We have a running joke in our house about rappers who disappear from the scene, then appear on some glitzy awards show a few months later with an “I’m Back!” tribute to themselves.
It drives GB crazy.
“Back from what?” he asks the TV. “Where did he go? Did he go somewhere?” We both scoff happily because please, how ridiculous.
So. [Clears throat.] How’s it going.
Raise your hands in the AAAAAAAIR. Because I’m BACK!…from 36×37 assignment #24. [Cue backup dancers.]
(I’m also back from assignments #25 and 26, which I’m hoping to write about later this week.)
While I’m putting those thoughts to screen, I hope you’ll enjoy the guest-post I wrote last week for my wonderful and esteemed writer-friend Amanda (of Amanda’s Wrinkled Pages). Special thanks to Amanda for publishing it, and for introducing me to her loyal readers, all of whom I look forward to visiting in the blogosphere as soon as I catch up from being away.
(If you haven’t had the chance to stop by Amanda’s blog, please do. Not only is she a fantastic and inspiring writer, she’s also a cool chick with a quick sense of humor and a salt-of-the-earth personality. She’s an excellent read, and I do hope you’ll visit her often.)
(Also, my warmest thanks to last week’s guest bloggers. Sunshine, Todd, Wendy, Jane, I’m truly grateful you were willing to share your words on these pages last week. You were exemplary house guests, and I’m glad you ate the ice cream, although I’m not surprised you left the Riesling poached pear sorbet. I’m with you…it sounds better than it tastes.)
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the piece I wrote about finding inspiration in unexpected places…
The Cub and the Ad Girl ~ by 36×37
I 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 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 tried to look professional.
“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.
I received the job offer over the phone while I was on vacation, eating sugar cereal at a beach house on Hilton Head Island. After shrieking my acceptance, I hung up, walked onto the balcony overlooking the sea, and dialed my then-boss. “I resign, 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 the key to a 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 writing was a mess, both on the job and off. It—or maybe more accurately, I—was trite and undisciplined. I hated everything I penned outside of the office, to the point where I’d stopped writing altogether.
So 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.
If the page was completely ink-free, that 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 oversees a large team of writers. We had the chance to work together again last year. 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 still 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.
Writing feels better these days. 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.
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