For the first half of my career, writing was an occasional activity. I submitted annual reports. I wrote performance reviews for my staff. I drafted policies. But when I started a consulting firm in 1996, I began to write for a living. Our ‘deliverable’ was a report based on research and observations during on-site visits. In our reports, we were asking our clients to significantly change their practices to improve results, so our writing needed to be both fact-based and compelling. I also contributed to our firm’s weekly blog posts on timely industry topics and even had a regular column in one of the leading industry magazines, University Business. I spent long hours, every day, at my keyboard.
I enjoyed the challenges of technical writing: finding ways to simplify complex concepts; present engaging arguments to inspire change; select words carefully with an eye to their accuracy and valence. But when I retired at the end of 2014 and no longer had reports to produce, I began to write for other reasons: to celebrate, to remember, to share. I began to read differently, too. When I was working I read for escape—to make airplane rides seem shorter, to lull myself to sleep in strange hotel rooms. With the luxury of time, I learned to savor what I read; to relish its craft.
I also realized that I needed to relearn how to write—how to let a narrative unfold; how to create characters, not caricatures; how to sculpt language and scene. I took writing classes, joined a writer’s circle, and once again found myself once spending hours at my keyboard. But even as I followed the formulas I had learned about in class; my pieces had no gravitational pull.
It wasn’t until I started producing pieces chronicling my own experiences that my writing began to improve. It finally clicked: whether fiction or nonfiction, creative writing must hold the writer’s passion and pain and delight. Unlike technical writing, good literary writing is intensely personal. This is why I so admire Sonder’s writers. They are willing to weave stories from the marrow of their bones. I think writing is a practice—a journey with no final destination—and I’m delighted to be on that journey with all of you who read and believe in The Sonder Review.