Brand building through storytelling

A writer’s greatest reward

When I first began to write at my mother’s dining room table, with a magazine under the page lest I scratch the delicate teak, my reward was the sheer delight of self-expression. I dreamed up the kind of stories I loved to read and couldn’t get enough of, never mind how many armloads of E.NesbitEdward Eager and Noel Streatfield I lugged home from the children’s room at our local library. With no readers except my proud parents and the occasional awestruck classmate (other kids were so easily impressed), I could write to please myself. I never agonized over which word to use, never shredded a day’s work in disgust. Each new yarn seemed my most captivating yet, and I wrote enraptured by my own creative powers.

Now that I’m a painstaking grown-up writer, who can lavish more hours than I care to admit on a single troublesome sentence, I have come to understand some essential truths about writing.

A gift for weaving stories or ideas out of words is not nearly as rare as I used to think in those rhapsodic afternoons at my mother’s table. The world positively teems with terrific writing—not just in books and periodicals but online, where eclectic prose and thought are available free to all comers. For readers this is a wonderful thing. For writers it’s profoundly humbling. Sooner or later, most of us figure out that people who love to read have more than enough options already to occupy their minds and hearts for a great many lifetimes. This would make writers crazy with frustration if not for the fact that we are readers first and foremost. We write because as kids we surrendered to the glory of someone else’s words (thank you, E. Nesbit, Edward Eager and Noel Streatfield). And then we thought to ourselves, “Hey, I could do for other readers what my favourite writers do for me!”

Maybe. Then again, maybe not. The choice rests with the reader.

That’s why I’m always honoured when a reader chooses my words, whether she’s buying my book or exploring this web site. Even more gratifying is the reader who remembers what I wrote years ago. For a reader who e-mailed me the other day, that touchstone piece was a Chatelaine editorial about having a truck-obsessed son instead of the dreamy, artistic daughter I’d been expecting. Where could she find another copy?

In an earlier time, I’d have hunted for a stamp and walked a photocopy to the mailbox. Now all I have to do is click a few keys and post the editorial here. It’s called “My son, myself” and I wrote it for all the loving but bewildered mothers who see little of themselves in their sticks-and-snails boys (and who wonder why those boys seem to view every twig as a stand-in for a toy gun). After the piece appeared, I forgot all about it—until a reader jogged my memory. If anyone else has a special request, please drop me a line at this site. You’ll be part of the reason why I keep writing.


Posted by Rona

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