A friend of mine has a new nickname: “Naughty Barb.” This is especially funny to the people who know her, since she is probably one of the nicest people on the planet. She is caring and compassionate, strong and supportive, with a genuine concern for others and a willingness to share her own painful stories and experiences if they will be of benefit to others in any way. She is also a “connector” and loves to put people who can help each other in touch with each other. That’s actually where the first stirrings of Naughty Barb came from.

I spent last weekend “up north” on a retreat with Barb and about 30 other women. After her own devastating divorce some years ago, Barb started offering resources and support to other women who were going through – or recovering from – a divorce. Her community grew, and she now provides classes and other activities, plus a safe and nurturing environment in which to heal.

She is also a member of my women writers group, and invited us to join her at the retreat she sponsored last weekend. There was a fair amount of free time built into the retreat, so it was a good chance to get some serious writing done – in a beautiful and inspiring setting with none of the distractions that are normally all around us.

I spent some time on Saturday afternoon sitting on the dock right outside my cabin, enjoying the crisp, cool air, the changing autumn colors, and the hypnotic sparkle of the sun across the water. Another woman was sitting on the dock, someone I’d met before but didn’t know well. She said she was a bit surprised at how many writers were on the retreat, and she suspected Barb had a bit of an ulterior motive in encouraging her to come.

“That naughty Barb,” she said, and then told me about an idea she’s had for a long time about a book she wants to write. She suspected that Barb was subtly nudging her to get started. What she didn’t realize was that she was now talking to the person she would later dub “Stalker Betty” – after I told her I was going to keep after her to start writing, to visit our writers’ group, and to explore other places and programs that would help her to keep writing.

So many people have amazing stories to tell and ideas to share, and whenever I meet one of them I am always quick in encouraging them to start writing. I think the word “writer” scares and intimidates some people, whether it’s because they don’t think they have the skills or stamina, they’re hesitant to expose or explore their secrets, fears, and vulnerabilities, or they feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing. Whatever the reason, they back away from writing and from seeing themselves as writers.

But once we do start sharing our stories – and writing them down – we begin to see the world around us in a new light. We connect with others in powerful new ways. And we develop a strength we never knew we had.

Plus, we start meeting the most interesting people. Like Naughty Barb. The woman on the dock.

And ourselves.


The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 8, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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