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Fearless Writing - a book review

Writing, Good ReadsDeane WattersComment

When I sit down to write, sometimes anxious feelings well up in me and thoughts arise, telling me that I'm really not a very good writer.  My thoughts sometimes overwhelm , at which point I stop, pray for the truth, take a deep breath and begin again. I understand this is a common difficulty even to published authors, so I don't feel alone in fighting the internal critic.

But you can imagine why, while browsing through the writing section at Barnes and Noble, this particular book title stood out to me:

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 Writing Fearlessly is profoundly different from any other writing book I have read.

  • He writes that it is impossible to write and be afraid. Confidence is steady and predictable as the sun. But you must choose to rest in it and write from it.
  • He advises writers to pay attention to how they feel and if they love what they are writing, those who read it will love it too. "If I were allowed to offer only one simple, practical piece of advice to every writer I knew, it would be this: Pay attention to how you feel, both when you're writing and when you're not. Nothing has been more useful to me as a writer and as a person, than paying attention to and caring about how I feel."
  • "You will find your confidence and begin to write fearlessly the moment you stop caring about what anyone else thinks...No one is looking over your shoulder, no one is reading what you have written, and no one has an opinion about it. Right now you are alone and it is time to write."

Kenower's suggestions and encouragement, borne through years of his own writing experience, are solid and easy to apply to my own work. Since reading this book I have tried to take his advice to heart. It has given me an inner strength to keep pressing forward in my writing by getting into the flow and doing my best to write what I love without unease or fearfulness.

This advice is extremely helpful. I think you will think so too.

Do you find yourself battling writing fears? I'd love to hear about them.

 

Dear Rachel #2

WritingDeane WattersComment

Dear Rachel,

I've been away from my writing desk for quite some time! It was an intense summer and my blog writing took a back seat to the many other things that were pulling for my heart and attention. I did not step away from journaling in my daily notebook however because that is where much of my processing, planning, praying, and remembering takes place.

Playing with words has continued to entice me even though I couldn't sit down with my computer in my writing studio. This month, while on vacation, I found ways to keep them in front of me by doing some tiny writing assignments* on my Instagram feed. I really love when a photo challenge is offered there. These challenges gives me a daily word and I find a photo to share and then play with words to make it more meaningful to me and hopefully to my followers. The shortness keeps it fun. How do I pack a punch in just a short paragraph? I find that often the words just tumble out and fall together beautifully! Sometimes I go back to read them and savor how they sound together. That is a word geek at her best! 

Dear Rachel,

WritingDeane WattersComment

Thanks for your email.  I feel quite honored and excited to be asked by you to share a bit about my writing journey. It has been a long road and I'm a bit of a slow walker but word by word, piece by piece, I have come to where I am today. I'm delighted for the opportunity to look back at my writing life and to encourage you to move forward in yours as you head into your final year of college. As a young girl I  loved to read and to write. I looked forward to essay test questions in high school because I could write around answers easily. It was a pleasure to put the words down and see what I could come up with. Recently I found a Five Year Diary that had been given to me on my thirteenth birthday. For five years I religiously wrote a sentence or two every day about whatever seemed important at the time. I discovered how boy crazy I was since there were a whole lot of entries about guys: how cute Chuck was, how James in my class didn't ask me out, how I would love Joel forever! But it also showed me that when I was a teenager I knew the power of words. I used this compelling tool to understand my feelings, to lament over my struggles, and to pray. I really didn't critique my writing much then because it was just for me. It didn't feel like pressure because it was more of a release, a tool to strengthen and to grow me.

My family had many tensions and being the youngest of four children I found that paper and pen were my greatest friends. I journaled to discover and untangle how I felt about everything in my world. It was all very complex to me. My favorite person in the whole world was my mom and the pressures she felt influenced my view of life. The search for peace in her marriage led her to church, which then led her to a deep life of faith and prayer. I found her to be my guide and ally in every way and as I grew, I also became a woman with a deep faith, full of hope and trust in God.

As life would have it, I graduated from high school and college, traveled for a year with a Christian singing team, went off to my first teaching job, met my husband and got married. Within a few years we gave birth to our first son. I found ways to write during these years by adding to my personal journals, writing articles for women's ministry newsletters and sometimes putting together devotionals for baby or bridal showers. Homeschooling our children in the elementary years, I offered them many opportunities to write and to grow in their understanding of the effect of words. I'll have to admit that all three can pack a powerful punch with their words today, these many years later. In those years I longed to develop my own writing skills but often decided that I didn't have the time. And maybe I didn't.

After working with a counselor friend and taking some classes at Keys to Living and House of Hope, I realized that this practice of not giving myself enough time to attend to the things I really loved was a pattern of not truly caring for myself. I also didn't really know myself because I was more tuned into other people's needs rather than my own. So I began a journey of self discovery. I hired a life coach to help me determine my life purpose.  The Enneagram Personality Test told me that I am a Peacemaker. No surprise. Carefully going through the book, Strength Finder, I found more parts to this person I call me and was delighted to find bits of my true self tucked beneath the layers and years of unsureness and insecurity. I read many books, participated in many Bible studies and took classes to help me understand more.

One of the things I learned was that I needed to pay attention to the me God created and not spend so much energy wishing I was someone else with other strengths and talents. He, in his glorious plan, gave me the love of writing (among many other things) and I  could  respond with a yes that would lead me farther into knowing myself better and allow me to go deeper in my faith. I decided to offer myself time to honor him by developing this gift of writing.

So five years ago (or so) our daughter set me up with my first blog site. Finally, a place to write with a way for others to read my writing! I wrote with much joy. But a new difficulty arrived with this space... there was always an opportunity for  readers to leave comments....

To be continued...

another writer's circle

WritingDeane Watters1 Comment

2016-03-08_0001Today our Writer's Circle met for the fourth time. Eager to be together again, we talked a bit about our week, asked a few questions about the writing process and found ourselves ready to write. Closing our eyes, taking a moment to settle in, we readied ourselves. After a few moments I spoke out, "With eyes closed, imagine yourself face to face with an animal. Pick the first image that comes to mind. When you feel ready, quietly put your pen to paper and write."

Slowly, one by one, each of us picked up a pen and put it to the paper.

Using a prompt offers a unique way to get started writing. We may think we know the direction it will go, but quickly realize it's moving in a way we least expect. We keep scratching out words to discover what will happen next! This offers an element of surprise and keeps us curious as we write. Every person receives the same prompt but everyone's outcome is different.

After writing, each woman was invited, if she was comfortable, to share what she had written. All of us understood that these were rough drafts and that rough drafts are just...well...rough! But there will be time later for editing and careful working with the words to produce a finished piece. We bravely shared our words, vulnerably offering them to this safe group.

So, "face to face with an animal"...brought us to an appreciation of the uniqueness in each person's perspective. We came face to face with a variety of animals but they were not what you might think! We looked for words and phrases that gave clues. What animal was she writing about? Was there a deeper meaning? Listening for repetition, descriptions, rich words and deeper thoughts, kept us all focused and attentive. Everyone understood the fear that surrounded the sharing. But...after each reading we experienced the unexpected: an intake of breath, goosebumps, oohs and ahhs, gentle satisfied smiles and not a small amount of surprise for the listener as well as for the reader/writer.

When it was my turn, I read my piece aloud. What you see here isn't my initital rough draft. I've done quite a bit of editing since reading it out to our group.

Teen-age Angst 

Upstairs in the tiny bedroom of the rental on Second Avenue,  she curls up in her little twin bed with the worn pink bedspread. Her sleepy white puppy curls up in a ball next to her, hiding those brown freckles on his soft pink tummy. Warmth, peace and calmness find their place in this room, within this house and its perplexing traces of unrest.

Although her Mom has already driven off to work hours ago, the morning light is just beginning to show itself through the thin shade covering the small window. Already Beatles music blares from her brother's room while Sonny and Cher smile down from her faded walls. And is that toast she smells wafting up the narrow stairway?

She doesn't care. She's blissfully settled in with that tiny white buddy who is totally hers, totally loyal, totally perfect. They snuggle under warm covers, longing to linger just a few minutes more.

Here, before the day begins, she's not tense. She doesn't have to worry about not having friends. She's not too fat or too shy. She's not  mediocre here in this hidden safe place. She's not too pimply. Here she just is. The two of them together. No one is looking or thinking anything about her. Freckles' big brown puppy eyes are full only of love, acceptance and a place to belong.

Together they rest for a few moments of peace before the relentless voice-in-her-head takes over and she remembers that it is not OK to be who she is. With a deep sigh she rises, dresses, and heads out toward the hallways and classrooms of junior high.

 

I have enjoyed gathering this group of women to experience a safe place to grow as a writer. If any of you local folks are interested in joining us, contact me or House of Hope. We will be setting up another Writer's Circle very soon.