Vox Alumni: Finding the words

Fine Arts

- Danielle Pope

Danielle Pope. Photo: Kim Jay Photography

My mom used to say I was a writer even before I entered this world.

She would walk, pregnant, by the bay windows of our living room on moonlit nights and words would pour from her veins. Decades later, she read me the poems inspired by this time—black ink now greyed, the crisp pages frail at the edge. She called them silly, but her themes were big, feminine, filled with images of the moon and magic, stars, forests and love, thick with the sinews of beginning—everything on the precipice of becoming.

From the time I was little, I ran around with a hairbrush microphone, interviewing my mom about the night’s dinner, or my sister on the cat’s latest whereabouts. It surprised no one when my passion lifted me directly into a journalism career, and then later into helping others find their words.

I was deep into my career when I realized my mom’s words had tunnelled the way for mine. Her playful creativity had given me permission to realize my own. When I started hosting writing workshops and retreats, people would talk to me about why they were there. I would learn about their belief—or lack thereof—in their creative ability.

“I’ve always wanted to do this, but I don’t know how.”

“I’m not a very good writer, but I wish I was.”

“I don’t really belong here, but I was curious.”

Sometimes, those critical voices come from a parent. Sometimes an educator. A jealous friend. A partner with opposing wishes. More often, though, the loudest voice telling us whether or not we can do something is our own.

Our inner critic might convince us it’s best to focus on task lists, other people’s needs, a ticking clock, but when we actually turn down the volume on that voice, right underneath is a younger spirit, waiting to be told it’s okay to come out to play. Sometimes, all it takes is giving that permission to ourselves.

I’ve seen this in action. The first time people attend a creative gathering, they often bustle through the doors with an air of accomplishment, the way a fawn might stumble through the berm and onto a lawn—a wide-eyed mix of “I have arrived!” and “Where am I, exactly?” They’ve found themselves in the meadow of their own permission.

Permission drives them there, but that’s not the reason they come back. When they return, they’ve come to do one thing—something more powerful and compelling than any achievement list: play.

I love watching how play unfolds the moment we release ourselves to our creativity; when we come alive with the light of possibility; when we remember this is fun; when a single sentence transmits itself from fingers to ears and you can almost see the electric sparks between two beings: a transference of wisdom and energy, fire and current. It’s like magic.

And, it’s in those moments, when we play our way into expression, that we can connect with that little spark inside of us. It’s that spark that’s ready to bounce from person to person, interviewing each of them with a hairbrush microphone. It’s that spark that will transform “I don’t know how” and “I don’t belong” to an invitation to explore.

It’s the moment we take that chance to create, to play, to risk being silly, even to share our words, that we open the window to becoming. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to change someone else’s world and birth something new.

Danielle Pope is a writer and editor in Victoria. She leads creative writing workshops and retreats through her company, The Story Midwife. Instagram: @TheStoryMidwife


In this story

Keywords: alumni, writing, teaching

People: Danielle Pope

Publication: The Torch

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