When I was a freshman in high school, no one saw me without a floral journal and a pen. I scribbled ferociously in history class, bought books with glossed pages depicting photographs of Ireland, and drove my dad mad at night clicking at the keyboard on our desktop (does anyone even remember what those are anymore?) in our living room as he was trying -- and failing -- to snooze while watching basketball, a rare talent. I wrote a sum total of 204 pages about a high schooler named Grace-Tyler (double and unisex names were all the rage in these 2000s) who found herself running away from home and very quickly on the road with a band. To keep the cliche going, I wrote a horrible character -- Andy -- who was, in fact, the lead singer and, incidentally, entirely abusive and manipulative. Eventually, she found herself a nice Christian man -- Senan -- who was Irish (because why not?) who drove her from New York to California to reunite with her parents. Do they fall in love? Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? I wanted people to know and care about girls who had fallen out of school and in step with the wrong people. I wanted people to feel their sorrows and pain.
A little while after that, I discovered Jane Austen who wrote love stories in a way I'd never seen. She wrote them with excitement, commenting on society's idiocy with dignity and satire. Her stories, though largely based on love, were much more than just a novel ending in a marriage. I was suddenly jealous of a woman who had been dead nearly 200 years: I would never be a Jane Austen. However, I persisted. Not writing was never an option.
Creative Writing was the only major that made sense to me in college. I would have nothing else. And, after four years, I graduated with an undergraduate thesis consisting of three stories, all circling on women's experiences in heartbreak. One stillbirth, another abuse, and one agoraphobia. Lamenting to my dad one afternoon on our way to the grocery store (our own special place to talk life and decisions), I said with an exhale, "I just want to write something that matters." Ever my father, he never took his eyes off the road. "Well then, do it."
It's hard, however, to graduate with a creative degree and have a clear cut path. How do you suddenly become a New York Times bestseller? I hadn't graduated with an accounting degree. I hadn't even graduated with an English degree. I was relatively lost on what should come next, but I knew writing would have to have a part in my drama. I found teaching on complete accident.
Teaching had always been in the background of my life, a swirling possibility. I'd quenched my thirst for the art by teaching women the Bible at church and helping my sisters learn MLA format and proofread their papers. It never occurred to me that I could do it for real. Enter August 2016. I will never forget the first day I walked into a classroom with my name on the door outside. I was so nervous I contemplated throwing up. I was too nervous to leave the room to go to the restroom, so I waited until the bell rang at 3:30 after drinking insane amounts of coffee all day. I was petrified in every sense of the word. But I grew to love it. More than that, I grew to love my kids. They are, whether they like it or not, irrevocably mine. We laughed and cried together. We spent many days very mad at each other. And still, it was (and is) one of my most treasured experiences.
But it is in creation that my heart lies. And for all of the times I preach to my students that they can do anything and have special-made gifts, I couldn't possibly continue to abandon my love of storytelling. So, with a lighter teaching load and a fixed goal, I set out to start.
Start what? Good question.
It was when I was word mapping (which is a highly effective way for me to think) one afternoon that I understood in a flash what I wanted to do: I want to tell stories. Not "telling stories" like my grandma used to accuse me of when I'd undoubtedly lied about eating another push pop (come on, those are amazing). No, I wanted to walk alongside people -- any people, all people -- and work with them to delve into the deepest parts of who they are to help tell their story with both photography and authorship. My plans grew. Soon, I was obsessive over brands and telling their stories, as well. Leveraging online presences and focusing on telling brand stories with grit and honesty, I knew, would lead to their success. Over night, it made sense.
And so, here we are. Haley Danielle Creative was born.
Right now, I'm sitting on my couch in my very tiny apartment listening to the 2004 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack because that's the only thing I can listen to while writing. I'm gearing up for a new school year. My life, in every way, looks so normal to me now. Finally. While I've been blogging for nearly six years, I've not ever devoted time to growing a business of my own. I've taken photos here and there and written content for others on occasion. So, in so many ways, this is so new. New in ways that make me want to hit the delete button on this post and go to bed. New in ways that make me cringe to think about promoting myself in any way. But I also know that this is my season.
So, I'm here to stay. HDC has been on my heart for more than two years and tonight, we went live. A business focusing on telling stories with photos and words. A business that grew from my heart up out of my chest. I couldn't be more excited. It is my heart to walk next to you, helping you to tell your story with bravery and vulnerability. It is in our stories that we are human. I am so, so thankful you've read my whole story and I can't wait to know yours. Drop me a comment and introduce yourself below. :) I would dearly love to know you.
walking with you,