“People would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d answer, ‘I am a writer,’ as if it were as patently true at the age of 5 as it would be in adulthood when people would pay me to do it.” (Dawn Williams)
How did you discover that you were a writer?
The way my mother tells the story, it was never a decision to be made or a truth to discover; it was simply a part of me from the time I cracked the alphabet code. People would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d answer, “I am a writer,” as if it were as patently true at the age of 5 as it would be in adulthood when people would pay me to do it.
Obviously, my mother encouraged and inspired me to be this person I was born to be. But I also have to acknowledge a woman named Ruth, who worked as the receptionist at my hometown newspaper. The summer before my freshman year in high school, I walked into the newspaper office, a manila folder full of my writing in hand, and asked for a job application. “I want to be a reporter,” I told her, not even questioning the impediments my age and lack of education, not to mention labor laws, might present. I remember with the deepest gratitude the way Ruth treated me with the utmost respect that day. She took my folder and actually read every single piece I’d written. Then she looked up at me and said, in all sincerity, “This is very good work. You have some real potential. So here’s what we’ll need you to do. Finish school. Keep writing, every chance you get, and learn as much as you can along the way. I want you to come back here when you’ve done that, because that’s what we look for in a reporter, and I think you have a very good shot at landing that job.” And I did!
I think, no matter what influences I’d had in early life, I would have written. Nothing can prevent us from being who we are in the long run. But having someone believe in your dreams and your potential often makes the difference between being a hobbyist or dabbler, and committing to a career path and lifelong passion.
Describe your writing process.
Those who know me well would laugh out loud at the word “process” being used to describe my work habits! It’s true that I’m at my best when I’m free to explore and let the disparate threads of insight show me how they want to be woven together. Still, I do engage certain approaches to different types of writing. Informational and how-to articles usually begin with writing a premise statement and a loose, bullet-point outline of what I want to cover, followed by as much research as the project requires. Pieces that explore the nature of the human condition, including material on personal growth, motivation, emotional intelligence and related topics, are more creative in nature, in that I’m often developing theories on why we stumble and how we overcome. Those works begin largely as stream-of-consciousness writing, full of anecdotes, slice-of-life examples, and lessons learned. Later, I tackle the more linear work of editing, organizing, researching, and supporting the ideas that emerged with references to peer-reviewed studies, accepted theories and tenets from the social sciences, and applicable steps we can take to create the change about which I’m writing. I’ve also dabbled in fiction, just for fun, and although my main characters are often as real to me as many of the actual humans I know, they tend to be free-spirited, eager to embrace life, and always going in a dozen directions at once, much like their creator. Needless to say, the genre amuses and stretches me, and I trust some day one of those characters will finally decide where she wants to go so I can finish her story!
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
The fifth anniversary of Waterline Writers gave me reason to think deeply about the creative process, whether we’re creating a space for artists to gather and share their work as Anne and Kevin do, or writing a book or article or poem, or engaging in any of the arts or activities that require us to produce something new where a void once existed. My piece explores the creative process, from why we’re compelled to create, what the process demands of us, and how it changes us as creators as well as human beings. My training for certification as a life coach and business trainer, and previous work toward a psychology degree, gives me a deep longing to understand the human condition — specifically, to explore our potential and our strengths — and it felt appropriate to write this piece on the mandate to create, specifically for Waterline’s anniversary.
What are you working on now?
In addition to my work for Senior News 50 and Better, I’m working on my newly launched blog, SelfPoweredChange.com, which features articles about mindful living, using unexpected changes as an opportunity to find greater meaning, and recreating your life so it aligns with your values and purpose. My goal is to give readers tools to think beyond the familiar, to overcome obstacles we all face, and to put their energy into creating a life that makes their soul sing. I’m also working on a book titled “Asleep at the Wheel: Why we’re blind-sided by change and how to wake up and take control.” Anticipated release via Amazon is early June.