Keep Writing

“Keep writing.”
It’s the most common piece of advice that you hear seasoned writers tell the novices. It’s also one of the most important. It’s about not stopping at the moment to check the spelling of a word or to see if you are using it correctly. It’s about keeping the writing flow going and it takes time, effort and repeated practice. The most common method is to start with five or ten minutes. Some writers suggest doing 15-minute chunks. Others will tell you to just keep writing until the thoughts are all on the paper in front of you, (this can lead to a grocery list being thrown into the middle of a creative word vomit) and this is okay too.
It’s not just sitting down with a piece of paper or a keyboard and putting the words down, although it starts that way. Then it’s doing that over and over but with different ideas and objectives. It’s playful and fun and yet can still manage to be hard work. It takes practice and reading the works of others mixed with learning the ropes (and there are lots of writing ropes to learn). It’s creation fueled by inspiration. It’s learning to trust that part of your creative self and learning to be honest with your voice (writing what you mean versus what you think others want to hear).
It’s about writing even when you don’t want to because even with as much as I love it there are days where I just don’t want to. I at least write what has become a sort of diary which I have come to call my “morning dump”. I write these 750 words as fast as I can when I wake up in the morning and use that space to just vent or verbalize anything that I feel needs to be said. I do this for me only. I always feel like I start off the day with a clean slate that way. I use the program 750words.com because I like the feedback it gives at the end of each session as to where my mind is at for the day. I feel it gives me a sense of self-awareness and it gives me the opportunity to redirect my mindset if I am in a negative mood.
Keep writing. It’s how you get better. I don’t always reach my goals for writing every day but my agreement with myself is that if I don’t write like I should, I read instead. I think the combination keeps me balanced and gives me things to chew on when I am not writing. I believe writing reflects back to you ways you can work harder on becoming the best you that you can be and there is nothing wrong with a little self-improvement in the mix. It is an amazing thing to watch a person and their writing grow together (it is also a personally enjoyable thing to do).
Don’t stop writing. I love it when after someone reads something I wrote and they lock eyes with me and tell me this. “Don’t ever stop writing.” To me, writing has become such a strong and stable part of my life that I can’t imagine living without it. My dream is to write for a living and while I am unsure if this dream will ever come true, I know I will write even if I never get published. I will write for the handful of people who have begged me to keep going and for myself, always for myself.
I am not a perfect person and have made plenty of mistakes. The only mistakes I continuously regret are the times when I stopped writing. I regret that wasted time, the words I did not write. When I look back at old stuff I have written I cringe sometimes but often enough I find a glimmer of a phrase or an idea that was good. I also love to see how far I have come over the course of this journey and looking at older works is beneficial.
Fix what you write. I used to be terrified of the editing process. Over the years, there were editors that I met that wowed me. What I didn’t realize was that my limited experience prevented me from being able to edit a piece effectively. I still struggle with this one from time to time. I am more free with putting things down rather than asking myself why or looking deeper. I am learning how important editing is…however … not until the story is written entirely. You can’t edit the first draft until you have the first draft.
Then there is the sharing. Oh, one of the hardest parts. To become so vulnerable as to share these intimate thoughts, ideas or stories. What will people say? Will it be awful? Will they like what I wrote? Do I like what I have written? How can I make it better? What will happen next? That is the question that helps me finish. When I feel the settling that signals the end, I will still try to keep writing. With the help of good readers, I go back in and hope that I can make the story better with the next round of edits.
Keep writing. Then there is the final piece. The submissions or the putting a story to bed. Yikes. Scary stuff. Waiting to see what they will say about my work if anything. Will they like it? Did I send it to the right place for that particular story? Will they publish it or reject it? I try not to worry about what could have been better until I see if I have found it a home first. With the pieces I put to bed, I keep them in a “cuts” folder on my computer for now. Either way, my goal to send my pieces to find their new homes, wherever they may be. This last piece has become as important to me as the entire writing process.
So I keep writing and I don’t stop.

8eae43ffc8d4fcf1676c35009ad78308
#52essaysnextwave

Advertisements

My Writing Life–Every Word is Worth it

Writing is one of my favorite things and my love of words started at a young age. Not things like poetry, but the language itself. I am still fascinated by the way the words themselves are formed. I am awestruck by the variety of ways words can be transformed into sentences and subsequently into stories. In school, I loved the Dictionary games and deciphering a word’s meaning based on its parts. In one elementary school class, I remember memorizing the prepositions. (Yes all of them, in alphabetical order and I am still able to recite most of them.) I was very proud of myself for these things, these odd abilities.

I got an old desk when I was around 10 years old. I loved that desk and would “set it up” so that I could pretend to be a writer. I had stacks of paper and pens and pencils. I had managed a handful of office supplies; a mini-stapler, some tape, and a pair of scissors. I remember sitting there for hours creating. My step-dad who was never very encouraging questioned me about my new behavior followed by the lecture that “Writer’s don’t make any money and it’s not a good job option.” Finishing his lecture with the comment that my handwriting was awful.

To say my dreams were subdued by this incident is, to say the least. I allowed my dreams to crash themselves and break on the shore—evaporating into thin air. I did work on my handwriting though but I never really wrote again. I even had to be pushed to write basic things like letters or thank you notes. Not because I didn’t want to but because it hurt too much to write. It broke my heart when I tried.

I didn’t really have to face that fear again until high school, at which point I ended up with a decent English teacher who pushed just hard enough to stir that dream again from its sleep. It wasn’t much, but I wrote again for a little while. And then, life happens as it does and I wasn’t able to write and didn’t allow it to take precedence. That is until my late 20’s when I went back to college.

I probably wasn’t as serious about college as I should have been. But it did stir that urge to write again and this time pushed a need to read along with it. That was nearly 20 years ago and my commitment to writing has been mainly sporadic until about 4 years ago when I started down my own road and paved it with self-education. Since then, I have read 17 books about writing (and am currently reading 3 others), Read and watched interviews, read blogs about writing, watched webinars, participated in a handful of writing groups around town and (most importantly) have been writing like crazy. It’s been over a year and a half that I have written every single day. Even if it was just for ten minutes, though most of the time I write for at least an hour or two.

So now my love of words comes full circle. I still play dictionary games but now it’s usually trying to find the right word. I try to spice up my preposition and verb choices. I put all the things I have learned into practice as I work to improve my prose and write better stories. I have learned to trust my voice and not listen to the little nagging voice that attempts to tell me that it’s all awful and that there is no point to it. Although, (it might be right), I have been writing steadily for 4 years and have not been paid one cent for my time even though I have technically written several novels worth by now. Who does that? Works for free? But it’s what I love to do. It brings together all the little parts that mean nothing by themselves.

Now, as an adult, I sit at one of my two desks to write. I have one for the organic writing (long-hand) and one for editing and word-processing (my computer). For the first time in my writing life, I am finishing stories and sending them out for submissions. I have a handful of helpful readers who give me feedback so that I can focus and tighten what I am trying to say. My final drafts are far more interesting than my first drafts and I suspect that is the way things are supposed to be. I love the writing process and that love has surpassed my love of words. My work has evolved, grown, and improved along with me. I am proud to say that every word has been worth it.

15871724_10154747016731291_2590610531883832484_n

#52essaysnextwave

A Voice Full of Faults

 

There are moments in life that just stick with you. They plaster themselves on the big screen in your mind and replay the scene for you at random times, sometimes years or decades later, usually on the tails of some epiphany or regret. This particular epiphany hit me out of nowhere and bruised me with a harsh dose of unexpected reality. The unconnected moments stringing their stories together before my eyes.

Lately, I’ve been reading numerous books on writing to usher me along my current path. While reading through a chapter on finding your writing voice, I was hit with a memory from nearly a decade ago. It was an important crisp spring day in Vancouver, Washington, and my son had just tied the knot. After listening to several great speeches, I choked on a handful of words that I had scraped together for the occasion. I’m sure that I was expected to say something wonderful and inspiring or welcoming to my new daughter-in-law, but instead, my underdeveloped words hung in the air like an unsightly stain. I saw the disappointment and disbelief on my son’s face and I still carry that disappointment with me daily.

I had not found my voice at that time. Over the years, I kept my voice safely at the surface where nothing ever happens, only grazing the top, only skimming off what can be seen on the surface– never delving to the depths of my soul. Perhaps, I was still scared to go beneath the surface and see my faults brewing below, just out of sight. If there is one thing I have been sure of in this life, it is that I was full of faults. I never understood why I was given such an awkward starter pack. The life tools I possessed were unhelpful at best.

The voice I’ve been accustomed to using for the past 40 years or so, was biting like my mom, chomping her teeth at me as though she could eat my flesh if she chose to. All my genuine voice could manage to do was spin around in the same dirty dishwater for years while it waited for me to find it. Even when I have found parts of my voice and managed to make it work at all, it would lock up at some point, my throat choking off my very words. I never realized that finding my voice would be the missing piece to finding my true self.

I’ve always found it easier to use my voice on paper. Only there can I share my acknowledgment of these mistakes, knowing that I deserved any bite ever received from my son for all my fumbles over the years. However, I am also blessed with his forgiveness for my mistakes throughout those parenting years. His love and acceptance has lead me to become a better person as well as giving me the courage to find my voice and the freedom to use it. My quest to find my voice has helped me bring up the fresher, deeper truths, like discovering rich fertile soil in the spring. Two unconnected moments meeting together, changing the layers of my life, opening doors that I have never had a key for, releasing my voice into the world.

markus-spiske-215992-unsplash

#52essaysnextwave

My Musical Life

 

Of all the things humans create, I think music is one of the most essential ones. Music is collective and moves us as much as it moves through us. Music is structured with diverse and ever-changing patterns. Any one song, can be preformed as either uplifting or depressing just by simply changing its speed or its tone. Even without lyrics, music is universal in its emotions and complexity. It is always meant to be appreciated.

I am sure I moved from the first moment music hit my ears. I have always had a hard time sitting still if a good beat is on. Music has followed me through every step of my life, adding little bits of glee to dark years. Music can leave me with epiphanies, anthems, or just mark moments in time.

Music speaks both truth and lies. Some can inspire, while some is forceful and volatile. Music is emotionally charged and creates its own movement. It plays with us and ushers us from one thing to the next as though we were bees collecting pollen. Nothing moves me like music. Rhythm is a dancer.

As a small child, I believe I listened to whatever was popular on the radio in the 1970’s. I don’t remember it being restricted to any one genre until my years in Florida. After that I went through (in no order) a country phase, a pop phase, a 1950’s phase, a “whatever they are playing on MTV phase”, a rap phase, a metal phase, an alternative phase, a punk phase, a funk phase, a classic rock phase, and back around again.

I’ve always done housework to music. I can still picture a smaller version of myself, vacuum handle in one hand, cord in the other, smiling as I sung along with Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. My first ever full-size record was “Grease” and I played it until every song had a skip in it.  There was a time where the only 3 albums I had to listen to were Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Sade. Prince’s Purple Rain changed my musical life forever.

I love the feeling of getting so into a good song that you forget everything around you or it feels like everything is being brought into the moment itself. That is the same quality I want my writing to have.  I want it to feel essential and universal as it moves through my reader. I want my writing to be emotional and appreciated. Most of all I want my reader to enjoy it as much as they do their favorite song.

11988557_571364813019670_7633168068433190904_n

#52essaysnextwave

The Girl No One Saw

Growing up, I had what I will call, an alternative childhood. I loved books and one of my greatest unmet childhood desires was to be read to. My mom and step-dad worked crazy hours and there was rarely anyone around to guide me or nurture me let alone read to me. Without a present parent, the circumstances were far from ideal. I did not have sleepovers or even a best friend. How could a girl have a best friend when she had no clue how to even be a friend? Now, as an adult writer, it is my job to not only write about what happened to me but how it affected me and how I grew because of it. Most importantly, how I managed to get through to the other side.

I’ll be honest. I made it through by stumbling my way along, picking up experiences as I went. I learned life-lessons from sharp comments and public humiliation. I learned how to laugh because of social ostracization. I learned how to do things by watching others from the sidelines of life. The perpetual wallflower. The fly on the wall. The girl no one sees. Finding better ways to be ignored rather than to be abused or humiliated was my central goal during my early years. During this period, I tried to make myself small and insignificant– to which I succeeded for the most part but also hindering my growth.

Also, my alternative childhood left me too scared to try new things, a problem which has continued to plague my adult life. I was not taught that it was okay to make mistakes because that is how you learn; I wish I had been taught that one. Instead, I was taught that not only was making mistakes a bad horrible thing but that I was only good at making mistakes. That was my everlasting teenage state. I was always wrong. I was born wrong into a world that would always see me as wrong, a single weed in a valley full of beautiful flowers.

But in a way, these turned out to be good experiences. I learned to entertain myself. I learned to embrace my weirdness and used it to create laughter when I could. I was semi-cautious and managed to stay out of trouble for the most part. However, I’ve struggled as an adult to learn all the things I missed out on as a child. I’ve found that as a writer, I must observe everything around me in detail, and in doing so, I also am able to shine a light on my own flaws. “To succeed in life is to be able to transform.”

I think this is why I like writing so much. I can write to my heart’s content. I can let it all spill out on the page. I can use what I find within myself, deep below the surface. I can take what I learn about myself and transform my ideas both on paper and in my mind. I can choose what I focus on and how I focus on it. I can find my own alternatives and develop positive action.

When I share what I have written, I am always surprised to find others who feel how I feel, have had similar experiences, or who share my perspective. It reminds me that no matter how alone I feel, I’m not. There might not be many people like me in the world, but there are enough of us that I can finally open to the world around me. I cannot change it no matter how much I want to. All I can do is observe and adjust my own sails. I will always come up with solutions. Being resourceful is how I have made it to my alternative adulthood. Growing is how I made it to the other side.

#52essaysnextwave

pexels-photo-261909.jpeg

Personal Essay #50

Over the years I have written hundreds of pages but 2018 is coming and this is the year I finally submit. I have had numerous pen pals, exchanging thick handwritten letters on a regular basis. Of course, there were plenty of papers and homework from high school through college. Then there were the personal journal rants and venting essays as well as the occasional but wandering attempts at short stories and juvenile poems. I have literally only submitted my work a couple of times and that was decades ago. Whether the lack of submitting my work has been out of fear or reluctance, who is to say? Either way, I know that by not submitting my work, I am undermining my own credibility and stunting my learning.

Everyone’s heard the old phrase about how you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play? Well, it is the same with writing. Whether my writing is good or bad, it’s not going anywhere if I don’t send it on its way. I am the only one in control of that outcome and the only one who can change it. And like anything else in my life, if I don’t do something with one of my written pieces, it will end up underdeveloped and quickly forgotten. Since writing and sharing are cornerstones of human growth, it is my duty to not allow this to happen.

Now, mind you, I feel I’ve made great strides this year even though I still have a long way to go. I am especially proud of myself for publishing this weekly blog consistently (I’m on 50 of 52) for the writing project #52essays2017. Accomplishing that in itself is a small miracle for me. The fact that people read it and actually comment in a positive way still blows my mind. Even though to me this is barely considered publishing— it’s still a great first step out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been studying submission heavily over the last few months and feel fairly prepared. I’ve studied it before but this time it is like watching a flower bloom in a fast-forward video. I am learning so much about starting this very scary process. This is my next big step on the road to improvement. The act of submitting starts to connect the dots and helps to paint a larger more encompassing picture of the entire writing process.

So yes, 2018 will be my year of submission. I will find good homes for my best and most well-polished pieces. I will take my time developing beautiful art. I will even submit to the painful process of naming my pieces, which is one of the hardest parts for me. While on this next leg of the journey, I will also continue to submit to my learning while I grow as a writer. I am ready for this final step in the writing process, the completing of the cycle, the bringing of my love of writing full circle. 2018 will be the year I submit myself fully to the entire writing process. I’ve never been more ready to dive right in.

23658459_10155841249362731_7682771250226435208_n

#52essays2017
#amwriting

Personal Essay #49

Are you coming into middle age? Welcome to gray hairs that have minds of their own and skin that seems to hang a little looser than it used to. Welcome to noisy joints and slower moving muscles. Welcome to a mind full of experiences, knowledge, and perceptions, yet still able to learn new information, making middle age the most fertile ground since infancy—only now mixed with the largest number of possibilities. It’s also a time for re-evaluation and making life-altering directional changes. So, settle into the middle part of your life’s story and see what more you want to write.

When we hear the phrase ‘coming of age’ we usually think of the ages between 13-21 depending on various factors. But I never hear anyone talk about the ‘second’ coming-of-age, (the stage that happens between ages 40-60) other than the overused negative phrase ‘mid-life crisis’. I believe instead that this is a mystical and magical time in ones’ life, this middle life, this second chance that not everyone makes it to. For me, I personally feel like I am coming into middle life like a toddler who is learning to run, but I simply keep propelling myself forward as fast as I can, in order to keep from falling flat on my own face.

So, what does this next section of life feel like (other than the aches and pains)? Well, hopefully by middle age, most of us have enough life experience built up and are brimming full of knowledge and wisdom. Yet at this point, most of us are still young enough to use that wisdom as a tool while still being young enough to try new things and to push ourselves to new limits. Many of us also now have grown or almost grown children giving us a huge portion of our time back and with this new found freedom a second childhood or second attempt at creating the life we truly want.

This can also be a time for stepping out of comfort zones, trying things that have sat on the back-burner while we raised families or even the secret longings forgot since our own childhood. Perhaps this step is fueled by the sands of time sliding past the narrow neck of the hourglass, by the knowledge, that time is absolutely running out. There’s so much life still left to live, we are at the halfway point, looking at our future with the fuzzy vision of declining eyesight. Unfortunately, it’s also common for potentially fatal health issues crop or pop up, disrupting any and all of our plans. As my granny used to say, “When you have your health, you have everything.” Life has no quality to it when you no longer have good health.

In this next stage of the adventure, we continue on with everything we have left. It’s the time to make a difference in the world–if we can. The perfect opportunity to figure out what else we can bring to the table of life. The focus is often on overall improvement and trying to make good on things we might have gotten wrong earlier in life. It’s a time for enjoying the years left ahead of us to the fullest as well as accomplishing things that have merely been dreams. Some say it’s all downhill from here and perhaps that is true but it’s more enjoyable than that. I feel middle life comes with a unique freedom that other stages of life are lacking. What will you do with this precious stage of your life? What dreams do you have left unfulfilled? If you are lucky, you still have plenty of time to find out.

40

#52essays2017