With Christina Baldwin at the Listening Well workshop

Why do we write?

Why do we come to the page day in and day out and pour out our souls? Why, especially, do we who are bloggers regularly choose to send our words, our hearts, and our hurts, into cyberspace for all the world (or at least a dozen or so people) to see?

Let me tell you why we write.

Eight or nine years ago, I was in a dark place in my leadership journey. Working for the federal government as the Communications Manager for the only Level 4 lab in the country, I was the proverbial fish, swimming against the tide in water that was not my own. (Side note: thank you Kelly for being the other fish swimming with me.) Surrounded by scientists, I would often sit in meetings in which I was the only one in the room without a PhD attached to my name. I was also the only one who didn’t spend half of the meeting trying to peek under the table to check what was going on in Blackberry world. AND sometimes I felt like I was the only one who had a clue (or even cared) about the poor morale running rampant in the building.

The problem was, in the land of high-end science, there’s a tendency to promote good scientists into leadership positions because that’s the only way they can think of to reward them. Unfortunately, nobody stops to figure out whether they’ll make good leaders, nor do they bother to train them to think differently than they’ve thought all those years lost in their little worlds of test tubes and beakers. In my experience, what makes a good scientist rarely makes a good leader. (There are exceptions, of course, and I like to think some things can be taught, if you put some effort into it.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t a happy place for this right-brained artist who looks at a dna strand and can only imagine what a pretty necklace it would make. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy place for a whole lot of other people either, including people who were much more science-minded than me.

I’ll admit, I soon gave up on trying to swim upstream. Early on I tried to help create a more positive leadership culture, but it didn’t take long for discouragement to wear me down.

All the while, I kept thinking “there must be a better way! There must be a way to stem the tide of all of this negative energy we are all swirling in. There must be a way to lead people that makes them feel valued and that helps us all move forward in a positive way.”

I don’t remember what rabbit trail I followed to get there (perhaps I was Googling “alternative leadership models” – though we may not have called it “Googling” back then), but one day I stumbled upon the PeerSpirit website. “Life and leadership through Circle, Quest, and Story.” Ummm… what? And might I add… WOW? (I don’t really know if those were the exact words they had on their site at the time, but something to that effect certainly drew me in.)

More beautiful words have rarely been spoken to this right-brained artist/leader. Leading with circle, quest, and story? It sounded a little like nirvana to me, and so far removed from the culture I was living in.

I dug a little deeper and found out this was the work of Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, two incredible women who’d become disillusioned with the status quo and were looking for ways to engage people in meaningful conversations that are about how we can all contribute to the transformation of our world. At the time, I read everything I could find of theirs and vowed that some day I would meet them and learn from them and perhaps even work with them.

For years that quiet little intention was buried in the back of my mind. Life happened – I had another baby and switched jobs – and mostly I forgot about PeerSpirit or the impact Christina & Ann’s words had on me at the time. But then last year some time, their names started popping up again in things I was reading or in conversations I was having. I started perusing their site again, and started dreaming of going to one of their workshops.

When I decided to quit my job this summer, I knew that I wanted to invest in at least one learning event that would help launch me into this new work. As luck would have it, Christina was traveling to Ontario to present a Listening Well – Circle/Story workshop together with some other facilitators. I jumped at the chance to participate.

In the opening circle of the workshop, I shared my story with the group – about how it had felt like someone had lit a candle for me when I discovered Christina’s writing eight years ago.

When it was Christina’s time to speak, she got a little choked up when she said “you know, when you’re a writer, sometimes you feel a little lonely, not knowing for sure who is reading your work and if it’s making any difference. But then when I hear a story like Heather’s I’m reminded that this is why we continue to write – to light candles for people we may never meet.”

Christina’s words continue to reverberate in my heart.

I don’t always know who shows up at this blog, and I don’t always know if it’s making a difference for anyone. But I will continue to write in the hopes that for someone who’s feeling lost or alone, a candle will be lit and they’ll begin to see the way more clearly again.

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