I loved this Ted talk about leadership (titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action), because speaker Simon Sinek conveys a brilliant but simple idea that applies to so many different kinds of people and situations.
It relates directly to my leadership work on a school improvement team at the high school where I’m an English teacher. But it also applies to my writing career – specifically how to define myself as an author so like-minded readers can find me and my books.
His boiled-down message: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it… Start with the why.”
So I’ve been asking myself, Why?
Why do I write? Why spend those hours in that chair? Why risk putting myself out there? What motivates me? What is my purpose? My cause? My belief? What themes emerge from my work, however unwittingly? And why should a reader care?
Maybe more importantly, who should care?
That’s the question all of this should answer, because ultimately not everyone will connect with my novels – or my essays on this blog. I want to find the people who do. And hopefully they want to find me too.
Therefore... Ahem. *straightening shirt*
I’m going to admit something that only my mother knew about me, and she passed away two years ago without ever revealing my secret.
Everybody knew one thing. I was a tomboy from the time I could walk, probably because of my birth order: fifth child of six, sandwiched in between two older brothers and one younger one.
I played sports of all kinds, baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf. I climbed trees and sported a perpetual scab on my knee. I baited my own fishing hook and cleaned my own catch. I didn’t cry when I got shots. I was pretty tough, at least on the outside.
The secret was inside. I struggled with girlish tendencies that I worried others would ridicule as uncool. I loved to play with Barbies and baby dolls. I put on makeup in the bathroom, then washed it off. I took dance lessons for five years and didn’t tell my friends.
And the thing no one knew until this moment: When I was eight, I asked my mom to buy me go-go boots. Shiny, white, faux-patent-leather, zip-to-the-knee, skin-tight go-go boots. They never saw the light of day. I only wore them in my bedroom with the door locked, where I was freed to model-walk down the runway, to strike a pose, to dance.
I write with that girl in mind. Figuratively speaking, I write for her and about her.
I write about the quirks of human nature, the contradictions, doubts, struggles, and triumphs. I’m less alone and afraid when I discover the complexity – and messiness – of what’s under the surface. That’s where courage springs from. It’s the birthplace of humor.
This kind of storytelling binds us together as human beings. It gives permission to that little girl hidden in the bedroom to go outside in those white zip-up go-go boots, stand tall, and give a high kick to the critics.