A window cleaning company hired me shortly after I relocated from Regina to Nanaimo in 2014. It was tough work; I had to clean windows on residential and commericial buildings, often several stories high, while balancing on the rungs of an extension ladder. I had grown up working for my parents’ roofing business, so it wasn’t the heights that bothered me. I just couldn’t grasp the intricate squeegee technique my boss, Ray, had shown me. The motions, as I quickly learned, were essential to achieving a streak-free window.
After a couple of days witnessing my complete ineptitude at the job, Ray asked me what I planned to do with my life. I told him that, as a high school dropout, I hoped to get accepted into Vancouver Island University (VIU) as a mature student and enter the Creative Writing program. He was flabbergasted—not at my ambitions as a diploma-less dreamer but rather at the idea that someone would pursue creative writing as a career. From that day on, whenever I left a streak on a window, Ray would sarcastically say, “You just need to get more creative with it.”
Five years later and months away from completing my creative writing degree at VIU, I’ve become a professional in the field of writing: I’ve managed and edited a nationally distributed literary magazine, written content and produced videos for non-profits, and published my writing extensively (including in Maclean’s, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, and The Puritan). Despite what someone like my former boss might insinuate, the ability to write, to communicate, to tell stories, is just as valuable as ever.
Thomas King, in his 2003 Massey Lecture, said, “The truth about stories is that’s all we are.” I couldn’t agree more. There is an innate human desire to relate to one another through storytelling. It’s the width of your grandma’s smile as she recounts your sweetness as a youngster. It’s the way your grandpa lowers his voice and pauses for dramatic effect while telling a cherished story you’ve heard a million times. As a professional communicator, it’s my job to harness the power of storytelling to advance the interests of stakeholders. By extension, it’s my job to capture what it means to be human.