Guess what?

So many people walk around this earth with no idea
how to communicate their gifts to the world.

But you, dear writer, have already found your language.
Now it’s simply time to trust YOUR voice.

With love and total belief in you,
Marni Freedman

Welcome to The Feisty Writer!

Ummm, what is it exactly…

A New Blog for Feisty Writers Everywhere

What does it mean to be a feisty writer? Is it for me?

Well…

  • Are you ready to take your career into your own hands?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve your craft without being bored out of your mind?
  • Are you looking for new techniques that will actually get you to the page?
  • Are you seeking a writer-tested-and-approved method to complete your novel, memoir, screenplay, or play?
  • Are you a severe procrastinator with a fierce inner critic?

 

Guess what?

We are your tribe.

Ditch “The Rules”

As a newbie to Twitter in late 2017 (see my essay, “Would Shakespeare Tweet? #Maybe”), I followed writers, agents, editors, and publishers, hoping to squirrel away bits of wisdom. Initially, many of the Tweets I saw were quotes, quips, tips, and clichés that reinforced three rules.

The “Three” Rules

  1. Real Writers write every day.
  2. Real Writers don’t wait for inspiration; they write to find it.
  3. Real Writers have a published book.

Oh, I thought, shoulders dropping. None of those rules apply to me. Does that mean I’m not a Real Writer?

Did I Have It?

I listed excuses, the most valid being a full-time job teaching writing, where classroom interactions—as rewarding as they usually are—drain my mental energy and grading buries my voice in students’ Franken-sentences.

In truth, however, my excuses hid a shameful secret: I don’t always have “It.”

My Writing Brain

I’m not entirely sure what It is, except for a presence or absence of what I recognize as my Writing Brain, which is different from the brain I use for the other parts of my life, including—ironically—teaching and grading writing. When I have It, I can write. Words may or may not flow easily, but I make progress. When I don’t have It, trying to write is wasted effort.

My Writing Brain is sensitive and, well, flighty. It can turn and burn words for ten hours straight, but it can also disappear for weeks at a time. It demands a clear head and a tidy workspace. It prefers mornings and solitude. It goes on strike if not fed and exercised regularly. Some days I provide all that, but It still decides to play hooky.

So I wasn’t a Real Writer, according to Twitter’s Rules.

Looking Beyond Twitter’s Rules

But then I noticed something: The quotes and clichés I saw on Twitter cycled. They were generated by an app that spit out collected notions on a set schedule to make the account appear prolific. Tweets composed by working writers—amateurs and professionals, beginners and old hands, poets and essayists—reflected experiences I could relate to. And they did not reflect Twitter’s Rules.

What Working Writers Do

Working writers celebrated breakthroughs and awards, but they also grappled with self-doubt, fatigue, burnout, deadlines, and inspiration drought. The longer I followed their journeys, the more I questioned Twitter’s Rules.

Questioning the rules ushered in new freedom. I stopped caring whose definition of a writer I did or didn’t fit, including my own. I just wrote when It cooperated and washed windows or defrosted the freezer when It didn’t. The biggest and most pleasant surprise that cropped up was that the less restrictively I treated It, the more willing It was to cooperate.

Twitter is a helpful resource when I use it for my own purposes and on my own terms.

I’d like to broaden the conversation, to hear about other writers’ fears and successes. How does your It work? What diva-worthy riders appear in your contract with your It? What gifts has your It bestowed? What does your It mean to you, and does that change with time or circumstances?

Hit me up on Twitter or comment below to get the conversation rolling.

Writing About Grief? Don’t Forget the Box of Tissues

I have been writing about grief for my upcoming book, Six Healing Questions: A Gentle Path to Facing Childhood Loss of a Parent. During the process, I wrote heartfelt stories about the early loss of my parents and the grieving or lack of grieving that followed. My motivation for including personal stories is to help others who have experienced similar early loss.

Why Cry Over Spilled Milk?

During writing class, I have told these stories out loud numerous times without a tear. Yet, to my surprise, writing these vignettes continued to break my heart. When I described the last time I saw my mother alive, I cried as if it had happened recently. One side of me welcomed this as cathartic. Another voice in my head was appalled. Can I still be crying over what happened so many years ago? My answer to my chagrined self was, “I guess so.” The hackneyed phrase, “why cry over spilled milk,” kept intruding in my psyche.

Writing with Tissues in Hand

I kept writing and kept my box of tissues close. What I learned was it got easier. I also learned that my inner child still needed tenderness. I imagined her sweet eyes looking up at me and accepting my love. After all the personal work I had done, it became clear that my child still needed care.

It Gets Easier

It is getting easier to share the stories without tears. I am more accepting of feeling the occasional emotional tug and not afraid of shedding a tear. Never being a crier, this has been a challenge. I now find that crying is good for me, and I plan to do as much as needed going forward. Not crying is a hard habit to break. I may need a bigger supply of tissues. I study my tissue box with blue and white stars and think of how cute it is.

For us non-criers in the world, I think we really are criers. Something has stopped us. The same person who told us not to cry over spilled milk likely told us other things to shut us up or maybe to help us move on. Who knows? They were wrong. Damn! I’m getting over this and plan to cry when I want to. Hoping you will join me in protest and cry too.

Taking Back My Home: Leaving the Jabberwocky Face Down

spider web

When I was in fourth grade, I was inspired by The Bailey School Kids series to write mysteries on index cards. But as soon as I hit double digits, the form of writing took on a new shape; the words created puzzle pieces that I desperately wanted to put together to understand the realities in life.  Years of therapeutic writing has helped me face how my innocence was taken away–an innocence that left through two family divorces and when those closest to me tragically left this world.  Writing about these negative situations enabled me to see my strength, so I could deal with and grow from them.

In college, I had the opportunity to explore with Therapeutic Uses of Writing courses, directed by Dr. Allan Hunter. Hunter saw therapeutic writing as self-exploration. He offered exercises that allowed us to process emotions. Some exercises rooted from different stages in our lives such as childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. On more than one occasion we listened to Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.  Next, we’d draw and write about our own Jabberwocky, a current struggle in our lives. It wasn’t until the third semester, the last part of this class, that the Jabberwocky represented a past struggle for me. I could no longer keep silent. It was unusual to lie to myself in my writing, but I had done it, dancing around the truth in journal entries and poetry.  Going around in class we described our monsters. I soothed my throat with water and announced, “I was molested by my ex-brother-in-law” for the first time.

For my written reflection on this exercise, I closed the shades in my mother’s basement, zippered myself in a hooded sweatshirt and kept a pool stick nearby for protection. I had to do this alone but felt as though I was wrong, even with a classroom full of support. Though therapeutic writing is beneficial for processing emotions, it can re-traumatize, which is what I experienced as I re-visited details in my piece:  “The turning of the doorknob is persistent and more upsetting to hear than anything else. The young naked girl in the mirror backs herself into a nook between the cabinet and towel rack.

Before I knew it, warm tears pushed their way up and out of my eyes. I needed to pause, bend my knees in the chair and self-rock.

“I don’t see it as an act of bravery in the moment but looking back, using judgment to lock myself in was the best thing I could’ve done for myself.”

 I did find a slice of peace knowing that when something bad was looming, intuition and self-care were present.

A few years later, I realized that my written reflection acted as a catalyst that strengthened my voice as I peeled back my trauma even more. I tricked myself into thinking that the bathroom scene was the most difficult layer of the truth, but it was the scene I hadn’t processed that was the most frightening: the beginning. So here I was, in the nook of a local library by the window challenging the damn Jabberwocky again, four years after college. Just as I did the first time I wrote about my Jabberwocky, I shut out the light. The irony of being in a nook, albeit a safe nook this time, did not go unnoticed.

I was not attached to a pool stick or hooded sweatshirt for protection. I only had my mind, my laptop and my iPod for support. Once Microsoft Word opened its blank document, I marched right back into my fear.  “Stop running. This is where I turn and get angry the most; the rawness I never want to type and see.” With ears under headphones, I couldn’t hear the pounding of fingers on the keyboard, but I felt the anger coming through them, leaving my body:

I am cross-legged on the couch. We are one seat width apart when his hand moves up my chest. Soon after that, his fingers wander where they shouldn’t.  Then there’s pressure–very uncomfortable pressure. When I was older I realized it is the same poking and pushing sensation that a woman feels when visiting her gynecologist. I’m sure I’m one of the very few who cry on the exam table when getting a pap smear.”

Each word pushed out in the open was a punch to my Jabberwocky, each paragraph another defeat that I felt less and less wrong about.

 “Sitting on the couch, I internally scream. He shouldn’t be the first person exploring my body, even before I’ve explored it!  My eyes never leave the screen, nor does the rest of my body move; my head remains straight ahead. The characters on Roseanne stand in the kitchen arguing.

I keep watching, though not really seeing.

I paused once and skimmed over what poured out of my body and onto the screen. Dr. Hunter taught us to pay attention to language in our writing because it can tell us how we are doing. For example, writing from a place of observation with questions can help problem solve and comes from a Conscious Voice. Words like should, ever, and judgmental phrases echo what he calls a Parent Voice, while “I don’t care,” wishes and desires echo a Child’s Voice. I noticed where the child in me showed her anger, and yet, writing the scene almost like a journalist did help compartmentalize from a distance, even if only moments after being in the fight with the Jabberwocky. As I finished skimming, I felt present, exhausted, and no longer like prey. I finally took back my home.

While writing has been medicine to transform fear into courage, writing the scenes does not erase them. Being a raw writer means carrying the feathers of truth and the weight of truth. Being a raw writer breaks the mold of what is right to write. 

 Your turn…

  What is your Jabberwocky?

References used:

  1. Hunter, Allan.  The Sanity Manual. New York. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2003

BellaBianca Lynn takes her Life List, including riding a Ferris wheel and chasing fireflies, very seriously! Her love for movement and learning follows her constantly–who says you can’t shimmy your shoulders and practice Italian while driving?  Lynn has taken many yoga teacher training courses and is 500-hour certified with a focus on Therapeutic Essentials. She has taught Yin Yoga as well as Yoga for Anxiety and Depression.  Her essays and poetry have appeared in the American Dance Therapy AssociationBelly Dance New England, Boston Seniority, and Eunoia Review. A recipient of the Poetry Award and Freshman Essay Contest from Curry College, she weaves her creative and non-fiction writing into the art of belly dance and yoga practice.  BellaB resides in Massachusetts.  For more of her work visit: https://bellabiancalynn.com/

Photos courtesy of BellaBianca Lynn.

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