Connect with your people. Write from the heart.
I've been a writer for as long as I can remember. From the days of having my imagination stuck inside the Faraway Tree and other magical places where Big Friendly Giants and Witches lived, I have always LOVED to write.
To me, it's art. And as we creative business owners know, our greatest challenge (other than backing ourselves) can be commercialising said art. Without sacrificing our souls.
I assure you it's possible. And NOT just for the reserved few.
My largest piece of work to date, at least as an independent writer, came off the back of a simple blog piece. I was not seeking work at the time.
I needed to release the shock and agony at watching a woman, a stranger, die on an icy highway in early September last year.
In the hours that followed, I lay on my bed, and tapped out a post on Medium. It wasn't eloquent, it wasn't edited. Heck, there's even a glaring typo. But I felt so strongly about the need for people to understand the dangers of black ice that I shot the link across to my State MP, without thinking.
Imagine my astonishment when I saw an email from her the next morning. She was moved to tears, she said. And within a matter of weeks, I had a copy of a letter from the CEO of the TAC together, with a handwritten note, "Let's catch up in the New Year for coffee".
More weeks passed ...... and the place where the accident occurred was resurfaced. It may have been coincidence, but I was heartened. Someone LISTENED.
Christmas came, New Year went.
By this stage, the accident had had such an impact on me, that I decided to quit my Council job and "pursue my dreams,". I'm ridiculously passionate about community revitalisation and small business development, and I wanted to understand why some small towns "go ahead' and others stagnate, or even die. So I thought I could write a book about it.
After returning from a short break at Mallacoota with my husband, my MP again got in touch.
Would you be open to developing a community guide for a town in my electorate?, the email read.
Books write themselves slowly, and income to support this is good, I told myself. State Government experience is excellent, I told myself. So I said yes.
Over 110 people have been interviewed and more than 50 businesses and community groups are included. I reckon I now know more people in this town, than I do in Heathcote.
The experience has been heartening and uplifting.
When you're in a small town and the things that AREN'T great, are in your face every single day, well, it can be tough. Tough to focus on what IS working, and what IS good. Tough to even SEE it.
This community publication won't take the trucks off the main street. But it will show people the great things that ARE happening. More to the point, it will showcase ordinary, every day people doing remarkable things.
Like Terry. A retired IT Manager who tree changed from Warrandyte to Wandong. He is now on call 24/7 for the SES and works casually as an undertaker for a local funeral home. Tricky work, but so important.
The guide, or small magazine, is the first step to helping residents realise, the town is already great. The power is in their hands, and that revitalisation, no matter how slow, is HAPPENING. How far they want to take it, is up to them.
It's been a privilege to work on this project, and record the stories and private thoughts of strangers.
It's taught me that you don't necessarily have to revitalise the main street, to light a series of sparks in the town. (The light will get there soon enough).
It's taught me that people have enormous resilience to get on and do great things, even when sentiment might be low. As one business owner reflected in conversation today, It's all about a decision; you can control how you react.
It's taught me, that showing up as I am, and writing as my heart tells me to, makes me the best damn community engagement specialist I can be.