Our junior writer Jamie Delves has been on the hunt for his purpose. At a weekend writing retreat in Stroud, in the heart of the Cotswolds, Jamie learnt the importance of understanding why you exist, whether you’re a young writer or global brand.
This weekend just past saw me trade the twitching maelstrom of London for the still silence of an ageing Gloucestershire estate. Not just for my chakras, but for my purpose. I was attending, along with ten others, Dark Angels.
Started in 2004, Dark Angels, which takes its name from Milton’s Paradise Lost, is a series of residential courses that seek to align business writing with creativity. It boasts international alumni of about 500, who are held together by the transformative experience the courses provide.
This weekend was trialling a new species of angelic instruction. One that transcends the focus of the creative industries. And one that asked the meditative question, ‘Why do I write?’ This question excited the even deeper question of, ‘What is my purpose?’ A question we often ask our clients.
Over the weekend, my fresh notebook, proudly stamped with The Table’s logo, went from virginal to hieroglyphic. Like with many of our clients, I thought I knew all the reasons that I do what I do, but the deeper I questioned it, the more I discovered.
Here’s my response to one ‘experiment’ set by John and Neil, the course leaders:
The A-Z of Because
I write because absent-mindedness trumps memory.
Because braggadocio enjoys a voice.
Because cattle can’t.
Because drama lives everywhere.
Because enough is never met.
Because finding out about myself follows.
Because grapes should be tasted.
Because haters gonna hate anyway.
Because imagination is fitful.
Because January keeps coming back.
Because kinetic energy possesses me.
Because loneliness likes company.
Because money’s to be made.
Because nobody else has my thoughts.
Because oblivion beckons.
Because people need help sometimes.
Because quixotic thinking needs clearing up.
Because radicalism needs an opponent.
Because something’s happening.
Because time is unforgiving.
Because unity suffers.
Because valves will burst otherwise.
Because witches exist.
Because x-rays don’t really see what’s inside.
Because young people need to put their phones down.
Because Zechariah and Malachi return from exile.
I noticed parallels in the Angels’ experiments and the workshops we run at The Table for our clients and agency partners. Some to help them find their voices and to tell their stories. Others to help them question their own purpose.
Purpose has become crucial in brand. The word has found its way to the very heart of the branding linguistic suite. We’d argued that brands without a clear purpose will struggle to survive more than those equipped with this intellectual asset.
I wondered what that meant for all of us as individuals. Certainly without a secretly held or publically shared purpose, one drifts and coasts, perhaps with no strongly held point of view, and therefore no ability to provoke responses that could lead to further learning. As the saying goes: if you don’t stand for anything, then you’ll fall for everything.
The weekend came and went. Soon, I was standing in Stroud station, about to depart, carrying slightly more than I’d arrived with. Two handfuls of new friendships, references and recommendations of many bright and beautiful minds, from xenolingusitics, to quantum flirting, and the Japanese expression for leaves turning red and falling from the trees in autumn, momijigari, all accompanied by new curiosity about my reason to exist.
I boarded the quiet train bound for the sprawl of London. Very quickly, I fell asleep. I woke in Paddington Station, slightly disorientated, questioning where I was as well as why I was.
I gathered my belongings and stepped onto a platform thronged with human traffic. With Gloucestershire far behind, I wondered whether I’d even left London the previous Friday evening. And whether what I’d discovered about myself would wash off on the tube before I got home.
I very much doubted it considering the power I now knew it held. And the excitement I felt to put what I’d learnt into practice.