Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On headbands and writing

I was never without my notebook and pen.
Image courtesy of Stefan van Bremen
rgbstock.com
Happy Tuesday! Today is Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about myself?" day, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a little about how I began writing.

I've been writing stories and poems from the moment I learned to print, but it wasn't until I was around twelve that I wrote the first story I can remember with clarity. It was a short about a twelve-year-old girl who caved in to peer pressure and shoplifted some headbands from a department store. She was caught, of course, and the rest of the story was about the Big Life Lesson she learned. Never mind that I had no firsthand knowledge about the topic. I didn't care. I just wanted to tell the story, and so I told it--simple as that. My seventh-grade creative writing teacher (I wrote about her here) encouraged me to do more writing, and I did, using most of my free time to tell tales and pen poems. I was happiest whenever I had a notebook and pencil in my hand.


The words didn't come easily.
Photo by Anna Langova,
courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Not long afterward, though--right about the time in high school when I decide I wanted to be a Writer with a capital W--writing started to get more difficult. Ideas didn't come as freely, and neither did words. Where I had once found writing freeing, I began to find it somewhat enslaving. It became something I felt I had to do rather than something I really wanted to do, and I started to have doubts about whether I was good enough to make it. Instead of writing, I began worrying. I worried about my ideas, my word choice, my writing process. I even worried about things I really had no business concerning myself with at that early stage, like marketability and appeal. My Inner Critic had come to town and worked me into a writer's block that lasted for nearly a year. I didn't think I had it in me to write again.

Eventually, though, I did, and what brought me back was the realization that writing is supposed to be hard. It's supposed to take time and effort. Once I let those thoughts sink in, I was able to tell my Inner Critic to scram, at least for a time. Writing still isn't easy, of course--and as I said earlier, it isn't meant to be--but I've found my way back to that twelve-year-old girl who wrote freely and without abandon about whatever was on her mind, and every day as I practice my craft I'm learning more and becoming a stronger writer.

And my Inner Critic? He's still around, of course, but Charis, my muse, helps me kick his butt. ;)



We all have a passion. For some, it's writing, and for others, it's something else. So for those of you who are also writers, how did you get started? And if you're not a writer, tell me about what made you decide to follow your passion.

42 comments:

  1. it is so cool that you always wanted to be a writer and that you had such a wonderful encourager at such a young age

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  2. Isn't it amazing that when we're young, stories pour out of us. My boys challenge me everyday to tell them a story, and I realize that I make it a lot more difficult than I have to.

    I admire those that know their passions and follow them. I'm still trying to figure out mine. I've been visited by several, but haven't seem to commit to any yet.

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    1. Yes, ideas were a dime a dozen when I was a kid. Now it takes a lot more work to find a good one.

      Good luck finding your passion. :)

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  3. I've always loved writing. But more recently, like 5-6 years ago, a friend of mine got me back into it.

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    1. I bet you're glad she (or he) did, right? :)

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  4. It seems like you've found the right balance between excitement for writing and looking at it as a craft. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  5. That's funny, the same thing happened to me. I think it must be the pressure or something - once we decide it's what we MUST do, it becomes a lot harder!

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    1. I agree; I really do think it's the pressure. Writing was so much easier before I knew I wanted to be a writer. ;)

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  6. way to teach that inner critic a lesson! angela b recently wrote a post on helping her muse do that too =)

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    1. I'd love to read it. Do you have a link?

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  7. I have a inner critic I've tried to have murdered unsuccessfully several times over! I was writing since I could print too. I've always told stories and I don't think I'll ever be able to stop.

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    1. Not a bad way to live life, huh? ;)

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  8. I started writing when I was about nine years old, and wrote like my depended on it through my teen years. Then I decided that writing wasn't really a "real" job, and that even if it was I wasn't good enough, so I didn't take any extra writing classes while I was getting my Associate's Degree. I do have the "real" job, but it doesn't make me happy. I've started writing again, especially during the past few years. My husband found some of my old stuff and has really encouraged me to start back and keep at it.

    I'm glad you and your muse are kicking your Inner Critic's butt. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Danielle!

      Good for your husband! It's so important to have that kind of support. :)

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  9. Great post--it can be so hard to get the inner critic to quiet down. Mine makes first drafts unbearable--at least while I'm drafting the middle.

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    1. Oh, yes, the dreaded middle. I hear you.

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  10. Nice posting and mine is journalism and a just few little stories that just set there in a notebook.

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    1. I used to be a journalist, and I taught college journalism as well! It'd be fun to talk about this sometime. :)

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  11. I too, loved to write as a kid. Now that I'm an adult and have deadlines to meet and revisions to make, I see how much work it really is. That's why I like doing blogs - no pressure. Just writing fun.

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    1. Yes, the pressure can be stifling, that's for sure. Glad you have a fun outlet in your blog!

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  12. Yes, we certainly do cause our own grief and problems sometimes.
    Glad to hear you overcame that critic!
    Heather

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  13. Do you still have the story you wrote way back when? I never considered writing would be hard work; I assumed if one had a talent to write, the words would flow.....as you can tell, I don't consider myself a writer :)

    I enjoyed reading about how you got your start, so to speak, as a writer :)

    betty

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    1. Thanks, Betty.

      I think that story is buried in a box in the garage. Maybe I should unearth it one of these days...

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  14. I'm just passionate all together but don't pour the passion into one direction long enough to master something. Pretty much a professional dabbler in fact.

    I do enjoy writing of course but I need a subject that interests me to write about. If I'm really involved and excited in something, then writing about it flows so easily. However, right now, I'm stuck. I'm having a brain fart and can't think of anything interesting to blog about.

    For many years I was passionate about acting. Acting came about because a friend of mine was going to be in a play. I sat in on one of the rehearsals and quickly became hooked (I was 9 years old at the time).

    Writing happened at about the same age. I had an assignment to write a descriptive paragraph and chose to write about my friend's cluttered closet. My friend's dad read it and couldn't stop laughing. He kept asking me how I chose the subject. I was encouraged by his apparent appreciation for it lol... At the same time he read one of my essays about a girl on a ship (don't really remember what it was all about) whom I had named Mae Carpenter. He was tickled by this as well. Those are my earliest memories of wanting to write - and feeling like I could.

    Right now I'm fascinated by publicity. I want to learn more about advertising and how to capture the public's attention. It's consuming me and is a lot of fun lol

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    1. Publicity would be fascinating!

      I understand what you said about needing a subject that interests you. I've been a little stuck in my fiction writing of late. I can't seem to settle on a idea that keeps me interested for more than a day or two, so the writing has been going very slowly.

      I love your story about the writing assignments! It's so wonderful to have someone be so encouraging. That's exactly the way my creative writing teacher was.

      Good luck with getting out of your writing slump. :)

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    2. Thanks, your post got me out of the slump ;-)

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  15. I started writing at nine, but I always wrote to figure things out and think out loud. I never considered myself a writer until I went to college at 48 years old and all those years of journaling and writing letters and verbal storytelling...turned out professors and other students considered me a writer. I was encouraged to enter contests at school and won. I was encouraged to submit to literary magazines and got published a few times. Won a local poetry contest the newspaper held. (A lady even paid the entry fee for me and I won $2000 for a poem!!) But my health deteriorated badly and I was forced to quit college. Haven't done any proper writing-writing since I left in 2004.

    But I learned in college that I couldn't write fiction--at all. I felt terribly uncomfortable--like I was lying. Even though I have been writing since I was nine, it has all been my truth and I was never one to make up stories. So, I'm a non-fiction--creative non-fiction--essayist--memoir writer--whatever people want to call it. Just what I've written all my life. College taught me how to polish it up proper if I need to. ;)

    Maybe because they are my own true stories, I don't have muse problems. I have more a which story to tell problem. And most of them involve other people who are alive and that is my main issue. I have gone through years of forgiveness and I don't want to make anyone else look bad in other people's eyes, you know? All my close friends and family have heard all the stories and are basically bored with them--LOL! But, I guess I am a writer, regardless. Even if these days I blog and write letters. :)

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    1. You're a writer. :)

      I completely understand what you mean about not wanting to make other people look bad. I run into the same problem myself with my memoir.

      Congrats on your awards and publications! How wonderful! Do you think you'll ever try to publish more poetry?

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    2. Not sure. I haven't "written-written" since college. I pretty much stuck to poetry and short stories in school. Funny--didn't even want to take poetry class and I've had more poems published than short stories--LOL! I've been running into all you writers and authors online and it has gotten me thinking about it more. ;)

      Have a great day!! :)

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    3. It sounds like you have a natural gift for poetry. :)

      Hope you have a great weekend!

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  16. I've been writing since I was four and reading since I was three. It's just always been something I've done, with the words naturally flowing out of me. Many times, it's like a book was writing me, instead of me writing it. I always considered myself a writer, albeit an unpublished one. The term "aspiring writer" has always confused me, since to me, if you write, that alone makes you a writer. There's nothing "aspiring" about actively writing!

    I kind of regret giving up querying so quickly a decade ago. but it's never too late to break in. I think I'd rather be known as someone who wasn't published till her thirties and then be praised because some of my manuscripts were originally written when I was in my teens and twenties, instead of ridiculed for the type of less than mature or professional writing I've seen in other writers who did actually get published at those ages, without all those years of maturation to correct flaws in earlier works.

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    1. I agree with you. I also would rather be published later in life, when my writing was more mature. Of course, my thirties have already almost passed me by. Maybe I can be a forty-something published writer. :)

      Oh, I feel the same way about the word "aspiring." Either you're a writer or you're not.

      Thanks for your comments!

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  17. We writers are a vulnerable bunch, aren't we? I can relate to everything written above. The inner critic, the lack of confidence, the moving away from writing and then returning...it's such a journey. What we are all trying to do is just be heard. Express ourselves from the heart. Have our voice expressed in the world. Every heart wants to be known. I've learned that most of writing is to just keep plugging. Get the words on paper. Some will be great, some will be awful. It's OK. The process is part of the journey. And yes, it is surprising sometimes that writing is so hard. An author I looked at recently, said, "writing is hard. Like brain surgery. Only nobody dies." I loved that! Great post, Dana! So glad you stuck w/ it!

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    1. That's a great quote--and so true!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  18. Dana, I've been like this since childhood also. I haven't been doing as much writing as I should and I'm really trying to shock myself back into doing it. I hope I can get back on track with it.

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    1. You can do it!

      Maybe we should form our own accountability group. :)

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