Weeks ago, I was approached via email by a woman claiming to be from Mutual of Omaha. She said she had stumbled across my blog and thought I would be a good candidate to participate in their campaign, "Aha Moments", which would be coming to Peoria this week.
I was intrigued, of course, but thought it was a scam.
Apparently it's not. Here's the link:
Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment
What she asked was if I would come to their mobile studio and record a short segment on what my Aha Moment was with regards to writing. It would then be posted on their website and YouTube channel. She wanted to know: when did it hit me that I should be a writer? What was that turning point in my life? And could I say it in 60 seconds or less?
So I've been pondering this question. I was hoping to have one defining moment that would jump into the forefront of my brain, like, "I had this near-death experience and an angel who looked amazingly like Maya Angelou told me that my work on earth was not done yet, so I sat down and wrote a series of novels called Harry Potter."
No such luck.
I probably did have an Aha Moment that caused me to take the path that I did. But my personality is such that I literally have to be hit over the head by a billboard that says "AHA MOMENT" in neon letters - repeatedly. I'm a bit slow on the uptake.
So as I prepare for my little 60 seconds of fame, I'm going to jot down the series of Aha Moments that led me to do what I do today.
Flashback: 6th grade. My mom enrolls me in a creative writing class at Milliken University. While other 6th graders are on the soccer team or cheerleading or taking gymnastics, I spent my after school time on the university campus, learning to write. And I loved it.
Also 6th grade. My teacher's name is Mrs. Polite. She has curly, unruly hair like mine and she's way cool compared to the series of nuns I had had up to that point. During the year, she made us write essay after essay after essay on a variety of topics. I was on it like white on rice. Sometimes I would get "A++'s" - if that's possible. Quite an ego-boost for this gangly girl with buck teeth and eyeglasses as big as my face.
One essay in particular, "Nicholas, the Blue Pansy, and Me" was a story of how I befriended an old man sitting on a park bench. It was winter, and I would sit with him and talk day after day. Under the bench grew a blue pansy. We marveled at how it could stay alive through the cold and snow. One day, I went to the park bench and he wasn't there. I asked another gentleman where he was and he said, "He passed away." I sat down on the bench and noticed the pansy, wilted in the snow. The End.
Fast forward 35 years or so, and I happen upon an old man in a wheelchair on my daily walks (see Man on the Corner). We become friends and talk often. I drop tins of cookies on his porch at Christmas time, and baskets at Easter. The last time I saw him was shortly before I moved. He had had another stroke and was not doing well. I thought of that story. As of right now, I do not know if that pansy still blooms.
Now I don't know if that's an Aha Moment, but it's certainly a Godwink.
Professionally, I didn't really have a job as a writer, per se. I was in "marketing and media", "communications", and "advertising". It wasn't until after my divorce that I literally woke up one morning and said, "I'm going to look for a job as a copywriter." I emailed my resume to a number of agencies, and received a reply late that night from a small marketing firm in town. They had just been discussing their need for a copywriter when my resume came across their desk. The hired me several days later. Aha? Perhaps. When someone asked, "What do you do?" I could say proudly for the first time, "I'm a writer."
The last Aha Moment I can think of was the devastating day when I lost that job. I didn't know what I was going to do. But within 24 hours, I had contacted everyone I knew, started my website (Kennard Communications) and began this blog as a way of "showcasing" my writing to potential employers.
I have never felt so empowered. I began to have followers. People read me. They commented. They praised. They criticized. I didn't care. They READ me. Every once in awhile, I would interject a more personal blog in between the marketing and copywriting business posts. It was then that I began to hear the same comment over and over: "You write what I think." And I thought, "That's pretty cool."
I've been criticized for being too personal in my blogs; I mean, anyone can read them. I draw the line at naming names or badmouthing anyone, but what I say I find that others can relate to, and that gives me immense satisfaction. And I think they sense a kind of camaraderie when I write that my kids are driving me crazy or that I am going through a rough time. We all go through it. In fact, one of my posts said, "Hey, we're all in this together, right? So why not talk about it?"
I don't know if that can be classified as an Aha Moment, but I think that may be the closest thing to one. After knowing for decades that I wanted to be a writer, it took me a long time to find my writing niche. Now I find great joy in regurgitating what's in my head onto the web for others to read. Again, I don't do it for accolades. I'll never win an award. My satisfaction comes when someone writes, "Hey, what you said really helped me" or "I can relate to that and I feel the same way" or my favorite, "You write what I think."
As much as I may put it out there on paper, I'm not a fan of being in the spotlight, especially on camera. So say a little prayer for me that I don't make a fool out of myself, and that I can somehow translate what I've written above into some profound 60-seconds of something that doesn't totally suck.