to position this in words. My clients loved not only what I wrote for them, but also what they discovered about themselves in the process.
Writing is now a big part of my business and I am today I teach others how to write compelling stories for themselves. I went from believing that only “special” people were writers and believing that I was not one of the chosen ones to having the courage to offer my writing to other people. There was no map or plan for me to follow other than listening to my own intuition. I love the craft of writing and the fact that it has helped so many people.