Doris Büchel comes from Buchs SG and now lives in Liechtenstein. Always a creative entrepreneur at heart, after graduating from a commercial apprenticeship she started her own business with a group fitness centre – the first in the region. Fifteen successful years later she sold it and switched to journalism. After the initial important years of apprenticeship at the local newspaper, she started her own business again as a freelance writer. For five years, she enjoyed the privilege of trying her hand at a wide variety of writing formats and undertaking exciting projects – including the publication of the magazine “Edition Onepage”. Today she focuses on writing biographies, memoirs and letters. Doris Büchel is 49 years old.
Where and how did you grow up?
I grew up with my father, mother, five older siblings and a German shepherd called “Caro” in a single-family house in Buchs and always stayed in the region. My mother was a housewife, my father was a teacher and then later took up a political career. I was allowed to take piano and riding lessons, try my hand at soccer, handball and judo, and go to the scout club every Saturday. Dancing was my passion and I stuck with jazz dancing. I was a happy child.
Could you describe your professional background?
I ended my careers as a dancer and a hatmaker before I even started them. Instead of arts and crafts school, I completed a commercial apprenticeship in a letterpress printing company and, after language study trips to France and Italy, I felt ready for the world. Inspired by Jane Fonda, I opened the region’s first group fitness centre at 22 years old. I subsequently enjoyed fifteen adventurous and intense years as an independent entrepreneur, personal trainer and instructor, while working part-time in human resources. In 2008, I sold the studio and switched to journalism. After a basic education in Zurich, I found my first job as an editor at the local newspaper, “Werdenberger & Obertoggenburger”, where I learned a lot and soon got to write a weekly column. I have been a freelance writer since 2014, and since 2016 I have also been the editor of “Edition Onepage”. Since 2019, I have been offering shared reading sessions as a reading leader. I wonder what else people might want to know about me?
Were there certain events or stations that were formative for your career?
In keeping with the spirit of the times, I was shaped by the particular social values of the 1970s. I learned then that there was a difference between “good” and “bad,” the definition of which did not always coincide with my inner feelings. It was a time when my brother’s shoulder-length hair and my sister’s second-hand clothes still caused a stir at home. I was a little girl and wondered: “What’s going on? It’s just hair”. My love for the mountains, snow and nature in general comes from my parents, with whom we hiked a lot, especially my mother. She grew up in Zürs am Arlberg and the time we spent in this wonderful area certainly left its mark on me. I was also influenced by my apprenticeship at what was then Buchs “Buchdruckerei”, at a time when typesetting and printing were still done in-house. And of course, Jane Fonda.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
I have always been a doer, blessed with an inner fire. Those around me were not always as enthusiastic about my plans as I was right from the start, so there were times when I had to overcome some resistance. Nevertheless, I always received support from my family and friends as soon as I actually put my ideas into practice. When I decided to focus on writing, my husband Marco was very supportive of what I was doing by looking into my plans and giving me honest feedback. He still does that today, by the way.
What are your current activities?
I’m writing my second book for “Wörterseh-Verlag”, and alongside this I’m helping a customer to write down her life memories. She will gift the small, neat booklet that will result from this to herself and to her descendants for her 70th birthday. Also, issues #24 and #25 of my magazine “Onepage” are in the works. I regularly offer shared reading sessions, and I’m in the starting blocks with my newest writing project, “Your Letter”. In it, I help people put their thoughts into words and onto paper. Maybe they want to express their love to someone? To forgive? To ask for forgiveness? Or to say goodbye? I think of patients who may want to leave a personal note to their partners, children, parents or friends.
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
I live out my creativity, enjoy freedom, implement ideas, learn, meet a wide variety of people, create something beautiful and, in the best case, bring joy along with it. But I also have to overcome myself, make decisions, keep at it and endure uncertainties. I come up against some limits. All of this makes my everyday life intense and colourful one a fairly regular basis, as it is often quiet, but at the same time connected with emotions. Therefore: Yes. What I do fulfils me.
Do you think that you yourself have an influence on whether your activities are fulfilling?
For a long time I thought I was drifting aimlessly through life like a raft on a river. Then I realised that I have had the paddle in my hand for a long time already, and have always decided for myself where to steer. I had to reach the age of forty to realise that everything I have done so far builds on everything else and makes sense. My strategy was unconscious: I followed my intuition and listened to my heart. But I also showed courage, tackled difficulties, worked with focus, persevered, and didn’t always choose the easiest path. In this respect, yes, I do think that I myself have had and continue to have a certain influence on it.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
I love to learn and I love to educate myself. I learn in workshops and courses, but also from encounters, books, conversations, nature, silence and doubting. In terms of inspiration, life is a honey pot, and I love to dive into it head first. That’s also why I love my magazine “Edition Onepage” – the exchange with the authors, designers, typographers and printers is a great source of inspiration for me. I’m also lucky to have a partner at my side who inspires me again and again by also listening to his heart and gut feeling and acting accordingly. He shows me again and again how valuable it is to take oneself and one’s needs seriously and to set priorities accordingly. My friends are also strong, creative and passionate women who are fully engaged in life. The regular exchange with them always provides inspiring moments. In general, I admire people who can do things better than I can. They show me that I am on a meaningful path and spur me on.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
I like to start the day with a little ritual. I look at my favourite blogs every morning while drinking coffee and read a poem or two. This little trick is often enough to kick-start my imagination and also nourish those facets in me that sometimes come up short here in my immediate surroundings. But I also consciously allow myself to go on creative dates with myself. No matter how hectic my everyday life is, an extensive visit to a second-hand bookstore, a bookshop, a museum – in the hustle and bustle of a city – is simply a must. For me, it’s not about owning things. It’s about surrounding myself with beautiful things. It’s how I refuel. It’s my soul food. Exercise and nature also give me strength. Nowhere can I ground myself and switch off better than when I’m hiking, running, swimming, doing yoga, lifting weights or ski touring. Sport has always been a part of my life, and I can only recommend to anyone and everyone to incorporate regular exercise into everyday life.
There are “magic moments” when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
I have thought about this question for a long time, because I do not want to fall into any clichés. It is all the more beautiful that I can say from the heart: Yes, they do exist, these magical moments! They are glimpses, brief moments of deep, inner contentment. When they show up, you have to recognise them, accept them and absorb them, because they are fleeting and like to show up when it suits them and not when we expect them.
I attended Ilma Rakusa’s reading at the “Literaturhaus” Liechtenstein (House of Literature) before Lockdown. I had shortly before published a Onepage edition with her and Dafi Kühne, a remarkable graphic designer and letterpress printer – our wonderful edition currently adorns a wall in the Literaturhaus. After the reading, Ms. Rakusa spontaneously stood up, walked around the room, stood in front of our poster, thanked us for the beautiful work, and at the end of her reading, read us all the “Poem Against Fear” from the poster. I had goose pimples.
In almost every Shared Reading session I experience a magical moment, namely when literature manages to make people who didn’t know each other before open up to each other. And it often happens when I’m at the printing press and get to hold the first copy of a new Onepage issue in my hands.
When we recognise a magical moment, we should pause, close our eyes and inhale it, if only for a conscious breath or two.
Do you actively do something for it, so that such “magic” moments can happen?
I have learned how important silence is for me. I need to find inner peace again and again, to be alone, to practice mindfulness, to let go. As long as I rush through life and think I have to do a thousand things at once, I miss the magic moments. At least, that is my experience.
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
Absolutely. When I get afraid of my own courage. When I have to let go of a text, or rather hand it in. It might be like when your child sleeps over somewhere else for the first time. You’re happy, but you also miss it as soon as it’s out the door. Besides, putting words together in the privacy of your own home is a different matter than presenting your work to the outside world. There are challenging (and exciting) inner processes going on.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
On the one hand, doubting shows me how much my work means to me. On the other hand, it spurs me on to continue improving and learning.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
A big question. Of course, I’ve also asked myself what would have become of me if I had invested all of my heart and soul in an academic career. Or if I had concentrated on literature or design right from the start. But more than the past, I’m preoccupied with the fact that the future probably won’t offer me enough time to learn everything I’m interested in. I want to suck out the marrow of life, but time is running out and there is still so much to discover. At the same time, I love to retreat for hours, days, weeks, quietly honing words, forgetting about the world. It’s complicated. Other than that, it’s good the way that things are.
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
Isn’t that what we all want? I think contributing to society is, in a way, our obligation. It gives meaning to life, to our own doing and being.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
I never sat down at my desk and thought about how to get recognition from the public. On the contrary. The public was a kind of handbrake for me for a long time and I never quite managed to release it when I was writing for newspapers and magazines. Now it’s better, since I can take more time for my work. But yes, it encourages and pleases me when I get praise for my work. The best praise is when I hear that I inspire or touch others.
How well can you live from what you do professionally?
The way I work today only works because my husband and I are a team. If I had to make our entire living on my own overnight, I would have to find a job with a fixed monthly salary. Or start charging for my work at the price it’s worth. Or write twice as fast. The fact that I can take the time I need for my texts is a privilege that I value incredibly.
Is there something you would like to (increasingly) spend time on in the future?
August marks the beginning of my distance learning prose writing program with a focus on autobiographical writing, which I hope to spend more time on over the next 24 months. And I would like to finally incorporate meditating continuously into my everyday life. Other than that, going forward, I want to do exactly what I’ve built up over the past few years. And continue to grow with it.
What are you most grateful for in life?
That I love and am loved.
This interview is part of the project “Magic Moments” by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
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