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I have been working on final edits for Healing The Writer – A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD for the last month. An editor gave me tremendous feedback to help tighten the manuscript, and I’ve been making great progress on making those changes.

I have known that it would be a big deal to finish and publish this book, because it would directly expose the lies of my grandmother to the light of day, thereby robbing much of their power. It would also contradict her messages about being a writer. I will reclaim a lot of power by publishing this particular book, because of the subject. Even my doctor said “this book is a big deal.”

When I was 8 years old, my grandmother told me if I ever became a writer, they would “call me crazy and lock me up.” She reinforced the message in pretty hideous ways, which included saying the doctor she worked for could have me committed to an asylum, and then showing me what it would be like.

In one section, the editor suggested I might need to dig further down to get in touch with my experience of the worst abuse. I thought I already had, but as I worked on editing that section, I wrote additional content that was the how that little boy felt, at a deeper level than I had ever gotten to it. Later I had a “feeling memory” where I got in touch with what happened to me on a very visceral level.

I feel different about it now. A therapist I worked with for many years emphasized that we had to expose the lies. He used an analogy several times – he said it was like the old movies where Dracula could never face the light of day. If he did, he would wither up and die. I have experienced that effect a number of times, where facing an abuse will suck a lot of power out of it.

I’m in an interesting place. I feel lighter. I am more ready to publish this book. I’m astonished by how healing this process has been.

It feels like a huge victory, and I’m letting it sink in.

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I’ve known for years that I don’t write on a daily basis. It’s better for me if I let thoughts and ideas percolate, and they fall onto paper when they are ready. That is especially true with the next memoir I’m writing, Healing The Writer. I recently posted that I had sent the manuscript to an editor in New York City for a critique. She came back with two major areas I needed to refine. I saw what she was saying, and just leaned back.

I didn’t try to force ideas to the surface for how to handle these manuscript issues. I let them percolate, and didn’t see anything for about a month. Then in a short time, how to handle both issues came to light – and it was easy.

Issue 1 – This book contains several inner child exercises. I write from the adult perspective, and answer from the viewpoint of the 8 year old child who got so badly damaged by my grandmother. The editor pointed out that I needed to make greater distinction between the adult and the child when they were speaking. The child sounded very adult in the ways he responded. I needed to hear the voice of the child more clearly.

Solution – I have been writing freelance articles for the last 2 and a half years, and a while back the client said they wanted some of them written from the perspective of a woman. I found a way to make that mental transition. I wrote a little more from an emotional construct and not as linear, and had a warmer perspective to how I constructed sentences. Suddenly I realized – if I can write from the perspective or a woman, I can sure hear the voice of that 8 year old. “Cool! That’s really neat!” I’ve already rewritten the first inner child passage, and know how to hear the rest to make sure it’s the child speaking.

Issue 2 – The editor said there were a LOT of characters in the book. She said it was hard to keep track of everyone. Part of that is because the book covers 30 years, and there were just a lot of people who came through my life and had an impact – enough that they needed to be in the book. I cut down on the number of people where I could, and then leaned back.

Solution – I decided to differentiate the more important characters by describing them more vividly. It would bring those people to the front in people’s minds, and make them more memorable. The who only had a brief part would be described less.

Instead of: My friend Barry

It became: Barry was one of the most multi-faceted people I’d ever been around. Though he was big, bearded and looked like a mountain man, he was very well read and extremely intelligent – he could speak knowledgeably about a wide range of subjects. He filled his time with a variety of interesting pursuits, like working as a river rafting guide on the weekends. He had just told me about his latest trip down the Guadalupe River, which sounded like a wild adventure. One raft tipped over and they had to rescue the occupants.

I still have a some polishing to do in other areas of the manuscript, but the major issues brought up by the editor have been resolved.

I’m closer to the finish line!

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For the last few weeks, I have been developing an outline for the next book I plan to write. At this point, it will tentatively be titled “Healing My Anger – Defusing A Time Bomb.” It is about my journey to unearth and resolve a terrible well of anger and rage I discovered. One of the pivotal points of that book will be about a bizarre event that happened to me – a group of people came over to my apartment late at night, and performed a bogus group encounter with me.

I used to call it an intervention, but I realized that gave the misimpression that what happened was somehow legitimate. It was not – it was an exercise in the power of a group in dysfunction, incited by a strong and charismatic leader. I’ve written about that evening before, in a post called “The Betrayal.” That event led to a whole series of events which propelled my growth in astonishing ways, because it forced me to deal with anger that I hadn’t been able to access previously.

This will be a powerful book – I can tell that already. But for the past several weeks, I’ve had the feeling that I was missing something. I just couldn’t think of what it might be. Then yesterday I realized – I had left out one major event. Then I realized that this would have to be the end of the book. I needed to get it on paper, so I wrote it all down.

It’s the first time I’ve ever written the ending of a book before I wrote the beginning. But it was absolutely the way the book had to end. For a number of years, I had not been around the individual who stirred up the event that night, who I renamed Rob for purposes of the book. We happened to end up at a party together.

******

So here is what I wrote:

In 1996, I decided to move to Austin. I went by a party that was being held by one of the people in the recovery program. It had been a fun party for a number of years, and a source of fond memories for me. Rob and Nancy were there. It was the first time I had been around either of them for quite a while, and naturally there was some awkwardness.

After a few minutes Rob came up to me and said “Dan, can we go outside and talk for a minute?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We stepped outside, and I wasn’t sure what he wanted to talk about. I had gut checked my anger before agreeing to go, and there just wasn’t much steam in those old issues. At most, I felt a little edgy – because of the unknown.

We sat down on a bench outside the party, and Rob lit a cigarette. He sat for a moment, and it looked like he was gathering his thoughts, so I didn’t say anything.

“Dan, I want to apologize for my part in what happened the night we came over to your apartment. That was totally wrong, and nobody deserved to go through what happened to you that night. I am sorry. Genuinely sorry.” He looked me directly in the eyes as he spoke, and I could hear the genuineness and sincerity in the way he said the words. His words were simple, elegant and direct. I was so deeply touched I didn’t know what to say. I was quiet for a moment.

“Thank you for saying that, Rob. I do appreciate it – probably more than I can express right now.”

“Can I give you a hug?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We hugged, and then walked back inside the party.

I lost touch with Rob when I moved, but after that night, for the two of us – we were at peace.

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When I began to explore the topic of my writer’s block, I published chapters as I wrote them in Life As A Human magazine. I did that to help me stay focused on the real story in what was a complex and intricate topic, and keep me moving forward with the writing project.  I published 29 chapters that way, and then I was able to see the best way to finish the book.

My friend Karen told me several years ago that she thought Healing The Writer might be the most powerful book I would ever write. Back in April, I read the polished first draft, then set it aside. I think it has taken me six months to fully appreciate the magnitude of the healing journey I chronicled.

Late last night I watched the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus, where he gets to conduct the symphony he spent years writing, played by former students. The final shot in the movie is a closeup of him with a powerful look of serenity on his face – like he accepted what he had created. I think I saw it that way because I had felt myself coming to that same point.

I picked up the Healing The Writer manuscript today and began reading it once more, with an eye to editing needed. I’m ready, and it’s time.

 

Below is the Table of Contents, along with links to the first 29 chapters. (The chapters are in reverse order by publication date in the magazine, and this will give a better idea of how to follow the flow of the book).

Healing The Writer

The desire to express, I was taught to repress,

 Has caused me a block, I wish to unlock.

I pick up the pen, I start writing again.

 I feel the flow –

        And then I stop.

   – Dan Hays October 1986

Part One – Search For Peace

One: Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Two: What To Put On Paper?

Three: I Find My Writing Voice

Four: I Hide Out To Write A Book

Five: Scared To Put It In The Mail

Six: I Walk Away From Publication

Part Two – Nothing Left to Lose

Seven: Ghosts Of The Wheat Harvest

Eight: The Query Letter and The Question

Nine: I Abandon A Book – Again!

Part Three – What Mamaw Said

Ten: They’ll Call You Crazy – And Lock You Up!

Eleven: I Capture The Writing Vision

Twelve: The Creative River Flows Once More

Thirteen: The Writer’s Conference and the Fear

Fourteen: What Is It About That Particular Park?

Fifteen: I Can Have You Committed

Sixteen: The Fear And The Light!

Seventeen: Breaking Through – Moving Beyond Writer’s Block

Part Four – Down To The Roots

Eighteen: Red Rocks and Remembering: A Writer’s Road Trip

Nineteen: A Writer’s Journey of Inspiration

Twenty: The Landscape of a Writer

Twenty One: Publishing a Book: Getting One Step Closer

Twenty Two: A Disappointed Writer and a Backup Plan

Twenty Three: The Fearful Writer – Monsters in the Closet

Twenty Four: How My Writing Got Locked Up

Part Five – Freedom’s Just Another Word

Twenty Five: Insomnia – A Writer’s Night Journey

Twenty Six: Confronting the Fear – A Writer Prepares to Publish

Twenty Seven: “I’d Like To Read Your Manuscript.”

Twenty Eight A: A Writer Revisits High School – Part One

Twenty Eight B: A Writer Revisits High School – Part Two

Twenty Nine: I Am A Published Author

Thirty: A Hopeful Omen

Thirty One: Publicity Can Be Rewarding – Or Maybe Not!

Thirty Two: The Origin of Minute To Freedom

Part Six – Moving To The Light

Thirty Three: I Combine Publicity And Therapy

Thirty Four: Healing The Wounded Child

Thirty Five: Preparing To Leave The Dark Closet

Thirty Six: Independence Day

Thirty Seven: Little Danny Set Free

Thirty Eight: The “Don’t” Messages – Deep Damage Healed

Thirty Nine: Deep Healing and Destiny Arising

Forty: The Terror of the Dark Death

Part Seven – Free To Write

Forty One: Writing For Publication as a Healing Tool

Forty Two: Killing The Octopus

Forty Three: A Sign of Healing – The Poetry Returns

Forty Four: Am I Able To Work – As A Writer?

Forty Five: A Sign of Healing – I Become a Freelance Writer

Forty Six: Epilogue

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I haven’t posted in my blog for a long time. I had someone ask me about it the other day, and it nudged me to spend some time writing a post (thanks, Patricia!). What have I been doing? I have been accepting this statement as a reality in my world:

I Am A Successful Writer

For several years I have been working to overcome the effects of abuse by my grandmother when I was 8 years old. The damage was deep enough that it was a source of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The incidents with my grandmother all centered around – becoming a writer.

Healing The Writer

My next memoir will be about the healing process from that abuse. I fought with a writer’s block for many years, and didn’t know why – until I did some inner child work and uncovered the damage. I have finished the first draft, and am astounded by how powerful a book it is. A friend said a long time ago that my healing process has a life of its own – it unfolds at its own pace. He noted that my writing – much of it about my healing process – paralleled that pace, and my books wrote themselves at their own speed,  when I was emotionally ready to own and share that content.

I am settling in with becoming ready to publish Healing The Writer – it will happen soon. I think it has taken a while because the healing is so breathtaking and powerful that I’ve had to get used to it.

Writing Update

When I started coming out the other side of the abuse issues with my grandmother, I was able to go back to work, and looked for a source of income. I set up a business editing service – it went nowhere. I investigated going back to work in the real estate title industry- nothing unfolded.

In the meantime, I was working as a freelance writer – generating travel articles and getting paid for it. I did it for about a year and have said it felt like a “boot camp” for my writing.  I felt I had gotten all I could from it, and didn’t foresee it as a direction I could count on as full time work, hence my efforts to find work in other arenas. I see now I was resisting – trying not to see how powerfully I had been healed.

But I kept having more and more freelance opportunities – clients were seeking me out for my writing talents and skills. Over the first part of 2103, I had to admit how freely I could now write. It was tremendously empowering!

Then in July, I was contacted by the person who I had written the travel articles for. She was with another company, was looking for writers, and said “Dan, you were the first person I thought of.”

That contact has quickly blossomed into more challenging writing assignments – which I very freely and JOYFULLY handle with ease. I’m having a blast! It looks like freelance writing will continue to unfold and progress.

The balance is that I still have plenty of time and emotional energy to publish and publicize Healing The Writer, and begin work on my next book.

I promise to post more on my blog, and flesh out the details of how my healing has led to greater and greater freedom as a writer.

Life is good! 🙂

 

 

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I’m getting closer to publishing my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I put it on my website today as “Coming Soon,” with the front cover I plan to use. DanLHays.com

The woman who edited my first book said she thought this would be one of the most powerful books I would ever publish. I didn’t get it at the time, but I’m beginning to understand what she meant. I’m about to read the whole manuscript for the first time. I published the first 29 chapters on Life As A Human magazine, but have been letting them get cold while I wrote the final chapters.

Book Cover Cropped

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One day a friend on twitter

Sent me a message.

She said:

“I’m writing for a magazine

And exploring my next memoir.

Each article I publish

Is a chapter from this next book

Would you take a look

At what I’ve written

And tell me what you think?”

 *

I was glad to help

And began reading

The woman’s story.

It was engaging, compelling

And very interesting.

Then one day,

I began to look

At the magazine.

It was called Life As A Human

Life As A Human

And was a very high quality publication.

I was very impressed.

I began to think about

Submitting some of my own writings,

I asked my friend about it,

And she said they were

A very solid outfit,

And that she thought

It would be well worth my time

To submit some work to them.

*

I contacted the editor,

Thinking this was like other sites

I had published in

Where they would let me republish

Posts I had written

For my blog.

I sent the editor a couple of samples.

She replied that they would be

Very interested in publishing my work

But that they preferred

Original content.

That stumped me for a while.

 *

Then the dots connected

And I realized I had original content

That I wanted to explore.

I was writing my next book

A memoir about a healing journey

That I was taking

To overcome the abuse

"Mamaw" and young Danny

Laid on me by

My crazy Grandma.

She had told me

If I wanted to be

A famous writer when I grew up

They would call me crazy

And lock me up.

I had come to realize

That crazy was not too strong

A word to use

About this grandmother.

 *

So I wrote my first chapter,

Polished and edited,

Cleaned it up,

And submitted it to the magazine.

They loved it!

The editor made a few changes

Mostly tightening here and there,

Then we published it.

Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Got astonishing results

Lots of page views,

And plenty of comments.

I got some wonderful feedback

From the readers.

Doing it this way

Helped me stay focused

On the real essence

Of the story I was trying to tell.

Which was helpful

Because this was going to be

One of the most challenging books

I would ever write.

It was a complex topic,

Covering many years,

And I needed this unique method

To help me see

How to tell this story.

 *

I made amazing progress,

I was writing my next book

A chapter at a time

And publishing each chapter

As I went.

I got editorial insight

Feedback from readers,

And doing it this way,

Kept me moving forward.

Later I would compile

All the chapters

And there would be

My book.

A friend reminded me

That this was a common method

In years gone by –

To publish chapters as articles

And later

Make it a book.

Sounded like a plan to me!

 *

Then something unexpected happened.

It was only after

I had published 25 chapters

Just over half the book

With the wonderful guidance

Of the editor

And the astonishing feedback

From the readers

Which continued as they

Watched the story unfold.

I realized that writing

And publishing

Like I was doing

Was actually part of my healing.

*

Sometimes

I call myself

A very gifted

Slow learner.

I will realize a truth

And be astonished by it

Only to discover

That my friends had seen my truth

Long before I did

And no longer found it remarkable.

That’s how it was with

This experience.

How could I not

Have seen how healing

This process would be?

Well, I just didn’t.

But it happened that way!

 *

Writing and publishing

My healing journey

Became part of

My healing journey

And propelled that healing forward

Like few other things I had tried.

Today, as I look back

At the first chapters,

It’s like I’m writing about

Another person,

Someone who had

A serious writer’s block,

And had walked away from

Publishing two books

Because of what

His crazy Grandma said and did

When he was

Eight years old.

 *

I’m not that person any more.

I will publish this memoir

About my healing journey

In two thousand and twelve.

Healing The Writer - Chapters 1 thru 29, in reverse order

It will be called

Healing The Writer

And in a very real sense

That’s what the book did!

**********

Photo Credits:

“Mamaw” and young Danny, copyright Dan L. Hays

Life As A Human logo copyright Life As A Human magazine.

“In Written Memories”  Mutasim Billah @flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

“Good Question” e-magic @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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