We had the good fortune of connecting with Peter Laffin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Peter, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’ve always taught my students that writing is not the task of recording one’s thoughts, but rather the adventure of discovering one’s thoughts. We often don’t know exactly what we think about things; the best we have are merely inclinations. But when we take the opportunity to match those inclinations to particular language–which is how I best understand the writing process–we finally, truly see our minds reflected back at us. This involves a tremendous amount of personal, intellectual, and emotional risk. It’s much safer to remain disengaged and indifferent, because then nothing is demanded of us. But to understand one’s own thoughts is to acquire moral responsibility. I’d like to think that I model this for my students each day, first by discovering myself on the page right alongside them, and then by holding myself responsible to the moral demands of my reason.
What should our readers know about your business?
I formed Write On out of thin air in 2012, and I attribute its achievements entirely to the quality of services we provide. To have no traditional “job security” tends to concentrate the mind and foster innovation. For the first few years, I took this model to the extreme by refusing to accept semester or even monthly payments from families. Rather, I would only accept payment at the end of each individual session once I’d demonstrated the learning that took place. This had the dual effect of sharpening my focus and earning the trust of my clients. I never gave myself the option to not deliver for the families who entrusted me with the education of their children. I imagine the same principles hold whatever the business. If you run a pizza shop, you better make a great pizza every time, no exceptions, or else your customers will find someone else to do the job. That’s how I’d like Write On to be thought of. If you trust us to help your kid, we’re going to deliver demonstrable results. This is what drives me. The reward of making a tangible impact on your world, and one that will likely long outlive you, is far more satisfying than monetary compensation. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. And I feel blessed to be able to make a living at it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a New Yorker in Boulder, life revolves around Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage. It’s without rival here. Afterwards, I’d take them to The No Name Bar on the hill, which is a quasi-speakeasy and boasts the best music calendar in town. It seems to be the local venue of the musician’s musician. In a city that seems Hell bent on driving out the arts in favor of coldly efficient city planning (this seems to be a theme for towns taken over by techies), The No Name is crucial locale for artists.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A few people come to mind. First, the combination of my father Kevin and Uncle Peter, who both modeled for me a life of passionate intellectual engagement. Second, my great writing teacher, author Brian Morton, who provided me with the framework to understand the artistic process as well as the artistic life. I’ve been tinkering and playing within that framework ever since.