Getting Past The Shoulds To Write
During the past few months I have received many questions asto how I have gone from an unknown writer to over comingsociety's adversarial thoughts on what writing should be andbecome a well known writer. So, today, I was inspired towrite on this. Let me present a gist of my story. And likeall stories there's always more depth.
When it comes to being judged by society's belief of whatgood writing is, I thoroughly understand the pressure. Beenthrough that. For years I was a closet writer because thefeedback I received from writing instructors (from variouslevels) was, "your writing is...is...is different and I'mnot really qualified to comment." I took this to mean, "Iwas a lousy writer." So daily, I quietly wrote, read it,agreed, and tossed it into a growing set of boxes.
Years and 72 boxes later, my insides were screaming. Thescreaming displayed itself in anger everything I did andeveryone I touched. After my father died, I was fed up withlife, society, and all the shoulds in my life. I knew I wasangry at something but had no idea what at that time. Witha full level of frustration and disgust, I decided to giveup everything, take off a year, and travel to every writingconference, study anywhere I could, with anyone I could, and"really" learn to write. I had no idea what I was lookingfor at the time. Now I realize that I was looking for mypersonal voice and my writing voice.
After traveling I returned home to Virginia not feeling thatmuch better about my writing than when I started. I didnotice that my skin was a little tougher but I was stillangry, still embarrassed about my call to write. And as faras my skill level, I didn't feel there was much improvement.The feedback I received was similar to what I receivedbefore. One teacher, at a workshop at Puget Sound WritingConference, Washington state, told me, "If I kept working atit maybe (with a big voice emphasis at maybe) some day in 10years or so I will be good enough to release my writing."
Occasionally a light appeared in my tunnel. One time waswhen I was attending the International Writer's Guild (IWG)yearly retreat in Syracuse, New York. Hundreds of womenwriters, all supportive, all different in so many ways. Thepositive energy was empowering. I took away from this thatthere wasn't any exact science to writing. Learning totrust my own womanhood at 52 was a completely new eyeopening experience for me. There was a shift in my writingvoice.
A few weeks after my year, I woke up crying. Not a gentlesob but a whaling one. I was pissed. I was angry. At theworld, at myself, at the lamp shade, it didn't matter. Ikicked shoes, took walks, and wrote pages in my journaltrying to understand what was happening. There was a rage,an internal fight between what feedback and theirsuggestions and my internal dialogue. Later I realized thewriter inside was fighting to get out.
Afterwards, my pissed let to, "screw everyone." I apologizefor the language ladies and gents but I'm sharing my truth.I decide to just put it out there and let it land where itmay. Grammar mistakes, imperfections, whatever emerged.Let the commas be too many or too few.
The first time I had to let go it took me a week of internaldialoguing, and more edits than I'm willing to admit to, inorder to let go. (Actually my first experience with overediting.) My emotions changed by the hour. My family ranfor the hills and didn't know what to do with me. I didn'teven know what to do with me.
The first time an English specialist sent me theirsuggestion that I might want to improve on my grammar first,mind you they never were specific of where or even what theywere reading, I would cry again. This would cause me tostop writing for the remainder of the day. The next day Iwas back to a "what the he__" again (thank goodness).
Next I wanted to tackle adding discipline to my writing.Boy 'o boy that was easy to say yet hard to implement. Isoon learned that I preferred cleaning out the refrigerator,even visit the dentist rather than sitting down at aspecific time to write. Since then and over time, I learnedhow this same avoidance rippled its way into other places inmy life.
At no given time did I ever suffer from writer's block. Ialways felt comfortable writing on almost anything (ablessing and a curse). The curse being I was spreading myfocus too thinly. Yet, I was happy and having a ball andthat's why I kept on doing it that way. Looking back, now Ican see how badly I needed to release all my bottled upemotions at that time.
Success at focusing in didn't come easy. But eventually theexcuses ran out and the emotions balanced it started to comenaturally. When I learn to place my needs first, which alsomeant writing, anger never emerged. In fact, I was downright pleasant to be around the rest of the day. Mydiscipline started with one hour of writing every morningand has evolved into a 5 to 8 morning experience and an hourin the evening reviewing my days notes.
The more I wrote, the more outlet opportunities knocked onmy door. I began three ezines, including a daily. Then Ibegan writing for other professionals and Internet andmagazine articles.
When I began to allow my writings to go public, even oneemail from about my English skills set me to tears and Icouldn't write the rest of the day. Thank goodness itdidn't last and the next morning I was writing again. Atthat moment I realized the importance of a disciplinedwriting time.
Eventually, I began to receive feedback on how people lovedwhat I wrote, liked my ideas, and by passed the occasionalgrammar error. My name even found its place in a few localnewspapers including the Washington Post. The positivefeedback was far bigger than the "you've need to do better"messages. They began with three pats to one scolding. Thenmoved to six pats to one. Then 30 pats to 1.
And the most amazing part -- I was happier than ever. Youcould find me starting my weekend day writing at McDonalds(the only place open at 6 am), by 10 at the bookstore, by 3the library, by 6 returning home and satisfied. There werebum times on park benches especially in the spring, museumsand shopping malls when the weather was nasty. At myfrequent stops employees or regulars stopped and asked whatI was working on and willingly shared their thoughts andideas on the topic. Some agreed, some didn't, but the magicwas my writing was richer because of them, because of theenvironmental switches.
My writing kept improving and what I produced tripled.Occasionally I would read something I previous wrote and satnumb, not believing, "I wrote, that!" My inner critic evenstopped punching.
Now my pat to grammar email ratio doesn't matter. I knowthere's more to learn yet I'm so glad my writing is out inthe public eye. I write every chance I can and make thespace for it in my life. Topics don't matter nor does firstquality matter. Just as long as it's on a page somewhereand safe.
A little while back I began outlining (Mind Maps) beforewriting. Previously outlining wasn't my thing. I've alsolearned that if there I don't have a certain number ofpoints don't begin to write. Yet even I don't have enoughto begin writing, my mind is still tumbling and building andsomething better always appears. Something that couldn'tappear without the tossing first.
Over the years, my penmanship has gone from good to worse.What I have also realized is that my first draft issometimes just me jumping and trying to find my way aroundon the topic. Almost like a maze. Afterwards, I highlightthe good and usually find there is more than one topic to gowith.
My advice to people who desire to write -- follow yourheart. Trust that it will lead you down the right path.Trust today's writing will always look different tomorrowand your writing will always improve and evolve the more youwrite. Not any book you read, writing conference youattend, the best lessons are learned by writing regularly.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Big things come from thesmallest actions." The light will come after you completemany small actions. The same as I did and many who precededme, there is light available in the tunnel and you will seechanges within yourself that will transfer onto the pages.Writing will always be an evolving process, even after thePulitzer.
Worry about the grammar until its time, not before. If youlearn one writing tip a week and work it into your writingall week, it can't help but improve because that's 52improvements a year.
You don't need a lot, one word can do. For one year I wrote394 articles from one word -- honor. Every time I completedone article the word was complete, another appeared. If Ihad thought I could write this many articles from one wordbefore this experience I would laugh at you. Eventually Icalled a truce. It was amazing watch my bar as it keptgetting higher. An experience that fuels my beliefs today.Whenever I began to write another honor story I wastransitioned to age seven watching my Dad pitch the ballagainst the steel milk bottles, feeling like I just won the1st prize teddy bear. Yes, the biggest one on the topshelf, the one that looks twice my size.
At times the thoughts were firing so rapidly it forced me tostop what I was doing and write what I could. Many times Ihad to pull off the road and get it down.
Even today there are times when my writing doesn't makesense but I know now that I can't get to the next pointuntil I get rid of this stuff first. Like many writers, weall have a few boxes or stacks of these.
For everyone who feels a pull to write but hasn't. Let mequote Nike, "just do it." Let all the inhibitions go, theyare nonsense until after all the editing. Let the commasfall where they may. Write without any attachment to theoutcome. That comes later.
It took time for my writing to turn into a hundred thousanddollar business. Even a year ago I wouldn't have thought itpossible and would have just laughed at the though. I amhappier than ever. No crying, just writing. No kicking theshoes. No more doubt of my possibilities (okay, some butvery small). Be free, write and let it lead you wherever itneeds to go.
Nothing you or I write will ever be lost. Fight for yourwriter's life, it's worth the battle. Especially don't letanyone should all over you.
(c) Copyright Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.
Catherine Franz, writer, speaker, marketing master, specializes in infoproduct development. More at:http://www.MarketingStrategiesToGo.com andhttp://www.AbundanceCenter.com. Including articlesand ezines.
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