I normally associate reading with my father. Not that my mother doesn’t read, but she doesn’t read the types of books that I do, and she’s more than likely to be found with a crossword in her hand (or a stack of them!) or a watering can or a gardening glove or something to refinish old furniture – or a glass of red wine. Every time I’m at my parent’s cottage and mom is there I will be asked to help out with one or more of these chores (especially the red wine), and when she is not there at the same time we are there is a really nice note asking for one of these items to be done (along with a plea for me to not kill all her flowers – a particular skill that I have that I must have inherited from my father).
Now, while I associate my (more formal school principal) father with books, I associate my (less formal gym and substitute teacher) mother with words, specifically which words to use in any given situation and most importantly how to make them my own. If anyone were to ask me how I developed my writing style my response would most definitely be – from my mother.
|You are not my mother! You are a SNORT!|
Growing up, I spent more time talking with my mother. She’s just a wee bit more in tune with her emotions than my father and we share a similar sense of humour (I have to be careful which emails of hers I open at work). I am very passionate and always looking to bring levity to a tense situation and my mom encouraged this throughout my childhood (yes, I embody the cliché that my mom thinks I’m funny). As such, I’ve often looked to my mother to provide guidance on how to phrase various written phrases documents.
One particular time I was on the phone with mum, talking about my upcoming career change and how my current employer wanted to do an exit interview. I had no experience with this before as it was my first job after graduating university so I sought out advice from her on my official departure letter. Well, it’s a darn good thing I did because she certainly helped me avoid my first ever ‘bridge burning’. While I enjoyed my job and most of my coworkers and had a lot of respect for my boss, I had some very honest opinions about the organization as a whole. My mom talked me through the finer points of communicating such opinions and the result was an exit letter that expressed my thoughts honestly and tactfully.
Later that year I received this book for Christmas:
|My mom’s not-so-subtle advice|
Suffice it to say, this is a well worn book that has travelled with me throughout my career. I keep it at my desk and co-workers who happen by often inquire as to its contents, and if I have found it useful. I simply reply, “Have I offended you with an email recently?” when they reply, “No”, I point to the book and say, “That’s probably the reason why.”
More than just that, and back to the part about my mom insisting that I leverage my sense of humour as often as possible, I have taken it upon myself to ensure that when I have to send out one of those “I’m Going to be Out of the Office” or “Where’s Andrew?” messages to my co-workers that I make it funny, or at the very least entertaining. With my mother’s voice echoing in my head as I type, these are more often than not quite tasteful and completely appropriate for the office.
I bring this particular style, casual with a dry wit, into a lot of the things I write and if you read a few of my blog posts you will see what I mean. It is definitely a style I can call my own, and I owe a lot of that to my mother. Heck, she can take credit for even more than that. In Grade 9 she even sat me down at the kitchen table with an electric typewriter and forced me to practice typing until I was up to a respectable 45 words a minute (okay, it’s not that respectable, but it was good enough for a passing grade. Just so you know, I’m up around 70 now). Where would I be now if I was just hunting and pecking with two fingers across the keyboard? Certainly not cranking out a blog post every Sunday, that’s for sure.
My only wish now is that I was paying more attention when she was imparting advice on how to pick a tense and stick with it. I wonder if she’ll give me a deal on editing when I’m finished the first draft of my novel…