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Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

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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The other night I was talking with a friend in Portland who was considering a career change.  He had been in Information Technology for 20 years, but felt the need to pursue his creative path – he just didn’t know where that might lead, or how to uncover his passion.  I mentioned my experience with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – as I have many times in conversations with people interested in creativity.  I shared how working through that book – morning pages, artist’s dates, and the exercises throughout, had greatly expanded my concept of myself as a writer, and shed light on the limitations in thinking that had held me back.

When I bought a copy of The Artist’s Way in 1994, I took it home and put it on the bookshelf, where it sat for two years.  I would sheepishly glance at it when I passed by.  Why? Because I knew on some level that if I took a serious pass at that book, I would be upping the ante on the pursuit of my creativity, and would likely discover things that I didn’t want to see.

In 1985 I had written a book and had publishers interested in it – I walked away from publication.  I had no good explanation.

In 1994, I had written a second book, a novel, and in preparing for publication, I had hired a marketing consultant to help me draft a query letter to send to literary agents.  During the conversation, it came up that I had walked away from the first book.  His puzzled look was very understandable as he asked “How are you going to make sure that doesn’t happen again?”  My fumbling response seemed lame to me, and I’m sure to him as well.  That’s when I bought The Artist’s Way, but didn’t read it.

By 1996, agents and publishers had responded positively to the second book, and it looked like I was going to once again walk away from publication.

At that point, I didn’t have much to lose and a lot to gain from giving The Artist’s Way a try.  The first time, I went through the book on my own, very diligently writing my morning pages each day, going on artist’s dates each weekend, and tackling the next set of very probing and incisive exercises about my creativity, my passion, and my roadblocks.

The second time I went through the book with two other people.  The accountability of showing up to our weekly meetings and being able to say “yes, I did my exercises” and the transparency of divulging to the group what resistance I might have dredged up that week – which was sometimes very deep – made the whole experience much more rich.  I was taking an inventory of myself as a creative person and a writer, and finding ways to diminish my resistance and allow myself to succeed.

In 2008, when I finally took a memoir to publication, I knew that my experience with The Artist’s Way was a pivotal element in that process.  Now I will go back and publish those first two books!

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In 1984 as I read The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach, I was astonished by one passage. The author recounted how he took a creative writing class in high school; the teacher declared he would only award a grade of A if a student published a piece they had written during the semester.  Bach was elated when he presented the teacher a copy of the Sunday supplement to the newspaper which included an article he had written.

I’ve carried that concept in mind for years, and it seems to be a valid benchmark.  The acid test for a writer is publication – if I have writing talent, it is to be shared.  There is a declarative quality about having your writing appear in print.  However, for a long work such as a novel or memoir, there is a much longer process involved in reaching publication.  But shorter pieces can be published much more quickly, there are significant advantages to doing so – and several ways to get there.

Blogs have become a common form of publication, and allow the writer to put a piece in the public eye easily.  There is a limitation – with so many blogs out there competing for public attention, and admittedly some of them of varying quality, just how much readership a blog receives is very uneven.  But – it’s a way to start, no doubt.  And I’ve heard recently that publishers are looking more toward blogs as a necessity for a writer, so having a blog carries that advantage as well.  But with no editorial oversight unless the author chooses to seek it, there isn’t input to help craft the work. Another blog outlet is to write guest posts, as I did with “Why Is This Story Best Told As A Memoir?”  But once again, the host just posted the entry without editorial oversight.

I have also used with several outlets like Authors Den and Self Growth.com, which allow authors to publish their works.  While it does give a smidge greater credibility, I just re-published pieces from my blog, as did the other authors.  I’ve heard these sites called content aggregators – they gather information without much effort to evaluate it.

Then last summer I had a writer friend from Twitter ask if I would read a series of posts she was writing for an online magazine.  She was exploring her next book, and wanted to see if the story was evolving in the right direction.  I began reading her articles, which were very well written.  Then I started looking more closely at the magazine, which was high quality and very professionally designed.  My friend was very complimentary of the magazine and the staff and suggested I might write for them as well.

I contacted the magazine and realized something was different when the editor said she would have the President send me the contract for review.  Contract? I thought I was just going to post some blog articles.

The contract stated that the magazine wanted original content, and would have exclusive rights to the material for 90 days from publication. I asked about using pieces from my blog.  The editor said that would be alright occasionally, but they really wanted original content.  Suddenly the dots connected, and I realized I had wonderful new content to explore: I could publish chapters of my next memoir as individual articles, which would help me clarify the direction of a sprawling and difficult topic.

I started to write for the magazine, and it has been a wonderful experience.  I got depth perception for my next book and received editorial feedback which has proved invaluable. I also got reader feedback beginning with the very first article, entitled “Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?”  I didn’t have to wait until the book was published to see how early parts would affect readers.

I’m not advocating trying to earn a living by publishing short works.  I heard a writer comment about making a living as a freelance writer: “If you’re going to do that, you might want to have a spouse with a regular income.”  As I have investigated freelance, it sure seems like that’s a valid comment.  But the legitimacy and  credibility of having works in print is well served by seeking some type of publication of short works – either in a blog, author publication sites, or with an online magazine.  As long as you don’t try to pay the mortgage that way, it can be a rewarding experience.

Originally published in Write By Night.

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I had a remarkable radio interview tonight with Kate Loving Shenk.  We explored my healing journey, and my upcoming book Healing The Writer.  Listen at the end, when Kate gives me a direction that had been sitting there in front of me, but I hadn’t seen it yet.  Helping other people with creative blocks, based on my experience. The picture is me at age 19 – and I’m reclaiming that creative soul!

Here’s a link to the radio show:

My Healing Journey

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“A Disappointed Writer and a Backup Plan.” A writer experiences rejection from literary agents and comes up with a Plan B for getting his book published.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“Sweet Sorrow” Caro Wallis @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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“A Writer’s Journey of Inspiration.” Dan L. Hays revisits the major turning points in his quest to write and publish a book, and builds the strength to believe in his writing.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“Inspiration” photosteve101 @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.


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“Breaking Through: The Other Side of Writer’s Block.” As an author returns for the first time to the manuscript he started two years ago, he is astounded by how well he wrote the story, and can finally appreciate his writing gift in a whole new way.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credit:

“I Have The World” nexusamor @flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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