Category Archives: Writing

“I do it myself…”

Living with a two-year-old can give one a new perspective on life. This stage of development is so much fun to watch as toddlers discover new skills and determine what is within their power to control—all things, of course!—often leading to battles of will with other toddlers or parental figures. I should mention, this is more fun to watch when you are not the overwrought parent who has to deal with them.

While this is a developmental stage through which all humans must progress, those that grow up in unhealthy or unstable environments sometimes get stuck in this two-year-old mentality. It may manifest as “if I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself” or “I don’t need help; I can do it myself” or as one is emotionally falling apart, “I’m fine. I’m NOT tired.”

What does this have to do with me as a writer? Well, I’ve found myself doing a little self-check recently. In November, I made the decision to independently publish my first novel, which is book one of a five part fantasy series. I came to that conclusion after considering many things, which I won’t bother to list here. But in the back of my mind, questions needled at me: Is my choice being influenced by my trust issues? Am I back to being a two-year-old and stomping my foot saying, “I’ll do it myself”? (I mean no offense to two-year-olds; they have good reason to hold their ground.)

It’s always good to question our motivations and to take a critical look at the reasons for our decisions. It can save us from making emotionally-driven, poor choices. In this case, however, I think the questions came out of self-doubt and lack of trust in my decision-making abilities. Either way, I have answered the questions and am surprised at some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, independently publishing should never be “I do it myself.” It certainly hasn’t been for me. The number of alpha-readers, beta-readers, critique partners, writers’ groups and writing conferences alone create a tribe of helpers. Then add a mentor, an editor, a graphic artist, and a cover artist, who have all helped to make my vision a reality, and the tribe grows. In addition, there are authors I’ve never met, who have blogged, Facebooked, tweeted, or published how-to books with wisdom from their own journeys that have smoothed my way.

Secondly, I’m learning to trust my decision-making ability. While I have sought the skill and wisdom of many along the way, the decisions are ultimately mine to make, and the consequences mine to bear. On a good day, I’m certain I am making good decisions, but there are always those bad days (artist temperament, right?) when I’m sure they all suck and I’m doomed to fail and fade into oblivion, or worse yet, undergo the knife skills of vicious one-star reviewers. In the end, it has been a good experience for me to face these doubts and move past them.

Thirdly, perspective is essential. While writing and publishing my novels is very important to me, if they are not “successful”—if people don’t love them as I do, or if few copies sell—it will change nothing in the universe. I have friends battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—that’s important. I know others whose families are falling apart—that’s heartbreaking and truly hard work. Daily, I see the ongoing suffering of those enslaved and trafficked worldwide—real life and death issues. I remind myself of these things, and I find balance. I hope my novels make a difference in some people’s lives, and I hope to raise funds to support survivors of human trafficking. But if that doesn’t happen, life won’t end.

I realize no matter what the future may hold, I’m still better for having taken this journey. I am richer for the people I have come to know along the way. I am wiser for the multitude of things I have learned. I am more confident than when I started. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve conquered some of my two-year-old trust issues.

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Not a “Ponography” Site

This weekend I was at the Word Press inaugural blogging conference in Portland. So many bloggers. So many great technical minds. The “happiness lounge” was filled with brilliant, young computer engineers helping bloggers find their blogging nirvana. I was inspired to stop neglecting my poor blog.

So as I was reacquainting myself with the dashboard, I checked the stats on my blog, mostly interested in what countries the visitors were from. It’s amazing to see places listed that I didn’t even know were countries. Then I looked at what search terms people were using to get to my blog and was really disheartened by what I found. Some were searching for “ponography”–yes, spelled that way. My site deals with a lot of anti-trafficking issues, and apparently I tagged one of them as dealing with “ponography”–yes, I made the same spelling error. I’m sure the searchers were not looking for articles on the misuse of children in pornography or the effects of rampant, graphic pornography on the sexual development of adolescents, but that’s what they found. For some reason it makes me feel a little sleazy to know that the Google search engines are directing people my way who are looking for “minor ponography pictures” as if I were promoting one of the very things I stand against.

Writing a blog and being involved in social media is a strange adventure. I’ve never thought of myself as a naive person–I’ve lived waaaay too much life to be that way–but I feel like I’m seeing a whole different world through the internet. Some very wonderful things like being able to connect with people all over the world–over 150 countries in a year. That’s mind-boggling. But there is the dark side too. I’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with negative comments on my site, but I see them on other people’s blogs. People can be so mean-spirited and hateful. Something about anonymity seems to free people from civility. I like honesty, but I believe honesty can, and should, be civil and intelligent. And my hope is–naive as it may seem–that I will be able to keep this blog site a place of shared knowledge and civility.

So those are my musings on this Monday morning. Hope you have a great week.

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Wisdom from One of the Greats

“There is no greater agony than bearing

an untold story inside of you.”

~ Maya Angelou

 

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Developing a Voice

What does it mean to have a voice, other than in strictly physiological terms? In counseling, we use this phrase, or a near cousin, quite often in abuse recovery work. We speak of finding your voice, using your voice.

In writing, we talk about voice in the sense of having a unique tone or style that distinguishes it from other writers or one project from another. If everyone had to write in a flippant, smart-alecky voice or a somber, morose tone then soon all books would merge into one indistinguishable blob, and the art of the writing would be lost. It would be like every painter being forced to use only shades of blue.

I’ve pondered this idea of voice a great deal since I started thinking about constructing a blog. Developing a voice, and a unique one at that, is about learning to express yourself, finding what it is you want to/need to say, and speaking it as authentically as you can. Part of the process is getting over the fear of speaking and/or writing.

So what is the fear—or more accurately, what is MY fear? (Or fears…mine are numerous.) The biggest fear is that there is nothing inside me worth saying or that others would find worth listening to. I think for those of us raised in abusive homes or who have been tormented or tortured, we come to believe this is the truth because we are told it is so—if not in direct terms then in indirect ways. Our words, our objections, our cries are ignored as if we weren’t even speaking. Or we are told we are stupid or worthless. If I am stupid or worthless, then my thoughts are stupid or worthless, so what would be the point of speaking them except to prove it?

Another fear is making a mistake or lots of them. There is a Jewish proverb that says, “In a multitude of words, transgression is unavoidable.” So if I write, it’s going to happen, but making mistakes is a frightening thing to those raised in abuse. A wrong word, a wrong look can bring punishment, swift and painful. So why risk it? Because it is one way of taking back control of our lives, something we lose in abuse. For me, a way of safely flipping off my abusers. I can make mistakes now, and it won’t end me. In fact, every mistake I make is one more piece of evidence that I have my life back. I can screw up and survive. I can say stupid things and correct them later or apologize. I can learn from mistakes and grow.

The third fear is breaking the rule of “Don’t tell.” Or else. I’m still a little shaky on this one. This is the “irrational” fear I mentioned a few blogs ago. It seems to me almost all abuse carries this edict. If the threats are not explicit, they are there in the body language, the brute force, the hiding behind closed doors, “this is our secret”. Abuse thrives in such secrecy, “telling” exposes it. I’m taking the risk and standing up to this fear, partly to prove to myself that the oppression has ended. I am free. As free as I will allow myself to be.

The last fear I’ll mention is the vulnerability of using my voice. It’s vulnerable because it exposes my inner self, and what if I lay my true self out there and I get rejected? Having a persona rejected is not nearly so painful because, well, it’s not really me. Ironically, I’m writing under a pseudonym, which is kind of like hiding behind a false self, but the truth is, I’m more honest here than in most of my life where people can see my face.

In writing novels or stories, vulnerability is essential. I’ve had to push myself in my novels not to use the “safe” terms or edge around an issue. If I’m going to write, I want to write honestly, authentically. I don’t expose everything, that would be unwise, but I push myself as close to the edge as I can. This is another part of taking my life back.

One last thing. Part of using my voice is speaking for those who do not yet have one or who are not in a safe place to use it. When I wrote my Azora’s Castle novella, it really connected with some people in Egypt. The story is about a little girl’s isolation. I had no idea when I wrote it that it would speak to a culture where many live in fear and isolation due to an oppressive social structure. In exposing my feelings through this character, it exposed the feelings in others, and then offered hope as Azora overcame her fears and learned to connect. My writing is not only life-giving and cathartic for me, it can be for others as well. At least, that is my hope.

So I’m testing my voice here, strengthening those vocal chords. And I invite you, if it is safe for you to do so, to join me. If it is not yet safe, I pray I may speak words on your behalf that bring life to your soul.

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