Your Word Goddess

The way is love

Accepting I’m a writer, finally: It only took about 20 years…

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Have you ever felt as if writing weren’t a real job? That saying you’re a writer is kind of fanciful, and even selfish?

I absolutely have! It’s really ironic because I started reading when I was four and devoured as many books as I could from that time on. I mean I LOVE to read. I love reading stories about people’s lives, their actions, feelings, motivations, everything. And yet, I have struggled with the idea of being a writer for years. Yes, literally years!

Even when I have worked as a writer and editor professionally, I still struggled with the idea of being a novel writer. It was as if it weren’t a real job. That I couldn’t possibly do it and make money.

Who did I think wrote all those books I’ve read throughout the years? It was as if I had a blind spot. Other people can be novel writers, but not me.

And I didn’t really look at it rationally or question why.

That’s it exactly, I didn’t ask the most important question, why not me?

You’d think that someone who’d read so many books and loved them would naturally gravitate towards being a writer, but no. I swear I think I’ve fought the idea tooth and nail for years. Maybe my whole career, which is over 17 years now.

And why didn’t I ask the question? I believe it’s because I didn’t believe I deserved to have a job I completely loved. That I’d do whether I was paid for it or not. That felt more like a calling than work.

And since I’ve started writing my book again, it has suddenly come alive within me. I feel without a shadow of a doubt that writing my novel is what I’m meant to do. Since I finally pushed myself to do it, to take that first step, and then another and another, it is coming together for me.

I realize that not asking myself the question had a lot to do with not living my life for me. I’m sure I was worried what members of my family would say or even think. So I used the idea of not being able to make enough money as a fiction writer as an excuse not to try.

But there was always a part inside of me that worked on it. I spent hours and hours constructing the story and creating a scene weave. Then a while later I started writing it only to realize that my main character was the wrong person and too young. So I then recrafted the story and scene weaves and began again. And that time it worked, and I wrote about 80% of the first draft and stopped. That was about three years ago, but here I am writing it again. And this time I know I’m going to finish it.

Because this time it feels different because I feel different. I finally feel as if I have the right to be a fiction writer. That I would actually be denying myself if I didn’t finish my book and keep writing.

This is all so new to me, feeling worthy. Feeling as if I have the right to be who I am deep inside. In an odd way I feel as if I’ve finally grown up, come into my own. And I am so thankful I finally have.

I can’t live my life being someone I’m not anymore. And because of this decision I’ve had people walk away from me. Was I afraid of that in the first place? Possibly. But anyone who can’t let me be me, isn’t good for me anyway. It is better they keep on walking.

But I’m staying right here with me because I’m a novel writer and I’m going to do it this time.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

How fear can stall your writing: And how to get back on track, one page at a time

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A never-ending novel

Before I started working on my book again, I thought it would take me forever to finally finish it.

I felt as if I were standing at the bottom of a really high mountain looking up, and had a long trek to get up there. The tip of the mountain was even obscured by clouds, so I didn’t know quite how tall it was. Unreachable was the word that popped into my mind over and over.

And then one day I decided I couldn’t put it off anymore. I’d decided that my book was going to get written, and I committed to writing on a regular schedule so that it actually happened.

And do you know what? My perception of the mountain totally changed.

The novel that became endable

It no longer looked all that tall or unreachable anymore. In fact, withing three months, I will likely reach the top–the end of my first draft.

So what felt like it would never come to an end is actually going to much sooner than I ever expected.

How did this happen? How could I see things so differently from one week to another?

I realized it’s all about my perception.

Sidelines versus action

When I was sitting on the sidelines looking up thinking, “Wow, that’s soooo tall!” I wasn’t doing anything. I was stalled. Maybe even intimidated, and a bit afraid.

But then something inside of me said, “This fear sucks and I’m tired of it. I’m going up there, ready or not!” and I did. I put one foot in front of the other, writing one page at a time, and suddenly the mountain became only a hill–and one I can totally climb.

Isn’t this so true of many things in our lives? When we stand back and think of the end it seems unattainable, but when we break it down and work at it bit by bit it gets handled. Even if we’re not quite sure we know what we’re doing when we begin.

Just like

  • parenting,
  • building our education,
  • building our career,
  • learning about ourselves as we grow and change,
  • learning about relationships,
  • gaining friends and losing them,
  • being part of a family,
  • becoming independent.

I admit that my book is writing itself through me and has been since the beginning. That may have frightened me for a while, but I’ve learned to accept the fear and act through it by continuing to write.

And now that I’ve faced my fear, that big old scary tall mountain, it’s become my hill that I can climb in a short time.

I won’t underestimate the power of acting again. I used to feel like I had no control over ever finishing this book, but now I realize I was giving my power away because of fear.

I will try my best not to do that again because I’m already partly up that hill so the top gets closer every day.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Today’s a perfect writing day: It’s overcast and raining

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There are definitely days where I find it easier to go into my office, close the door and write. I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything, well at least not much.

For me, the beautiful sunny days of the summer are the hardest to work on. I can take my laptop outside and work on the patio, but I can’t focus the same way as when I’m in my office.

Then of course there are the squirrels who come around and beg for seeds, and the birds that sing and land on our lawn to eat. Sometimes the rabbit comes out, and even the occasional skunk. I can hear the wind singing through the leaves on the trees, and I think of summer vacations up at the cottage where I could totally disconnect and be one with nature around me.

None of this is conducive to serious writing.

I wonder if I lived in a warm climate all the time, if I’d get used to the heat and sun and beauty and wildlife, and then be able to concentrate once again? Living here in Canada, where we have four distinct seasons, has caused me to always feel that summer is meant for vacation. Our summer is so short and so wonderful that it just seems like the time to play hooky, to walk aimlessly by a lake, to play in the sand, the listen to the birdsong and watch the sun go down in a comfortable chair on the deck. After all, that’s how I spent my summers as a child, so that routine got imprinted on my soul. And I like it.

Maybe one day when I’m a famous writer and I’m making scads of money selling my books, I’ll be able to take the summers off. What a fun idea that is. There I’ll add that to my wish list.

Hey, if you don’t dream then you never know!

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

A writer’s negative self-talk: It’s BS, aren’t you happy to hear?!

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That negative self-talk we love to hate

Do you ever hear yourself saying in your head, “I can’t make any serious money from writing!” or “I’m going to end up a starving writer or a drunk or both!” or “What if I write a book and no one wants to publish it?!” or “What if I write a query and the editor thinks I’m an idiot and never opens my emails again?” and so on?

I do. I hear variations on all those questions moving through my head, especially when I’m feeling disheartened by the writing life. We writers delve deeply into the lives and therefore the emotional lives of our characters, or the topics for our articles and posts, often work in seclusion, and have to push ourselves daily to keep at it, to not give up long before anyone “shows us the money” so to speak.

So why do we write anyway?

Well, I’m sure the answer varies for everyone, but a lot of us I think feel it like a calling. If I don’t write regularly I feel as if I’m practically going through what I imagine withdraw symptoms feel like; I have trouble sitting still, my mind starts to jump all over the place, I have trouble following a conversation and I can even shake a bit. And I begin to feel distinctly disconnected from myself. That’s the worst. I literally feel lost.

That negative self-talk is BS though because we all know of SO MANY writers who make lots of money writing books, blogs, articles and on and on. No it’s not that we believe it can’t be done, it just that it’s such an exposing job.

I guess if you’re writing white papers or technical work it’s not as emotional, and that’s still a great way to make money as a writer, if that floats your boat. But when you’re writing something you’ve poured your heart into like a novel or non-fiction book or a magazine query or blog, it’s a pretty lonely feeling once you’re ready to release it to the world. It feels kind of like getting up in front of your elementary school class and showing them your favourite toy. What if they make fun of you or laugh at you or even worse steal your favourite toy (I had my original rubix cube stolen and I’ve never forgotten it!)? A very exposing feeling.

And did any of you ever take your second favourite toy to avoid the risk? To not feel as vulnerable? I bet we all did at one time or another. But when we’re writing, if we’re playing it safe and not giving it our all because we’re afraid of being rejected then we’re setting ourselves up for less than we deserve.

Writing is about being exposed

It’s about being real. And it takes real courage to do it. But it’s like any other skill, any other art, you’ve got to start at the beginning and keep going and practicing and doing it. Just like professional athletes who begin as children and fall and get up and lose and win. It’s the same progression. I think sometimes our egos get in the way and we forget that. We think we should get that first contract or get published immediately or suddenly have a million followers, but it doesn’t work like that, and if we take a step back and look in from the outside, we know it’s about hard work, perseverance, time, dedication, belief in ourselves and drive.

But there is a payoff. If you do keep at it and believe in yourself, and ultimately be who you truly are, and nothing less, then it will all come together for you. Maybe not immediately, but it will. Just ask J. K. Rowling, Christiane Northrup, Kate Norton, Diana Gabaldon, Laurie King, Jenny Lawson, Jacqueline Winspear and so many more!

I say, if they can do it then so can we!

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Journalling to honour myself: Writing has saved my life

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Journalling through my life

I have been writing a journal for over 35 years. I began as a young girl as a way to express feelings I couldn’t any other way. And also feelings I couldn’t understand.

I didn’t have a safe person close to me that I could confide in. And even though my father is very kind, he doesn’t do emotions very well. Expressing them are not comfortable for him. He was affectionate with me as a child, but doesn’t say he loves me out loud. And me being very happy or excited by something or upset and crying, he just doesn’t know how to handle. Everything needs to be kept on an even keel for him.

And he was the only adult in my life who was ever consistent and reliable and kind to me.

So turning to writing was a natural way for me to express all those emotions, questions, ideas that come up all the time in my mind.

Grateful for my journal

And I’m eternally thankful for it. Journalling is something I do every morning and often before I go to sleep too. It’s like a form of meditation for me. It’s the way I talk to my inner being.

I haven’t always been able to tell myself the whole truth, and therefore I would hide certain things from other people too, but I no longer do that. I have learned that feeling ashamed of who I am hurts myself most of all.

Sometimes I felt ashamed for the way people treated me. I wasn’t in control of situations that came up when I was a child, and those experiences hurt me deeply. I carried that shame inside of me and as I matured and grew into a woman and mother they changed and came out in different ways.

My journal knows all about what’s happened to me, and I have a shelf next to my bed with all my journals from all the years. They’re my private world that I believe is sacred, and a record of me growing as a human being.

I can honestly say that I believe writing has saved me.

How has journalling saved me?

  • It’s allowed me to express things I couldn’t tell anyone else.
  • It’s helped me feel rooted in my life, and a part of something larger than just any worries or concerns I have in my mind.
  • It also brings me peace. I feel more calm and centred after I write in my journal.
  • At it helps me connect with my inner voice, and that’s been invaluable.

I was not encouraged to be truly who I am as a child, and so many people grow up that way. I was considered a black sheep by some of my mother’s family, simply because I am different. And my father’s family found me a scary element because I grew up in the “dangerous” city, while they lived in the country. There was no inclusiveness, it was more the highlighting of our differences.

I have learned that I am who I am, and as long as I understand myself it doesn’t matter if others are able to see me for who I am or not. My family doesn’t but I have my friends and my tribe who do. I have my own life to live, and journalling will always be a big part of it.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Back to writing: Why are my characters being rebellious? They’re just fictional, right?!

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I read through the first draft of my novel. I have 68 pages done and about 40 more to come I think.

I’m beginning the most intricate part of my novel, the ending. When it all comes together. Or when the shit hits the fan depending on how you want to look at it.

As I was reading the first draft, I realized in some ways my characters have done things I didn’t expect them to do. Before I began my book, I worked out a story weave and each character very clearly, but even then situations started popping up as I wrote.

Characters became spontaneous with ideas of their own and even I wondered what they were thinking or talking about. How can a fictional character decide to change my well-planned story? Well, they just can, as I’ve realized.

It’s an exceptional experience when you’re writing and one of your characters does something unexpected. It’s like a “Who’s writing this anyway?” moment. Am I writing the character or is the character writing through me? I still don’t really have an answer for that.

I have learned to just believe in the process and keep going. Even though sometimes I kind of scratch my head in wonder.

And as I read events or dialogue I didn’t anticipate, I realized I’m not sure what is going to happen or even what some of the characters are going to do as my novel moves along and comes to a conclusion.

In my head I’m working on the first of a trilogy. That’s how I envisioned it, but I guess I’ll have to see what my characters want.

I know they’ll be another book after this one because I can kind of see it a bit in my mind’s eye. Some images, some feelings percolating. So the story will continue. That’s good.

I am back to working on my book. I’d like to have the second draft done by the end of this year so I can send it out to my trusted friends for some critiques. I hope that works out. It’s been years I’ve been working on this book. And as I’ve said before, I don’t believe I could’ve written the end until now.

I needed to figure out some things in my own life before I could progress with my main character. Writing is art after all. It takes the time that it takes.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Expressing our inner questions: Writing and reading as therapy

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Writing was something I started as a very young girl.

I could read when I was four and my earliest journals started after my best friend was killed in a fire when I was five, he was only six. That was not something I could make sense of. I wrote from the age of five on about events or feelings I needed to work through or couldn’t understand.

It was a real blessing that I was able to read at four because that was when my mother became abusive with me in earnest. Books have been an escape for me since then, and a fantastic source of information and support.

I remember waking up early and running down to the kitchen and getting a bowl of cereal, bringing it up to my room and curling back up in bed with a book. I read for so long that I’d hear the church bells ring from the church up our street. I used to love that ritual, and did it many times because I remember opening one of my windows so I could hear the bells more clearly. They were always hopeful for me.

And so it is no surprise that I’m a writer and editor. What else would I be after all? Considering how words have helped me make it through my life. Oh, I’ve tried other things: secretary, waitress, sales person. But they haven’t stuck because I always come back to words.

I write every day at least once in my journal, I write this blog, I’m working on a book (or at least trying to) and I edit freelance as well. I am going to start looking for freelance writing work too. Sometimes it comes to me, but I’d like to do it regularly. I find reaching out to people through social media very fulfilling.

It has opened up an avenue to share myself with people that didn’t exist when I was younger.

I have recently been reading Kelly Brogan’s book A Mind of Your Own and watching her videos. I am one of the few people who truly benefited from taking an antidepressant. As soon as I started taking it I could feel my mind stop racing, my nausea abating and my anxiety slowly lessening. But at the time I was already following a reduced diet because I’d developed temporary allergies from having gallbladder disease. After my gallbladder was removed I changed my diet for a year to eliminate the allergies. It worked.

What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. And I don’t eat dairy because I’m intolerant (though sometimes I cheat and eat a slice of pizza or a small ice cream cone). But Kelly Brogan needed to change her diet to feel healthy again and I respect that.

What I’m interested in is her discussion about childhood abuse and depression because for me I know there’s a definite link. What my mother did was bullying and gaslighting, which for a four-year-old girl is more than devastating.

Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity. The classic example of gaslighting is to switch something around on someone that you know they’re sure to notice, but then deny knowing anything about it, and to explain that they “must be imagining things” when they challenge these changes.

A more psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim–having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused and less able to trust their own memory and perception.

I got these definitions from the Urban Dictionary.

And that was my young life. So no wonder reading and writing were such a solace to me. I could express myself freely in my journal, one of the only places I felt safe and I could live through other people through all the books I read and loved.

As I got older I was drawn to the self-help books that started me on my journey to healing. I have read so many and they’ve all helped me the way I needed help at different points in my life.

I just finished A Mind At Home With Itself by Byron Katie. An absolutely life-changing book that has affected me so profoundly in every way, but especially in the way I treat and perceive myself, and therefore, of course, others.

I am almost finished The Proof by James Twyman. The first time I picked that up I could only get about halfway through, but I am almost finished so I’m going to make it this time.

I also picked up Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life a while ago and again got halfway through. It’s likely time I started that one again. I have come a long way and the books that threatened me before are now speaking to me. I love that!

I often find books just at the right time. I can’t always read them through the first time, but I come back to them and they heal me eventually.

So I am very fortunate to have found Kelly Brogan. In a way I feel like she’s taking up the mantel for women’s health similarly to what Christiane Northrup did. And I know Christiane totally helped me with decisions in my life, and she still does.

I love that Kelly Brogan is coming from a psychological point of view towards women’s health, and people’s health in general that gives alternatives to drugs and helplessness. I know after I had my breakdown I wondered if I’d ever be able to support myself and my son again, I felt as if I’d lost it and wasn’t sure I could get it back.

That’s what books do they give you the wisdom from other people’s experiences and minds. And I’m so thankful for the role of writing and editing in my life.

It is the person I’ve always been and am meant to be. I love that, and through reading and writing I give my contribution to my world.

As Jesus said, “Be in this world, but not of this world.”

He would’ve been a book lover, I just know it!

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

The hot and cold of novel writing: Is it writer’s block or inner growth?

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I have written about 80% of my first draft. And then stopped.

I’m not sure why.

My characters are moving through my head, and sometimes I even hear them speaking to me, but for a few months now I haven’t worked on my novel. And it’s been in the works–from scene weave to first draft–for years!

Why?

I have asked myself this many, many times. And castigated myself too for maybe not being driven, being too lazy, not being able to focus, not believing in myself… The list goes on.

And as I was in the shower this morning (a great place to think by the way!) I realized that a novel is like any other work of art.

If you asked a painter why it took them years to finish a certain work, they might say they had to grow within themselves before the work finished itself. And so it is I believe with me.

I needed to get to a certain place in my own inner world before my main character could as well. And since she is coming alive through me, I guess that makes perfect sense now that I think about it.

My first draft is printing away next to me, and I will read it through to get back into the story once again. Then I will sit down every morning and write.

Wish me luck.

And I hope all you writers out there don’t give up.

Writing is a rather lonely endeavour, but the benefits are so broad.

Just think of how wonderful a beautiful book affects your heart and your soul, and remember your work could do the same for someone too.

So please, please, please, write on!

 

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From the series, Write on! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Use your voice and your word: You’re more powerful than you know

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The speech that Oprah made at the Golden Globes was so very important. Not only for young girls watching the show, but for everyone who has ever been victimized in any way.

She is an amazing speaker, and respected by many because of her outstanding accomplishments and her unending search for the truth. And coming from the background she did, her speech had all the more credibility.

She has bravely admitted in front of millions of people the sexual abuse she endured as a girl, and her resulting pregnancy. And how she felt losing that child was an opportunity for her to be who she needed to be.

So when Oprah stood there in front of a room filled with women and men who had been preyed upon by powerful men in their industry, she was speaking to a room of courageous people who have used their voices to help heal everyone.

Coming out about being sexually assaulted is an extremely courageous act. Standing up and saying, “I’ve been a victim!” is one of the hardest things a person can do. Because you feel at fault, that you should’ve been stronger or smarter to be able to avoid or get out of the situation. That it shouldn’t have happened to you.

But when we hear the voices of so many who have been assaulted, we know it happens far more than we ever imagined. And that we’re not at fault for being in a certain place at a certain time. We are not at fault for people’s sick ideas of their right to invade another person’s personal space. Another person’s intimate life.

I cannot know why a person feels like forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. I cannot know why that excites them or makes them feel powerful. It’s a sickness, but where it originates is likely as unique as each person and their experiences.

The fact that it is so pervasive is extremely disturbing.

Where has this originated in our collective psyches? And why do so many men feel they can get away with it? Because they have been getting away with it over and over since time began.

But as Oprah said, “It ends here! And it ends now!” An historical moment for victims everywhere.

It brought goose bumps to my body when she said that. I could feel a shiver run through me.

And it is all about using your voice and speaking your personal truth.

It takes great courage to speak our personal truths.

I read blogs every day where people are doing exactly that. They are speaking up for who they are and where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And they’re all amazing.

And all amazingly courageous.

Today I’m thankful for the voice and the word because without them the victimization of vulnerable people would continue.

I believe this is only a small drop of awareness in a large ocean, but it is a very important drop because it will spread waves out into many aspects that we aren’t even aware of yet.

And that is what our voices and our words are all about.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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