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Daring to claim your authentic voice as a leader and creative

Last fall I filled the back of my car with a roller bag and three extra totes full of books, shoes, jackets (rain and puffy), chargers, watercolor paint supplies, and two writing notebooks to equip myself for a week away on retreat to write, commune, converse, and grow as writers at the beach. 

An Oregon fall at the beach is typically chilly with pockets of stubborn fall sunshine. I drove the four and half hours from Bend expecting rain and wind, but was gladdened to receive instead a streak of several blue-sky days that felt like a reward for making the trip. 

I had been on a writing retreat before back in 2019, but this one promised to be more formative. The writers attending all had book projects of fiction and non-fiction. We were all readers of books that modeled what we aspired for our books to become. 

We each submitted 20 pages of writing ahead of time. We read the pages of the nine other writers, providing written feedback in the margins and in hand-written paragraphs that curled around the edges of the page. I annotated their work like I used to do of my students’ essays when I taught high school English. 

It was much easier to be the critic than the critiqued. Did I really need to hear from others about my work? Will they get what I’m trying to say? 

But their feedback is exactly what I came for. I needed to learn from each of them in the room. I had come to push myself out of my comfort zone after writing largely alone on my memoir project, save for the guiding support of my book coach, Kim O’Hara. What I wanted now was insight from other experienced writers. 

What were the passages that leaped from the page? What were the sections that dragged? I wanted, with their help, to look at my year-long work-in-progress with fresh eyes. 

And that is what happened. I sat in a circle on the morning my pages were to be workshopped by the group, and posed my questions to guide their feedback. 

Where do I need more scenes?

What’s the most compelling part of these pages?

What characters need more development, and in what ways?

I listened to what was offered, scribbling notes on my pad, as I thought to myself, This is feedback is gold. 

In the week since I got home, I have reflected on what we stand to gain when we open up to learning from others about our work, our choices, and ourselves. 

Whether you identify as a writer, you are (as I believe we all are) a creative, a singular and unique interpreter of signs and signals from which you derive your own daisy-chain of meaning about your life and our world. 

No doubt you have experienced the feeling of vulnerability that comes with taking the risk of sharing your heart. Heart-shares of this sort come in infinite forms, but what is common to all is the unique form of truth it offers—truth that is unique to the person sharing. 

Humans are meaning makers. We make sense of what we cannot know by filling the gaps in our understanding with story. 

Our stories drive us and scare us, inspire and ground us. They contain the full spectrum of our lived experience, and draw upon what we have learned from others’ stories along the way. 

When we step out of the security of the collective to express what sets us apart as authentic and unique creative individuals by way of defining what we believe, desire, know to be true, and are passionate about, we move with courage beyond the comfort of status quo and into the expansive realm of growth that comes with daring to step into and claim your authentic voice as a leader and creative.

By sharing what we see, feel, intuit to be true and speak to this truth and felt sense, we stand in our self-authority, daring to name our particular way of knowing the truth of what it means to be alive and aware in a world we all share. 



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