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Fear of Success!

For years, I would take low paying jobs, and not really understand why. It was like I was avoiding a “success” career track, and jobs underutilizing my skills felt safer or more comfortable.

Then I began to build a very successful career, almost in spite of my efforts to avoid it.

I was working in the oil industry, and got to the highest pay level for my profession. I suddenly got tired of the work, and quit.

I never could understand what was happening for many years.

Then I uncovered a violent incident from my childhood. My Dad let me know it was dangerous to be successful, or to think I was “better than him.”

I’ve worked hard to turn this pattern around.

The thing that has changed – how quickly I can recognize the pattern and let it go when it crops up.

I’ve been writing promotional scripts freelance, for whiteboard video scripts. It is a LOT of fun – I get to weave a story into the description of the product or service.

Recently, I have worked on:

-A community center for inner city Los Angeles

-Scripts for natural cholesterol, blood pressure and sleep aids

-A large scale initiative to develop homeless shelters

-A program to help college students focus and succeed

-A lot of other projects of a more commercial type

It’s a blast! I’m really enjoying myself, and I am very good at what I do. My creativity is in explode phase, and each project is a new challenge, so the work never gets stale.

A couple of days ago, I realized that the past month was my most successful ever, and that I was crossing a threshold to make this a very successful writing career.

Then yesterday, I could feel myself pulling into “it will never work out” feelings.

I realized that those feelings weren’t based in reality, and indeed – the opposite was happening. I was in reality becoming very successful!

I stepped out of the Fear of Success pattern and disengaged from it.

It took until today for me to realize what a huge deal this is.

The pattern will no doubt crop up again, but I have a way to get out of it. Instead of just living in the pattern, avoiding success, and not being aware.

Now I can succeed, and not try to run from it!

This feels very very good!

:)

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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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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.

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My Dad disappeared

For about a year

When I was seventeen.

The last I saw him,

We left him

Passed out drunk

On the living room couch.

Relatives came and got

My Mom, sisters and me

Leaving Dad

Who wouldn’t quit drinking

Who wouldn’t accept help.

I thought

I might ever see him again.

 *

Later

He returned to our lives

A changed man.

He sobered up

Got back his old job

Built back his old life.

*

But twenty years later

After he died

I realized

I never knew what happened

When he disappeared.

When he was on the edge

Of killing himself

With the drink.

Rumor had it

That he worked

The wheat harvest

Something he had done

In college.

Wheat Harvest

*

I started to write

The story of what I thought

Might have happened.

I realized

The piece I was missing

Was what it would be like

To work on

The wheat harvest.

*

I said to a friend

“Someday…

Someday,

If I ever want to

Really explore

My Dad’s story.

I might just have to

Work the wheat harvest.

My friend Pat

Listened quietly.

 *

Later he said

“You’ve talked about

working the wheat harvest

three or four times.

I just want to mention

Someday – if you want

To work the wheat harvest.

I have relatives in Oklahoma

Who do that each year.”

*

I did what I do

When hit with

The unexpected.

I sat there

Numbly,

Quietly.

And then said

“Thanks for telling me.”

Talk about upping the ante

On a spiritual quest

To walk in

My Dad’s shoes.

My friend had

Certainly done that.

Now I was left

To put it all out there,

Or leave it as “someday.”

*

I finally called Pat

And asked if he would

Do me a favor.

Check with his relatives

To see if I might

Join their harvest crew

For the summer.

*

Meanwhile,

I tried to figure out

If this was

Completely nuts.

Quit my job,

Go off and work

On a harvest crew

To find out about

My Dad’s story.

I checked it out

With Scott – a good friend

Who was really grounded.

He’d give me a solid answer,

Besides, he was

An accountant.

Logical, linear.

I later realized

I was secretly hoping

He’d tell me

“This idea is crazy”

So I could give up

The whole thing.

Instead he said

“Makes a lot of sense

I think you ought to do it!

It will be part of

Your healing.”

Major gulp!

*

Two months later,

I was living in a trailer

In Lone Wolf Oklahoma

With six high school farm kids

Learning to drive a huge truck

Used to haul grain.

And following

My Dad’s story.

*

Bunk trailers and work pickups

Cara - the grain truck I drove on harvest

It was the adventure

Of a lifetime.

We followed the wheat

As it ripened.

Living like nomads.

It was a world

I had never seen before.

Living in an old house trailer

In one place for two weeks

Then moving,

Trailers, trucks, combines

A caravan

To the next farm

As the wheat ripened

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota.

Combines and tractors

*

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I learned many things.

I grew up in the city

But had the heart of a country boy.

I love driving a tractor

Or a wheat combine.

I don’t do well on little sleep.

Living in a trailer,

Farm boys are not

Particularly neat

When Momma’s not there

To clean out the tub.

When pulling wheat from

A plugged up combine

The dust really itches,

When it gets down your neck.

 *

And special things happened.

    I got to visit the filmsite

From Dances With Wolves.

We saw Mount Rushmore,

Me at Dances With Wolves filmsite

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.

All in all

It was a magical summer.

*

It gave me the truth

About what I believe

Happened to my Dad.

How he had

A spiritual awakening

And realized

He had to return

To clean up his past.

I finished the story

I wanted to tell.

I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called

“Nothing Left To Lose.”

 *

But as I look back

What Pat said

When the idea

First came up

Turned out to be the truth.

He had said

“Dan, you think you’re going

On the wheat harvest,

To learn about your Dad.

I think this trip

Will be about you.

You will learn about

Yourself.

Heal yourself.

Claim your own power.”

*

He was right!

I often look back

On the wheat harvest experience

As a turning point in my life.

When I claimed the truth

Dan the writer

Of my path

Not to follow the business world

   Of my Dad and my friends,

But to claim my birthright

As a writer

Dan the writer

A teller of stories.

And a country boy.

I am completely convinced

I did the right thing

In going on harvest

To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

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

Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright – all rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ 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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On the first day of my creative writing class, the teacher opened the discussion by asking “What is a story?”  She suggested that we begin by defining the word.  Several people responded.  I took a minute to think about the meaning, and then raised my hand and said “A story is something that happens to someone.”  The teacher smiled broadly, nodded, and said “That’s it exactly – at the very basic level, the essence of a story is action.”

So what was the best way to tell a particular story, to describe that action?  Over the next several years I read a lot about point of view – mostly looking at first person and third person, and what were the advantages and limitations of each.  First person is confined to the thoughts of the narrator.  Third person can either be omniscient – using the thoughts of all of the characters, or limited – using the thoughts of one character’s mind. After I experimented with point of view, it became apparent that it depended on the story.

Years later I wrote about a time my Dad’s life when he disappeared for a year, worked the wheat harvest, had a spiritual experience in the process.  He returned a changed man.  After his death I realized I’d never asked him what happened.  I started with the part I knew, leading into what might have taken place later.  I decided to make it a novel, and chose the third person omniscient viewpoint.  I wrote in a more detached style, which allowed me the distance to step back and imagine the events objectively.  I could speak from the perspective of various characters as needed.

When the story was about me, “something that happens to someone” still held true.  Something had happened that I wanted to share, and decided to write about it in depth.  Not an original concept.  Many people have written a memoir for that very reason.  The first person viewpoint had an immediacy that helped me capture the emotions and experience of the moment.  I wrote about the events surrounding the time of my father’s death 17 years ago.

I knew what happened, and had journalled extensively about it at the time.  There was plenty of fodder to refresh my memory of the events.  As I wrote I fell into the mode of  “I did this, that happened, I felt this about it, I experienced, and then next I …”  I was in the middle of the events, with no psychic distance.  To tell that particular story, I needed to be that close.  Yet as I wrote, I could feel the events at a physical level.  My heart raced as I felt unsafe when that strange person entered the room.  I smelled the coffee I drank in a restaurant as I chronicled my feelings in a notebook. I felt the heat of Houston on a muggy afternoon in October; heard leaves blowing in the breeze that only stirred up the heat without relief.

Even more happened.  I had never written down everything that took place the week my Dad died.  I heard the jangle as the phone rang; heard my sister say “better come home, Dad is dying.”  I sat in a darkened airplane and wrote brief notes in a small notebook “it’s too soon, I’m not ready for this.”  I walked up to a hospital at night in Tulsa, wondering if it was just my imagination because of the lights, or was this huge building really pink?” (I saw it the next day, and sure enough – it was pink.)

I looked down at my father lying in a hospital bed with a tube down his throat, barely heard the nurse saying he was already functionally gone, and the machines were keeping him alive.  I returned to the room after the machines had been turned off, and his breathing had stopped.  I stroked my father’s forehead, something I never would have dared if he were alive.  I walked into to the “Grief Room” at the hospital, where no one was attending to the needs of my family, sitting and crying all alone.  I pushed down my feelings because someone had to make funeral arrangements, and the task fell on me.

Later in the week, I visited his office at the hospital, heard his boss describe how he had spent his last several years helping others.  I drove just outside Tulsa and walked across his 5 acre pecan orchard, then used his chain saw to cut down a couple of dead trees, a project he and I had shared.  I sat at the dinner table at my parent’s house and went through my parent’s financial papers to reassure my Mom.  I stepped out in front of a packed church to deliver his eulogy.

Of course it was cathartic to write down those experiences – isn’t that one of the biggest benefits of memoir?  I felt the events, experienced them in a deeper way than before, and could release some of the emotional charge they contained.

As the memoir continued I wrote about the events after my Dad died.  I met with a minister to discuss an reservoir of old anger I had discovered – anger at my Dad, anger at God.  I dreamed a man was chasing me with a gun.  I did an inner child exercise, and remembered a violent incident with my Dad when I was a teenager.  Then came some intense healing work.

I did an exercise to cut cords to the feelings I was carrying from generations of my family – an ancestral burden that had weighed me down greatly.  Many nights I released terror from the violent incident.  I relived the violent incident on a feeling level several times.   I wrote down ways I had changed, and burned the papers, to let go of who I used to be.  I dreamed that there was a tiger living in my house.  I knew it was my rage, and had to be dealt with.  I made a commitment to release that rage in safe ways.  There were a number of other healing experiences, and by the end of the memoir, it all led to a new sense of forgiveness for my father.  I wrote down my tremendous gratitude for the whole experience.

Then something happened which I hadn’t envisioned.  After I published the memoir, which I called Freedom’s Just Another Word, I had numerous people say they benefitted greatly from my experience, from reading about my journey and the steps I had taken to heal.  I was genuinely surprised.  I hadn’t seen that coming, but was delighted that it happened.  That was not the reason for the memoir – it just was something I needed to do.  For me it was an enormously healing process.   But if writing a memoir could yield additional rewards like that – helping other people heal and grow – then it was a huge success.

 Originally Published in Laura Schultz Now

Photo Credits:

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

leaves in the wind: jans canon @flickr.com.  Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

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