Get Inspired Mondays — Guest Blogger Series
It’s the start of a new week, and you may be feeling sluggish, unmotivated, or flat-out fizzled. Well, that’s about to change…
One of my biggest sources of creative insight comes from speaking with other writers. As promised, for the next several weeks I’ll be hosting different writers as they share their stories of encountering the muse — often in unexpected places. (You can read about my own experience here.)
My first guest is the talented, Maura, from one of my favorite blogs, 36 X 37. There, she writes about her year of attempting to do 36 things she’s never done before — all before she turns 37. Her popular blog has been featured on Freshly Pressed twice, and her adventures range from snort worthy to thoughtful and endearing. Her writing is fluid and effortless, and begs you to sit down, grab a cuppa, and “leave your small talk at the door.” When not off completing one of her assignments or side stories, Maura is a managing editor for a large global bank. She’s also admitted to having a novel in her — one that she plans to begin writing soon.
Now read on, and get inspired!
The Cub and the Ad Girl – By, Maura from 36X37
I still remember meeting Jennifer. I liked her right away. When I walked into these sprawling corporate offices for the first time, there she was, tapping her pen against her notebook. She was short like me, with curly hair, a friendly, bespectacled face and an opening for a position I really wanted.
We shook hands and chatted about the summer heat as she hustled us toward a table. We talked about the job, of course, but mostly we talked about writing. Tone. Style. Voice. Pace. Active voice vs. passive voice. In her notebook, she sketched an organizational diagram and told me how writing played a part in this corporate culture.
My ears hummed happily. I sat up straighter and grinned like a fool.
“We follow the AP Stylebook,” she said brightly. “I know you know what that is!”
I had no idea what she was talking about, although I suspected it had something to do with the Scripps School of Journalism. We were both Ohio University J-school brats: she’d spent her years there as a journalism major; I’d spent mine in its advertising program. Until now, I didn’t really need to know AP Style, but given the look on her face, I could see it would be best not to disclose that.
So I think I nodded a little.
She grinned. “Good. We live and die by the AP Stylebook here. It’s the corporate communicator’s bible.” She said my second interview would be a series of writing tests, so I bought the Stylebook that day and studied it feverishly.
Human Resources called while I was on vacation, eating sugar cereal at a beach house on Hilton Head Island. After shrieking my verbal acceptance, I hung up, walked onto the balcony overlooking the sea, and dialed my then-boss. “I have a new job, Bill,” I said. Then I laughed and wished him luck.
It was a proud moment. I quit a horrible job for a great one, and I did it while gazing, suntanned, at the dunes and rolling tide. Everyone should have that experience at least once.
Jennifer cut her teeth as a cub reporter at a suburban news publication here in Columbus. When I say she was gifted, that’s what I truly mean. One local community loved her so much that it hosted a celebration in her honor. (I’m not kidding. They called it “Jennifer W______ Day.”) She’s the only person I know who actually has a key to the city. When she left the newspaper for a corporate gig, she brought her reporting sensibilities with her.
Everything I learned about corporate writing, I learned from Jennifer. And trust me, she had her work cut out for her. When I started the job, my personal writing was a mess. It was trite and undisciplined. I hated everything I penned outside of the office, to the point where I’d stopped writing altogether.
Meanwhile, Jennifer set to work. She established a rigorous “EYES2” program, which involved reviewing every single last thing I wrote under her tutelage. My pages came back bleeding under the merciless scrape of her flowing red pen. My skin was thin. Those critiques ripped me open.
Over time, though, my pages stopped hemorrhaging. The bleeding slowed to a gush, then to a trickle. Occasionally, Jennifer would stop by my desk, hand me a client letter I’d drafted, and say, “Fabu!” Then she’d nod and walk away to grab some tea.
The page would be completely ink-free. It was the best compliment I could ask for.
That was eight years ago. After three years, we both left the department for jobs with more reasonable hours. We still work for the same global bank, but I manage a small team of editors now, and she’s a director managing a large team of writers. We had the chance to work together again last year. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed her. Now that she has moved on again, I miss her even more, because this time, we parted as friends without hierarchical boundaries.
In April, I started a blog because I wanted to write for myself again. After 10 years of packing away my creative side, I donned the clothes of a creative writer, just to see what would happen.
It was strange. My old voice was gone, murdered in its sleep.
The new voice was patchy and unsure of itself, but by God it was there. I pulled it over my head, snuggled into it and liked how it felt. And so I wear it a little more each day.
If there’s a way to repay Jennifer for that, I’d love to know what that is. “Thank you” doesn’t seem to cut it.
Writing feels better these days. In fact, it feels familiar, like stepping onto a sunlit balcony and watching the tides while you say to someone nameless, “I quit, and now I’m free of you,” then hang up the phone to write some more.
It’s a proud moment. Every writer should have that experience at least once.
~*~ Find Maura on Twitter: @36×37
~*~ Visit Maura at http://36×37.wordpress.com
Please Note: Maura is on special assignment this week, but will be eager to respond to comments upon her return.
On Tap Next Week: Rebecca Rasmussen, Author of The Bird Sisters, Crown, April,2011