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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

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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I haven’t posted a status update on the next memoir I’m working on in far too long. A lot of very powerful things have happened.

A friend nudged me to go ahead with the book, because I could “be editing forever.” I needed the prompt, because this is deep stuff, and it has really forced me to dig deep in my healing journey.

I finally said “enough” with the 4th rough draft, and sent it to an editor for a critique. She did a fantastic job, and gave me some great feedback. She said the book was very far along in terms of being a polished draft, and the voice and storyline were very strong.

She pointed out a couple of areas that needed some smoothing, and I have been working on those for the past month. Just today I had an “aha” moment where I saw how to handle a very pivotal scene. I continue to have the experience that I’ll have some old fears and feelings release, then I can move forward on the book.

I had originally considered self publishing this book. Then I realized I wouldn’t give the book the shot it deserves if I didn’t at least check out traditional publishing. I let go of some feelings around that, and then realized I knew the literary agent I wanted to start with. I had read an interview with her in 2010 in Poets and Writers magazine, and said “that’s who I want to have representing my book!”

Now, her liking and accepting my manuscript is the part which is not in my control. But to submit Healing the Writer to this agent is the part I can control. If she’s not interested, I have a list of other agents I’d like to query.

Things are moving forward. I think I’ll look back in 10 years and realize that this book was healing me on many levels.

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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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About two months ago I was ready to begin the third rough draft of my next memoir, Healing The Writer. I had finished the second draft in the spring of 2013, and thought this would be a polishing draft. I also thought I had gotten most of the healing experience out of the memoir. I was wrong.

The third draft started at about 58,000 words. It’s now up to 64,000 words, and continues to expand. Just working on this draft has been enormously cathartic – it continues to flush old negative energy out of my system.

The memoir deals with abuse by my Grandmother (Mamaw) when I was 8 years old, which locked up my writing for many years. I already knew that going in. I had remembered the abuse, and thought I had moved through the feelings that had been stuck in my body. But like peeling the layers of an onion, there has been more to release. As that old energy has released, I have felt more and more free. But as well, I have also continued to learn from the memoir, as I put together pieces that seemed separate, but which are now invested with new awareness and connections.

I’m spending as much time on the last third of the book as I did on the first two thirds, because that was the time when the healing was happening. I begin to add things like this to the book:

In Chapter 36, as I began to feel the magnitude of the healing, I originally wrote:

“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be…”

In the revision, I suddenly realized where that bold sense of destiny had first come to me:

“Words came to me, reminding me about how bold my destiny would be – the certainty I had felt when I was 6 years old and knew I was to be a successful writer.”

I then remembered that I had talked about owning that sense of destiny – in Chapter 2:

“When I was six years old I felt very connected with God. I had a sense of peace about my world, and knew – I just knew – that one day I would become a famous writer. It was a sense of destiny as tangible as anything I’ve ever experienced.”

It had been so long since I wrote the early part, I had forgotten about including this, but it was the origin of “destiny” for me. It was powerful to have that destiny affirmed after the healing, and own that it began when I was very young.

Then in Chapter 39, I perform a visualization where I have a man bulldoze the house where the pain happened, much like Forrest Gump did with the house that had caused Jenny so much pain. I’ve published it in my blog, some of you have probably read it. I thought I had a handle on the full meaning of it. At the end of that exercise, I wrote:

“… the driver pushed the rubble backward, into the back yard. It took several passes for each section of rubble, but eventually he exposed raw dirt under the foundation, which hadn’t see the light of day in many, many years.”

In Chapter 40, I had originally written about a few weeks later feeling something holding me back, that still needed to be healed. I wrote in the early draft:

“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut…”

In the latest edit, I revised that sentence to say:

“I could feel a big, black ball of tar way down in my gut – like the dark, raw dirt underneath Mamaw’s  house, exposed when the bulldozer cleared away what lay on top of it.”

The visualization and what it uncovered happened just that way, but I hadn’t seen the cause and effect. The visualization had an impact on releasing deeper abuse damage. Astounding!

I continue to learn from this memoir in most astonishing ways.

A friend of mine once said “Dan, your books write themselves at their own speed and in their own time. You just have to go along with that.”

I had predicted in 2011 that I would have Healing The Writer published by early 2012. Nope – it is writing in its own way and time. Back then I was writing about healing events that were still too close to me, and I hadn’t fully felt and released the abuse. Based on the expansion that has happened in the third draft, I’m now just leaning back and letting it happen without trying to predict when this book will be finished. I continue to get too much healing out of it to rush it.

I do know this – I’m starting to appreciate how powerful a book this is turning into, as I heal and let the story continue to blossom into what it is meant to be.

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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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