It all made sense the day I received this message: “You made me feel not so alone.”
Instantly, I was hooked on sharing my life through writing. It didn’t matter if I set out to change one life or many; I just knew I was compelled.
I’d spent many years on the sidelines, working closely with my husband who was a writer and producer for television and film.
He was a prolific writer, and every script, was his brilliance, talent, and hard work, blended with my creative input.
Most nights, after the children were in bed, we’d sit on our patio and have lively conversations developing new story ideas. With each one, we believed with our whole hearts that the world was just waiting for this next film.
While the children were in school, I’d spend hours editing David’s scripts; and, I took weekly acting classes to learn as much as I could about character development.
Our creative partnership fueled my secret desire to write, but it also prevented me from writing. I had this twisted idea that I needed to allow David, alone, the position and title of “writer.” I believed his platform and expertise was more important, and truthfully, I thought it might make him feel as though I was taking something away from him. I hid my desire to write, comfortably behind my collaboration on his work.
My favorite show was Beauty and the Beast on CBS starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. David was the supervising producer and a writer on the modern day fairytale set against the backdrop of New York City.
Catherine, the Beauty, worked as a high-powered attorney for a prominent law firm, and while walking home in Central Park late one night, she was brutally attacked and left to die. Vincent, the Beast, with the deformed face and stature of a lion, rescued her. Vincent swiftly lifted the lifeless Catherine, into his arms, and whisked her below the city streets, through a labyrinth of tunnels where a utopian community of social outcasts made their home.
In the days that followed, Vincent cared for Catherine, tending her wounds, and soothing her with reading sonnets of Shakespeare.
The remarkable part of this story is that the love affair began while Catherine’s eyes were bandaged. When Catherine healed and saw Vincent’s face for the first time, she wasn’t frightened at all. He was the gentle soul who lovingly saved her life and restored her spirit.
Unlike the traditional Beauty and the Beast fairytale, this beast wasn’t physically transformed by Catherine’s love. Instead, the inner beauty of this man dominated the physical, and it was Catherine who was transformed by his love.
As David would bring home his work on the show, night after night, we had many discussions about what it would be like to be physically and facially deformed. Unimaginable, really.
The show was a big hit, and we proudly walked the Red Carpet for Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. At the time, I was pregnant with my third child and thought I was living in my own fairy tale.
I couldn’t have known, then, what to expect on the night my daughter was born. The delivery room went silent. I saw my husband’s face turn ashen and my heart dropped. The moment I heard her little cry, I knew something was terribly wrong.
As the doctor lifted her up, I saw her face for the very first time. I silently mourned and tried desperately not to cry. But the odd thing was, it was a face that was familiar in a strange way. My daughter was born with a severe facial cleft, and her mouth was split almost like Vincent’s.
Suddenly we were faced with the same questions we had about Vincent, how do we introduce this beautiful soul to the unapologetic world of perfection?
It was at that moment, I was thrust into a larger life. It was time to unleash the writer in me and fiercely pursue what my heart called me to do.
In looking back at the story I’d told myself, I realized it wasn’t David’s expertise that intimidated me at all; it was my lack of courage, and the big question I was afraid to ask… Could I actually write on my own?
That was the day my need to write became far greater than my fear of writing.
Because of Beauty and the Beast, I’d spent so many hours with thoughts of being different and shunned, that I knew what I had to do to protect my daughter from the teasing and bullying in her early years of school.
I knew I had to write her a story. I wanted to start my daughter’s school life as an empowered heroine.
“You’re a writer, you just need to write.” Jeff Goins
I had a deadline for my book and its mission, and I met it head on.
On the very first day of kindergarten, Julianne and I entered her classroom with the published, illustrated fairy tale, Rosey, the Imperfect Angel.
As I finished reading the story to the class, I looked up to see one little girl eagerly waving her hand. She could barely contain herself, blurting out, “Mrs. Peckinpah! I wish I could have been born with a cleft!”
From that point forward, Julianne was treated equally and fairly… and, as odd as it sounds, somewhat of a celebrity!
That was the first time I deeply understood the power of story telling, and how it can change people’s lives, most of all, my daughter’s.
Julianne and I toured the country, reading her story in schools, appearing on talk shows, radio programs, and speaking engagements. Our purpose was to bring hope and awaken people to a new story… the beauty of imperfection.
My daughter’s face has now come to full bloom after years of surgeries and the right care. I look at her today, as she steps into her adult life… strong, confident, and beautiful in every way. It makes me cry.
I know for sure, there’s something inside of you that can make that kind of difference in people’s lives. Creativity comes in many forms, it just takes unveiling your gift.
Don’t hide your creativity out of fear of not being good enough, or what people might think or say. We aren’t meant to simply stay small, we’re meant to share our talents and stories as gifts to others. And something more… it’s our legacy.
Isn’t it time to awaken your creative life? Give yourself a reason, a plan, and a deadline. Stop hiding your work. Put it out there for one person, or many. You never know when it will happen, but be ready for the life you’re going to change… like this one:
“I thought I was the only one who felt this way. You made me feel not so alone. It brings me hope.”
As a writer, that’s the best feeling in the world.