It started with a pencil

For me, it all started with buying a lovely mechanical pencil in the Royal Arcade in Cardiff last year. At the time it was a huge treat and a promise.

I love well designed, beautiful pencils with high quality lead. Indeed, my life could be told in the stories of my pencils. There was the first Rotring pencil my friend Martin gave me when I ran his conservation and countryside company. I lost it in the grounds of a manor house whilst leading a conference decades ago. And I can still remember searching through the long, wet grass.

So what was the promise? That I would start to write.

You see, this nudge was getting louder, but my subconscious found lots of reasons to delay… Sound familiar?

All through my childhood, and beyond, my writing had always been ‘corrected’ by my well-meaning mother. English teacher, perfectionist and compulsive helper, she had no idea of the damage caused. (We don’t do we…) I’m so different to her. She couldn’t understand my word blindness and the completely alternative way we both see the world.

Yet I knew I could write text. Years of drafting board papers, proposals and reports as a chief exec had got me over the basic hump.

But writing what was on my heart, exploring meaning and finding my voice… I didn’t know how to go there. But I knew there was something. I needed a vehicle to get it out.

Finding my voice

So the pencil. And a really good rubber – eraser if you’re elsewhere – and a pad of blank white paper. Plus a commitment to write a weekly blog.

Initially, this was more in my comfort zone. I wrote about creating space and the power of questions. All part of my current professional work.

But then I found that the act of writing started drawing out thoughts and emotions that had never seen light. Exhilarating and scary all in one go.

My blog writing started to shift and I felt more comfortable owning this voice. We set up SueWaterside as my personal reflections on the journey from here at The Waterside.

Over the last 18 months this writing, and the community gathering around it, has been more important than I could have ever imagined. And I’m so grateful.

It’s not comfortable putting yourself out there. But the amazing thing is that there are many people cheering you on. Who want to hear what you have to say because they’re waiting for something different to the usual noise. And even if you do crazy things, mess-up or get temporarily self-obsessed in order to get stuff out… Apparently, that’s okay as long as the intention is generous.


Your voice

We each have very different voices, which is brilliant. It means we don’t have to compare ourselves with each other. Just honour the best bits, have the courage to try them out, be curious and explore.

For the artist and activist Banksy, I wonder whether it was discovering spray paint! (If anyone knows I’d love to hear). But even for him, it has not stopped there.

JK Rowling conceived the idea of Harry Potter on a delayed train from Manchester. It took her life experience over the next seven years to fully form her writing, which completely disrupted the decline in children’s reading.

For our artist friend Alastair Duncan it’s mixing media in order to speak and be heard. For example, his extraordinary tapestry weaving took on a substantially different quality and tone when he started introducing barbed wire. This brought the voice of his experience growing up in Northern Ireland. And was a means of challenging a perception of ‘niceness’ and the consequences of what we are doing to the natural environment. Again he hasn’t stopped there.

So I wonder what your voice sounds like? And what will either amplify it further or enable you to explore it for the first time?

What is your ‘pencil’?

Thanks for reading


This week

The daily blogs are a means to explore and celebrate the new Quiet Disruptors. I’m also starting to write a book and I’d really appreciate hearing about your voice and others you think I should talk with ( Thanks.

Monday: Come explore…
Tuesday: What’s the real value?
Wednesday: So who are the Quiet Disruptors?
Thursday: And the answer is…?
Friday: Creating more creative space