The Story of Bella and the Hawk

by Mark Levy

For years, Kate Purmal had been an executive at Palm and SanDisk. To her own admission, she was a left brain thinker. Every initiative she undertook had to make linear bottom-line sense.

Kate told me she wanted to write a book, but didn’t want it full of conventional ideas and perspectives. As a means of shaking up her thinking, I taught her freewriting – a technique I’d learned in school and later through the works of Peter Elbow and others.

“Take seven minutes a day,” I said, “and write as fast as you can, without stopping for any reason, about whatever happens to be on your mind. And, if during the writing you feel like digressing, by all means follow those digressions.”

Kate approached her assignment with determination. She’d sneak in seven minutes here and there, and would write about the business problems she was facing and the decisions she had to make. Then, one day, she had what amounted to an epiphany.

She and her children were in the backyard when they noticed Bella, their six-pound gray-and-orange tabby, climbing a tree. The cat had her sights set on a hawk—twice her size—perched on a high branch. As Bella inched closer, the bird swooped down at the cat, talons first. Bella retreated to a hard-to-reach part of the tree. When the hawk landed, Bella again stalked it. The back-and-forth battle lasted several minutes. Eventually, Bella withdrew to the house, and the hawk, minus a few feathers, flew off.

Kate was so impressed by her petite cat’s tenacity that she decided to write about it. That is something she wouldn’t have done before:

“Normally, I’d have been embarrassed to write that story, because it wasn’t about business. But, for some reason, I knew it was important, it was something I had to write about, and the abandon of freewriting gave me confidence.”

Kate wrote up the story, added photos she had taken with her phone camera, and emailed the result to friends. They loved it. That encouragement was exactly what Kate needed. She started writing and sharing more stories. Eventually, Kate began blogging – a mixture of personal anecdotes and business posts.

She later opened her own firm, Kate Purmal Consulting, where she helps start-ups get seed money, and coaches executives on how to run enterprises. Now she teaches all her clients freewriting.

Says Kate: “If you write everyday, every so often some inspirational things are going to show up.”

Consider, then, writing outside your norm. If you only write about business matters, write about your family, a trip you took, or a scene from your neighborhood. If you only write about personal matters, think about a business project, and write about that.

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