Today I want to talk about the things that may hold you back from your writing and how you can overcome them leading to articulating your own writing goals. Let me do this by sharing my story. I don’t know if your blocks began early on, but mine sure did.
I have wanted to write since I was about six years old. I loved to make up stories and tell them to my dolls and to my cat, Wednesday. When it came to writing them down I grew frustrated. I could not write as fast as my mind thought nor could I spell half the words that were in my vocabulary and my writing was horrible. I was always getting in trouble by my teacher for my bad handwriting. It did not help she made fun of it as well and called me stupid. Yeah, wonderful teacher. NOT. I think we have all one of those teachers.
As a teen, I told stories to the children I babysat for. When I got my first job as a live-in nanny my little charges turned down their books from the library in favor of my stories. Their parents stood below the vent that led to the kitchen to listen. They too looked forward to my mystery adventures.
Many years later, in college, I would learn that I was dyslexic, ADHD, and was dysgraphic. These things did not bode well for someone whose dream was to become an accomplished writer. Feeling stupid and like a failure, I put my dream on the back burner. I would pull it out every now and then only to retreat back into myself, filled with shame and embarrassment over my handwriting and spelling. How could I ever be a writer with such a mess? I was so hard on myself, unforgiving. The sharp intolerant voice of my sister and brother invading my head.
Every now and then I would write something (well, more like- compelled to write) and read it aloud friends, the family-my family was a good source for feedback as my father wrote He was a professor of theater arts and directing at Brandies University. He knew good writing and how to critique well. In fact, I grew up learning how to give constructive criticism. When my dad had reached a certain point with a script or short story; the family was called together to offer our feedback on what he had written. Okay, to get back on track; I was met with favorable comments on my stories. I began to get feedback that I had a lot of talent. And still, I withheld writing every day and submitting my work. Even after graduating from Hunter College with a BA in English & Creative Writing and had had my poetry published! It would take several more years before something clicked and I grew a pair.
I started to surround myself more with other writers and wannabe writers. I signed up for workshops and joined meetup groups. I took notes and listened a lot. That is where the change began. Listening to other writers express their own self-doubts with their writing, hearing about their daily struggles and how they came to find, no not find, but take. They began to take the time to write every day. Whether that meant getting up in the wee hours of the morning or burning the midnight oil. They took it, time. Mothers began to inform their children and their husbands that from such and such a time, they were off limits. Mom was having her writing time. No interruptions permitted unless they involved profuse bleeding or projectile vomiting.
A memory stirred in me as I listened to these stories. When my father was in his study, no one was permitted to disturb him, unless, you know, profuse bleeding, projectile vomiting or fire. In fact, when the babysitter arrived to take care of us on those rare occasions my parents went out; the instructions were to, “make sure you take the script!”. The “script” was kept on the antique washstand next to the door, wrapped up tight, sealed in a new garbage bag. I wondered, “take the script, but what about us?”granted, that was extreme but now I understood. How many times had I put my manuscript before the welfare of my kids? There were those times had I been writing and forgotten to feed them until they came wandering in complaining how hungry they were at 8:00 at night, um, their bedtime. Thank goodness they are teens now and will just go help themselves when hungry. Another reason my writing was so sporadic over the years. Guilt.
After hearing about these writers taking their time that they had to have in order to write, started to hit home. What made me think I was not worthy of this? I had had tremendous guilt over my kids waiting so long to eat which did not happen often, of taking any time at all to write. I didn’t feel worthy of owning my time. These writers felt the same fears I had and they didn’t have dyslexia or dysgraphia to contend with. It occurred to me that dyslexia and all of that just slowed me down but it didn’t have to block me from my dream. Especially now with the wonders of technology. I even heard of writers using dictation programs who didn’t have any kind of learning disability. It never occurred to me, to use something just because it was made things easier. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is a smart thing to do.
I continued going to meetups and workshops. I joined my local chapter of Sinc (Sister’s in Crime, mostly women who write mysteries) and TAF (Triangle Area Freelancers) I heard more and people share their personal writing experiences. I even met a successfully published writer who was dyslexic! If she could do it, that meant I could too.
When I heard well-known published authors share their fears about their own writing, I was transfixed. They have been accomplished authors with big publishing houses. Some of them had movies and TV series made from their books. Yet, they still face these same fears I had about writing. The one constant they had that I did not,t they wrote, daily. I wrote hap-hazardly.
I began to think over my life. When I was dancing, I made sure I never missed a class even when it was blizzarding like mad outside. I went. No one else did, but my teacher was there and gave me a private class! I let nothing get in my way back then. I used to walk into the American Ballet Theater School of Ballet and take the scholarship class. No, I was not on scholarship or even enrolled in the school. I did the same kind of thing when studying to become a pastry chef. Why did I let things get in the way of my writing? I realized it came down to my fear and my priorities. I was not making writing a priority the way I did my dancing or in becoming a pastry chef. If I were going to be serious about my writing then I needed to go ahead and feel my feel and do it anyway. I needed to treat writing as a number one priority.
Okay, I understand that part now, but I still want a group of some kind. I had tried critique groups in the past and they ended in disaster. Most people do not know how to constructively critique a piece. Saying,”that was really good,” or “I liked it” or “I didn’t get it, it is awful,” are not helpful. I knew if I wanted a critique group I would have to facilitate it and it will be by invitation only. But, I am not ready for that yet. Yet, I wanted something a place where I can help others get going. A place where we share our fears, concerns, and triumphs. Then it hit me. A Facebook Group. I had been wanting to do some kind of group and a writing group was perfect. I realized after going to all of these meetups, workshops, and conferences that there are tons of writers out there who want to get started, to develop better writing habits, or want to get back to their writing. They too have the same fears, same concerns about their work. With the training I have had as a writing teacher, reading teacher, my training in the AWA (Amherst Writer’s and Artist’s) method by Patricia Schneider in facilitating professional writing workshops, I am qualified to do this.
Part of my dream is to have a safe supportive community for writers. An online group is perfect. A place where we can be there for one another. In addition to my closed Facebook group, I decided to do this podcast, Pen Wize and have my website, penwize.net and there will be Youtube videos as well. All meant to be interactive. The FB group a real meat and potatoes group to share as much as people are comfortable with about their writing process and their writing life. The podcast as an instructional tool and sharing about the writing life. Down the road, I will have guest authors, guest teachers of creative writing, and shows on publishing. My website, penwize.net a central location of my blogs, shows, and videos, as well as place for resources for writers and a calendar of events. Visiter’s can leave comments, email me or even call leaving a voicemail. Each of these interacting with the other keeping the connection going.