And Suddenly I Had to Write
The Power of Our Stories in Shaping Our Destiny
It all made sense the day I received this message: “I always felt different…You made me feel not so alone.” Instantly, I was hooked on continuing to share my life through writing.
I believed I had a fairy tale life. My husband, David, was a writer and producer for television and film and I was on the sidelines of his career. His success and our family was everything we dreamed of. Our creative collaboration would come alive, after the children were in bed. We’d sit on our patio and develop story ideas and characters for his shows. Every script was his brilliance and hard work, blended with my creative input.
Our creative partnership fueled my secret desire to write on my own. But, I chose to hide comfortably behind my collaboration and ignore the big question… Could I actually write on my own?
David hit a career high when he was hired as the supervising producer and writer on the CBS show, Beauty and the Beast, starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. It was a modern day fairytale set against the backdrop of New York City.
Catherine, the Beauty, worked as a high-powered attorney. Late one night she was brutally attacked while walking in Central Park. A mysterious figure came to her rescue, a man who was tall in stature, but hid his face behind the hood of a tapestry cloak. He swiftly lifted Catherine into his arms and whisked her below the city streets, to a labyrinth of tunnels where he lived.
In the days that followed, Vincent cared for Catherine, tending her wounds, and soothing her as he read sonnets of Shakespeare.
The remarkable part of this story is that their love affair began while Catherine’s eyes were bandaged. She couldn’t see Vincent’s face, she could only hear his voice.
As the audience, we saw he was deformed. He was the personification of a lion with eyes angled downward, his nose flattened, and his mouth split in the center, like a cleft lip. For days, Catherine continued to heal, listening to his voice, feeling his touch, and safe in his care.
She had fallen in love with this gentle soul who lovingly restored her life.
When Catherine’s eyes healed, and she saw Vincent for the first time, she wasn’t frightened at all. She had fallen in love with this gentle soul who lovingly restored her life.
Unlike the traditional 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.
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, a daughter, and believed I was living in my own fairy tale. My dreams were all coming true!
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. It sounded like an echo, almost too big for a small mouth.
Then, I saw her face. I trembled with shock, but then an odd thing happened. I recognized that face. My daughter was born with a flattened nose, missing the columellar, and her mouth split from a bilateral cleft.
You can’t make this stuff up
Was it an accident that David and I had spent the previous nine months with stories about the Beast, asking, what would it be like to be born with a face that others found upsetting, even terrifying?
Now, on the night of our daughter’s birth, we were faced with the same questions, how do we introduce this beautiful soul to the unapologetic world of perfection and teach them to fall in love?
It was at that moment, I was thrust into a larger life. That was the day my need to write became far greater than my fear. I knew I was the creator of my daughter’s fairy tale. It was up to me to introduce Julianne Belle to the world. I would write her a story, one that would make her feel like an empowered heroine, one that she could arm herself with on the first day of school.
Five years later, Julianne and I proudly entered her new kindergarten classroom with Rosey, the Imperfect Angel, a published and illustrated fairy tale.
As I finished reading the last page 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!”
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.
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 now know that fairy tales are real. Even though there are struggles, that’s what they’re designed to teach us, how to triumph over adversity. That’s what completes our story and creates the happy ending.
You may not be a writer, but 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 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. 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. I always felt different…You made me feel not so alone.”
As a writer, that’s the best feeling in the world.
If you liked this article, please consider “clapping”! Also, I have a 2 page, Free Creative Checklist for you that expands on some of the ideas I write about. Thank you!
Originally published at www.sandypeckinpah.com.