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Desire, Marinate, Cook, Feast

By February 6, 2009How To, The Business

If you had asked me yesterday what I was working on, I would have told you that I was working on a dream project. But it wasn’t until this morning that I realized how true those words actually are.

At its most basic, completely stripped down, core – my dream project involves me interviewing people that I find fascinating and turning their words into a story. I suppose you could say that this is the work of any journalist – but in this case, it’s more like an oral history and a creative interpretation, cased in a contagious and inspiring concept.

All good. But, this morning, I realized something even better.

Once upon a time in Vermont

First, I have to tell you that I hated college. Loathed almost every one of my seconds at Middlebury. And, because of this, I can remember the few good moments that I did happen upon during those four frigid years quite clearly.

One of them came in my first year, in my freshman seminar which was called, “Landscape of a Poem: Robert Frost, the land of Vermont and its people.” (or something very close to that) My professor, John Elder, is a grand man beyond description and he led us all over Vermont experiencing Frost’s words and the very soil of the state.

For our main project, I chose to travel around Vermont interviewing precious old women about their experiences with quilting – living on the farm, the role of women, quilting bees – all of it. And, then I wove these interviews into stories – oral histories. I got an A on the project, but more importantly, it was a sweet spot for me as a writer. I passionately adored the interviewing, I was combustible during the concepting phase, the writing just flowed out of me and felt so delicious, I was proud to share the piece with my peers, my professors and the women who were so integral to its creation.

Back to today

Nineteen years ago I connected to my muse, I clicked into who I really am as a writer and where I wanted to go. I literally remember thinking, ‘This is the kind of writing that I want to do.”

It’s funny. My writing that I do for my clients does actually fit the bill. I literally marinate in who they are, what they do, how they think and how they talk – and then, I tell their story.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I realized that I had truly found my way. Today’s oral history project is the dream fulfilled.

What about you?

Frankly, I was shocked to realize that I had set this all in motion so long ago. And, even more, that it wasn’t until today that I put the pieces together. Have you had a similar experience? What are you doing now, and what did you want to do once upon a time?

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but here goes.

    When I was in junior high, I started writing a book. It didn’t go anywhere. Through the years I’d walk into bookstore and think, “*I* want to write a book.” But it was a quiet thought.

    Then about three years ago I was working with a coach, and out of my mouth came, “My deepest desire is to write a book.”

    This time the thought and the voice were LOUD. I can now look back and realize that everything that came before led me here.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Dawn – PERFECT EXAMPLE! Thank you so much for sharing it here! Can’t wait to read your book…

  • Debra Snider says:

    I’m so proud of you, Julie! This post is lovely and plainly heartfelt. Congratulations both on making your dream come true and on realizing you’ve done that and articulating the feelings.

    My original goal was to be a novelist, but when I was in college, which I loved, I discovered two problems with that goal. One was that I didn’t think I could be William Faulkner (to this day, one of my all-time favorite authors). The other was that I realized I had something to prove as a woman who had the right personality, drive & brains to make it in the business world. So I went to law school (which I did hate), and then had a fantastic legal and business career for 21 years. Of course, I always wrote – memos, letters, contracts, prospectuses, emails all count. I’ve always loved constructing with words.

    Having accomplished what I wanted to in the business world, I retired from “Debra 1.0” and embarked on creating “Debra 2.0.” By then, I’d realized my goal needn’t be to become Mr. Faulkner (a good thing because, really, virtually no one is in his league as a writer). My goal was rightly to be the best writer I could be. I wrote a business book and, that out of my head, found my voice as a storyteller. I’ve been writing fiction ever since – truly the most creative and mystical experience of my life.

    Like you, I feel like I’ve come full-circle, and I know that my writing now is better and more fulfilling than it would have been without the detour. In fact, I often think my whole first career was a laboratory for my writing career.

    Well, that was fun to write! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Julie Roads says:

    It was also very fun to read…inspirational to me too…and I’m sure every one else here. And I’m breathless with anticipation – waiting to get your novel!

  • Isn’t it so true that what you want is right there before your very eyes, waiting for you to see it? Only recently I have thought about me as a writer. What that means I don’t know yet but when I said the words to another person, it was like a big, duh! Congratulations to you. I am a new fan of yours and your star has been rising the whole time!

  • Ron Miller says:

    Here’s my story:

    A long, long time ago now back around 1978, I fell in love with journalism writing. Like you I knew at my core that I would be a writer of some kind, but I wasn’t sure which, but when I discovered journalism, I knew. I worked on my school paper, became an editor and I was very happy in the newsroom and being around the whole scene.

    Then I graduated and it was 1981 and it was not unlike today. There was a huge recession going on at the time. I sent out at least hundred resumes and I collected piles of rejection letters from publications big and small (from the Village Voice to the Fitchburg Times). Eventually, battered and broken I moved home and I lived in my parents’ basement. I got a job writing customer service correspondence for a mutual fund transfer agent for $4.00 an hour, and as I like to tell people, $4.00 an hour sucked as much in 1982 as it does today.

    But I kept knocking on that journalism door and I kept getting knocked back. I would come close to making a connection and for one reason or another it would fall away. I moved on from that job and went to work for a management consulting firm. Instead of writing my own stuff, I coordinated the publication of other people’s work and struggled forward.

    Eventually, I left that job and stumbled into freelance technical writing (documentation, online help and such) and I built my business and I was proud of that, but I still wanted to write journalism and I struggled over the next 10 years to find some work in the field I loved so much.

    Then in 1999 (more than 20 years after I discovered my true writing love), I found it. The internet bubble was at its height and people needed content and so I started finally getting assignments. 10 years later I make my living by dividing my time between the technology journalism and the technical writing. I’ve won awards for my journalism writing and I still love doing it.


    Ron Miller
    by Ron Miller blog

  • I loved this post. As a child, my parents said all I needed to stay happy was a pencil and paper. So true. If I wasn’t writing, I was drawing. I got my first typewriter (an clunky Smith Corona) when I was eight and that was the best present ever. I typed stories day and night. I made little books and kept them in my very own file cabinet.

    After college, I started having children…I didn’t stop for 3 decades, or so it seems. With five children, writing was on hold for many years. I had to work a regular job (advertising) and hoped that one day I would be able to write and share it…beyond that little file cabinet.

    I was in a car accident at the end of 2007. Three surgeries in 2008 kept me couch bound or in the hospital for a major portion of the year. I lost my job due to the ad agency closing while I was out of commission and I took up blogging…and freelancing…and writing when I should have been sleeping.

    I haven’t stopped. I’ve cut my income by 60% and I’m still on the road to recovery. However, I’m writing every day, working on a book and enjoying the connections I make every day with blogging.

    You’re one of the great connections I’ve made. Things always happen for a reason.

  • [Charlene] says:

    When I was 10, I wrote my first book. I gathered some sheets of loose leaf notebook paper and put it in a binder with brads. I then wrote the first of many, many bad science fiction novels.

    At that young age, I had this image of standing in a library and having a whole shelf filled with books I had written.

    Fast forward about 35 years later. I moved into my first house and set up my first home office that wasn’t a converted master bedroom. Along one wall, I put up shelves and filled them with my writing samples in binders I had purchased or with the names of clients printed on the spines. There’s more than one shelf of them.

    I had one of those ah-ha moments. I had written a shelf of books, and there is a technology component. And with the way software development goes, I actually wrote fiction when describing some of the software (vaporware) features. I got it mostly right.

    And now that I’ve fulfilled THAT dream, I’m on to my next one. I want a shelf full of books that I’ve written inside a Barnes & Noble. Or maybe it will be a whole Amazon page filled with my ebooks available for the Kindle. I’m not sure. But I am sure I’ve going to be writing until the life drains from my fingers, where they will probably still be hovering over an ergonomic keyboard.

  • Alicia says:

    Doesn’t life bring you around to where you started from that you finally realized your dream was always looking at you. I, too, have had similar experiences. I have been writing since elementary school – poems, short stories, paranormal stories (based on real experiences sometimes), observations on life, etc. I really just wanted to be a published writer or editor, but I feared the workload in college even as an adult. Only after I graduated did I learn I would’ve had a whole semester of mentoring help!

    So I went into my second love of teaching; teaching high school students how to be better writers and readers. I loved it at first, but then the politics of public education interfered and it was no longer rewarding. However, I learned more about writing and language from teaching than I did in college and I believe this has helped me tremendously in my current job.

    My dream has come true in part. I do have several things published online although not all of them have my name attached (hence ghostwriting), but I know they are mine. I do, however, have 1 well-received blog and 1 on its way.

    I’ve met a host of good writers and experts in their field of online writing and freelancing which has encouraged me to become a more confident writer of the world.

    Recently, I was asked to be quoted in an upcoming ebook for only answering a question honestly how social media has helped me or my line of business. That is success to me. Thank you for sharing your story as well!

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