I once had to create a personal Mission Statement at a work-related retreat. I struggled with a catchy one-liner that could describe me in a nutshell and invoke some inner power I could draw upon each time I heard it. My coworkers were kind enough to create one for me – in fact, they all agreed pretty much instantly on what it would be:
“To create and communicate passion.”
I was beyond flattered that my coworkers – whom at the time I didn’t think they knew me that well – saw me in such a positive light.
It wasn’t long after that retreat I started writing for a living full time, first creating my copywriting company NetWriter, then branching into more freelance writing work. Now my work has evolved into courses and programs that help people find their Bonny Adventure, their beautiful, perfect path.
I’ve written professionally since the age of 11; a poem called Reach For The Top was used by my swim team in marketing materials, and if I remember correctly the team gave me a discount on my fees for a year in trade. A few years later several other poems were published, and a few articles in the local newspaper. I eventually took a writing class in high school where I met one of the most influential people in my writing career – a teacher by the name of Ms. Clarke.
Ms. Clarke was one of those teachers you couldn’t forget just because of her wild antics and bizarre clothing choices; she often reminded me of Leona Holmes in Pretty in Pink with her caricature-like outfits and sudden requirements we move the class outside because ‘someone was trying to find us’. But for all of her quirkiness, she instilled in me a love for creative nonfiction with her unusual teaching style. I’ll never forget the day she pulled out a chunk of rock, held it above her head, and said loudly, “Write about this!” Twenty minutes later she informed us that the ‘rock’ was from the Berlin Wall (which had fallen mere days before), and to write some more.
But the most defining moment with Ms. Clarke was the day I read a poem in class that spoke of my mother’s death from cervical cancer earlier that year. Before I could finish, Ms. Clarke ran out of the room, weeping, and didn’t return to class for the rest of the hour. It was then I realized my words had power, and that I intimately understood how to wield them to create emotional responses in my reader. After that day, I knew I’d call myself a writer eventually.
I didn’t find the path an easy one however; after graduating from high school I floated from school to job to nothing repeatedly, still struggling with my mother’s death (and eventually my father and last living grandparent as well). It took getting fired for the first time for me to find writing again, and only because I ‘couldn’t do anything else’, according to a good friend of mine at the time.
Since then I’ve built up a cachet of articles and blog posts on a variety of eclectic topics, but two stand out: dating and coaching. Through the process I’ve learned I’m prolific and have yet to have a bout of writers’ block (although occasionally I struggle with finding ‘flow’). I’ve also learned that I use too many commas, choose language that might alienate or otherwise puzzle my readers depending on my audience, and love, love, LOVE seeing my name in print.
Addendum: I reunited with Ms. Clarke at a CBC Radio reading in Vancouver, BC, Canada for Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. My introduction was tongue-in-cheek and a bit silly; everyone before and after me had things to share that made us laugh. Mine, however, was that poem that Ms. Clarke ran from the room with.
I shook as I got up to speak at the podium. I had to breathe and calm down before speaking. I shared a brief version of the poem’s history, honored Ms. Clarke, and then read it to a hushed crowd. At one point, I heard someone in the audience crying.
Later, the producer and the host of GRTTWK asked me to stick around for an interview. Years later, when I reached out to Dan about doing a GRTTWK session in the Yukon, he told me he remembered my reading as one of his all-time favorites.
Because of licensing requirements, I have yet to post the poem online, but, might one day. Until then, I suggest you check out another essay I wrote in response to Italo Calvino’s Upon Lightness, which I call, “Lightness, or, How I Found Peace Within My Self“.