Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘writers block’

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.

Read Full Post »

I would be stuck

Sitting at my desk

With a piece of paper

Unable to write

Not knowing what to say

Or how to say it.

I felt like a painter

Sitting at an easel

Not knowing what to paint

Not knowing how to make

That first brush stroke.

 *

I knew I had a writer’s block

I just didn’t know what

To do about it.

I finally managed to gut it out

And began to write

I wanted to write a book

So I hid out in a library

Way at the back

So no one could find me

Or ask me

What I was doing

It seemed pretty weird

At the time.

I just didn’t know why

I needed to do it that way.

Finally, I finished a book.

Then it was time

To send it to publishers

That felt more scary

Than writing had been

I still didn’t know why,

But I managed to gut it out

And sent my book

Off to publishing companies

*

Then I had that most amazing

Phone call.

A publisher called me back.

“I loved your book.  I spent

the entire weekend reading it.

I couldn’t put it down.”

You’d think

That was really exciting news

For a writer.

Instead – I was terrified.

Crippled with fear.

It seemed pretty weird

At the time

I just didn’t know why that was.

 *

Then a second publisher was interested

I tried to gut it out

And keep moving forward.

I couldn’t do it.

I told myself

“I’ve just lost touch

with the project.

I need time to reflect.”

I walked away from the book

And the publishers.

 *

I got so frustrated,

That at one point

I wrote a poem about it.

*
“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.”

 *

I went on my way

For a number of years,

Then felt led to write a second book.

It was to be a novel,

About a part of

My Dad’s healing journey.

Writing that book led

To a grand adventure

That included

Working on wheat harvest

To explore my Dad’s path.

I came home

I managed to gut it out,

And wrote that novel.

Again,

Publishers were interested

And I felt déjà vu

As the whole thing happened again.

I walked away from that book,

Saying

“I’ve lost touch with the project,

I need time to reflect.”

 *

By this point I was so frustrated

I decided

If I couldn’t get past this whole

Writer’s block,

I would just take up golf.

And at one point,

I did just that.

I bought some golf clubs

Determined to leave writing behind

Forever.

 *

But the desire to write

Was just that strong

I had to keep going.

It led to a most unexpected place.

Back to my grandmother’s house

When I was eight years old.

I remembered something she had said.

She had asked me

What I wanted to be

When I grew up.

With the joy of a child I said

“Oh, I want to be a famous writer.”

She frowned, and said,

“Oh no, you don’t want to do that.”

Puzzled, I fell for the bait,

And asked: “Why not?”

With an evil grin on her face,

She said,

“Because if you do that,

They’ll call you crazy

And lock you up.”

*

So there it was

The reason

My writing

Would get locked up

The reason I hid in a library

To write a book

The reason I wouldn’t

Let my books

See the light of publication.

 *

Now as an adult,

I could write off

What she had said

As the ramblings of a somewhat

Nutty old grandma.

But when I was eight,

I couldn’t figure that out,

Especially when she told me

“Don’t talk about this.”

 *

And later I remembered,

She hammered the nails

Of her evil intentions

Into my heart

With extremely vicious

Lies and actions

Abusive and cruel,

Which built a wall

Around my writing

That I couldn’t overcome.

*

But by bringing to the surface

What had locked up

My writing for

Forty five years,

At least

I had something

To work on.

It led to a lot of hard work,

Releasing the pain,

Overcoming what had been

Burned into my soul.

I knew I had made

A lot of progress,

When I published my first book.

 *

Now I am writing

My next book

The story of how Grandma

Tried to poison my soul

And my journey

To overcome the writer’s block

She gave me.

I will expose those lies

To the light

And let them wither up and die

Like lies deserve to do.

**************

Photo Credits:

Images From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection

“Pen on Paper” Completed in 2004 to serve as the basis for the publicity of a retreat for authors entitled Writers Refuge. jlseagull @ flickr.com Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Attack of the Lunesta Moth (cropped)”; original by Maxintosh @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Self Portrait, Walking Away: On one of the jetties at Gräsvik” Misteraitch @flickr.com Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Mud Golf on Orcas,” by wiselyb @ flickr.com.  Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

“Scary_04″ Aliwest44 @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Locked Up” Derekskey @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

“Big Chain” Shaycam @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

Book Cover copyright by Dan L. Hays

Read Full Post »

Then there were times when

    The poetry flowed.

My words fell on paper,

    My creativity glowed.

*

The writing was easy,

   The meanings were clear.

My inner child,

    Always was near.

*

Then came the hurting,

     The word flow did cease.

I spiritually died,

    I knew no more peace.

*

Long years of silence,

    By my poet child.

I tried to be happy,

    Inside I was wild.

*

It grieved me to hear,

    The silence within.

I wanted so badly,

    The words to begin.

*

Years of discovery,

    Led me to causes.

I worked and recovered,

    Without many pauses.

*

I went back to Tulsa,

    My dead father to see.

To tell him I loved him,

    To set old hurts free.

*

It’s now a year later,

    The word flow returns.

Creative freedom,

    Again mine to learn.

*

Now there are new times,

    When the poetry flows,

The words fall on paper,

    My creativity grows.

*

Yet it seems like a new world,

    My heart is at ease.

Not flowing from hurting,

    My words are at peace.

*****

This poem was written in 1999, but I’m having this experience so strongly now that it’s really relevant today.

Photo credit:

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

What if I don’t have a talent for creative writing?

On the other hand – what if I do?

______

It was September of 1988, and I had signed up for a creative writing class at The University of Houston.  The teacher was a well known published author and writing teacher from New York City who had agreed to guest lecture for a year.  It seemed like a great opportunity and I wanted to learn more about my craft, so I sat nervously in class with 30 other students.  Oh, did I mention that I was 38 years old at the time?  It felt a bit awkward that I was so much older than most of the students, but I was willing to accept that discomfort to get some depth perception on my writing ability.

In the first class the teacher described our writing process.  We would each turn in a 1,000 word piece every two weeks.  The teacher would select a few of our writings, then the class and teacher would review and critique our work.  Gulp!  I had been journalling extensively, had written some short works and won praise for them, but this was unveiling my talent at a whole new level.

The class was an hour and a half long. The teacher lectured for the first part of class, then read one of our works, and the class would spend 10 to 15 minutes reviewing it.  We reviewed 3 to 4 pieces per class, and the group was very generative in their comments – honest but gentle. The teacher was a bit more incisive – she got to the heart of the matter candidly and sometimes a bit harshly.

My first piece was not read aloud in class.  I worked hard on a second piece entitled “The Hunt,” about an experience I had as a 14 year old deer hunting with my Dad and his friends.  The story was about how frightened I was being with grown men who were combining poker, whiskey and guns in a very unsafe environment.  I really put myself out there, and didn’t know what response to expect.

When the teacher said aloud “The Hunt,” I felt my heart begin to race and my breathing grow rapid.  I didn’t know what to expect.  As she read the class was very quiet.  She finished, looked up and asked for comments.  The class raved!  “Insightful … brilliant … I could feel myself being there.”  I waited for the teacher’s opinion.  She went through the piece quoting passages and showing how brilliantly the story unfolded and was portrayed.  She said it was almost like the narrator was outside the experience, standing and looking on at the events.  At the end the young boy has almost a living nightmare, the men running down the road after a deer, one of them tripping and falling and shooting his father in the back. The teacher was effusive in her praise of this part.  One of her benchmarks about stories was: “Did it earn the ending?”  She was clear that this story really did earn the ending.

I had tensely been listening and taking notes all over my copy of the story.  I finally looked at my watch and realized that 45 minutes had elapsed.  I left class that day with a new appreciation for my writing gift – I had seen it in a way that none of my friends could make me believe.  A published author – a professional – had raved about my work.

I thought maybe it was a fluke until it happened a second time, on a piece I had written entitled “Fight Night,” about my Dad introducing me to boxing.  The teacher took about 40 minutes to go through that short piece, giving it an equal amount of praise as she did for my first work.

I’ve talked to a lot of writers over the years, and it seems many of us share an uneasiness about “someone might figure out that I really don’t know what I’m doing.”  It must be something that goes with the writing talent.  If the teacher had panned my writing, I suspect some part of me might have been secretly relieved at being able to give up this need to write.

What I discovered in creative writing class was the opposite.  I had a gift, and it was my job to steward that gift – to share it in appropriate ways.  In ways, that was a far scarier prospect than the possibility of having no talent. Yet over the years, facing that fear has been much more rewarding.

Originally published in Write By Night

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

“I Am A Published Author.” In spite of significant obstacles due to deep and damaging messages by his grandmother, an author has his book published, and begins to absorb that reality.

Published in Life As A Human.

Photo Credits:

Crossing The Finish Line ©  Dan Hays. All rights Reserved.

Feature Image – Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »