Jackhammer — By Michelle Saint Germain, Guest Blogger for The Feisty Writer

a man jackhammering concreteI walked across the cul-de-sac to the single story house across from us.  I stepped past the demolished driveway, over the walkway reduced to rubble, and up to the front door.  I rang the bell, twice.  I wasn’t sure if the occupants would hear it over the noise of the jackhammers.

A good-looking guy in his late 20s answered the door.  As he stepped out of the house down to the dirt where the stoop had been, he introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Mitch.”

Someone shouted from inside, “Honey, close the door!”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, pulling the front door shut behind him.

“Hi, I’m Michelle,” I said.

“Rachel?” he asked, over the noise from the construction.

“Michelle,” I said louder.

“Okay, gotcha.”

“When will this construction be over do you think?”

Mitch hesitated.  “I’m not sure.”

“I’m asking because,” and here I take a breath, “I’m a writer.  This jackhammering has been going on for at least a week.  Over there on the second floor,” I waved in the direction of my house, “is my office.  I can’t open the windows, and even with the windows shut the noise is deafening.”

“Well, it’s the best way to excavate all this,” Matt said as he swept his hand across the front of his large, pie-shaped lot.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if I knew when it would stop,” I said.  “In fact, it did seem to have stopped for a day or two, but then it started up again.”

“Oh, at first we just planned to do the walkway and the front step, but then we added the driveway.  Then we decided to put in new landscaping, and that meant a new sprinkler system, too.  Anyhow, what do you want them to do, use shovels?”

“Couldn’t you get one of those little Bobcat excavation things, whatchamacallits, backhoes?”

“I don’t know; I’d have to ask the foreman.”  Mitch frowned.

“Can’t you at least let me know, is it going to be another day, another week, or what?”

“Do you think we like this?” Mitch said, changing to a more aggressive response.

Don’t tell me how bad you have it, I thought.

“We have a three-week old baby.”

Poor timing.

“Well, if you could just let me know when you think this crew will be finished, I’d appreciate it,” I replied.

Mitch looked left and right, as if he didn’t want to be overheard giving away state secrets.  “Don’t quote me on this, but we’re hoping to pour concrete next Friday.”

Today was Saturday.  At least another four days of teeth-rattling noise.

“Ok, thanks,” I said, turning to go.

“Bye,” Mitch said as he went inside.

As I walked back to my house, I realized that for the first time I had uttered those words:  I am a writer.  I picked up my step, noticing the bright blue sky, and wished I could whistle.

photo of the authorAbout Michelle: After a 35-year career in university teaching, I decided to try my hand at creative non-fiction. It’s been a tough switch but after three years I feel I’m making good progress.  My other activities include riding my bicycle about 50 miles a week; working out in the gym, swimming, and yoga; and taking my new puppy, Kiah, on long walks.  I working on a memoir about overcoming a lifetime of depression and I’ve taken up meditation to help me sort things out.  At age 69, I look forward to the years I have left to be filled with peace and harmony.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/construction-jackhammer-equipment-679973/

Confessions of a Memoir Teacher–The Beauty of Broken

a whole in broken glassThere Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In” – Leonard Cohen

As a memoir teacher and as a therapist, I am privileged to see behind the mask that people tend to wear. On a daily basis, people from all walks of life, all ages and stages of the game, open up and share their true selves with me. And the gift of seeing so many true selves over so many years has changed the way I look at life, the way I see humanity itself.

“Why do you think people share all that stuff with you?” My son asked me once after I told him about a special class I’d just had where many students opened up and explored their deepest secrets in public and for the first time. And he had me stumped. I wasn’t sure why. I only knew that the more they shared, the more I saw their true beauty.

Not the “Facebook, I’m at Disneyland, just had a baby, look at my new puppy, we bought a new car, look at my promotion” kind of beauty. The “I’m scared after my divorce, who am I without my husband, I’m Bipolar, I’m addicted to pills, my dad never loved me, I’m scared to go to the next doctor’s appointment” kind of beauty.

As a person, I gravitate towards the “I’m trying to find my new passion, it hurts to risk, I’m scared to push myself further, I’m jumping in the deep end” kind of beauty.

To me, this is the real beauty of humanity. A kind of beauty that lives in the gray, yet in my eyes is fantastically and spectacularly multicolored.

The other day, while listening to a group member read her memoir, which is an introspective journey out of depression, I had an epiphany. The therapist in her story had stated, sort of matter-of-factly, that we, as humans, are all essentially broken. That being broken was just sort of part of the deal.

That flew in the face of the way I had been trained to think as a therapist, as an American, as a daughter, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. I’d always thought the goal was to work hard, earn, get more, be more–to eventually find my way toward wholeness.

Broken, in my eyes, had meant bad or less than.

But through this therapist’s eyes, broken meant human. Broken meant–just what is.

That night, I couldn’t sleep (and not just because our new kitten was attacking my toes). I kept thinking about the very concept of being whole. And the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it. I turned to the kitten, who may soon be named Mr. Apricot, and said,

“Mr. Apricot, this whole wholeness thing may just be bullshit.”  The kitten seemed to get where I was going, so I continued.

“What if wholeness and perfection are a bill of goods we have been sold along with the Cinderella myth?”

The next morning, I put pen to paper and wrote:

Every person I have ever met, including myself, is what I would consider broken. And what if I had been taught at an early age that that is the beauty of life? We are beautifully broken because we ache for something we don’t have because we are imperfect or slow artists because we lost someone or something because we have a dream yet unrealized because we fill with anger or angst or wish for yesterday. What if we are beautifully broken in a way that doesn’t need to be fixed?

And let me take it one step further, what if the broken places are where the fantastic growth stems from? What if we no longer feared falling, messing up, or failing because we knew these would all be opportunities to find what is most truthful and essential in our souls?

What if we were told that we are never going to have it all figured out, and that’s okay.

This doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t try to heal the hurt places. It means that you would know that perfection doesn’t exist anywhere at any time.

But what about hope, you ask? If I accept all my brokenness, won’t that make me lazy, won’t that mean I have no hope?

In my observation, I don’t see that happening. What I see is that when I work with a group of memoir students, and they begin to share their true selves with one another, their struggles and failures and losses, they experience more hope. They feel a connection with the community, they feel strength in seeing what they have survived. They feel empowered.

Healing, nurturing and loving ourselves, taking risks, pushing beyond bounds–hell yes, to all of that. I’m not saying to wallow in the brokenness. Instead, what if you let it be your personal disco ball? Dance in it, kick up your heels and allow it to surround you. Don’t fight it. This is your humanity talking. It wants to have a conversation with you.

So if you get to the part of your memoir when you are terrified to expose the broken parts, when you want to run and hide behind the old mask, remind yourself that broken is beautiful. Broken is where the light comes in. Broken is where we connect. Waste no more time chasing the concept of whole. Dive into your brokenness and disco the night away.

 

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Lady Muck

Lady in apron standing in the doorway of a stone houseI’m a self-doubter. One voice inside says, “I’m good enough,” but the ones I hear most are the critics, flying in from 1979, ‘82, 87’, 95’. All those careless comments, words nobody meant anything by…

“I was just kidding.”

“God, you’re so sensitive.”

“You think too much.”

Worse are the comments I didn’t visibly react to, that nobody knew how deeply they embedded. Hooks, tugging at my self-esteem, whispering, “You’re no good/You’re not very smart/How are you going to change anything?/Just accept the way things are/It’s your own fault anyway/If you weren’t so [insert: picky, sensitive, whiny, pathetic, female], everything would be fine.”

Gigantically unaware of how everything affected me.

Suck it up.

These hooks mostly came from listening in on too many adult conversations I wasn’t equipped to process–a weakness of mine from age two on.

Warning: the following comments on repeat are guaranteed to disturb any young girl prone to taking adult commentary as gospel:

“God, who does she think she is?”

“Nothing worse than a jumped-up bitch who knows too much…thinks she’s something special.”

“Doesn’t she think she’s Lady Muck.”

That was a popular one in small town New Zealand, said of anyone who occasionally wanted to rest/tool around, eat chocolate, or, God forbid, read–while everyone else was working their butts off. Money must be earned. “Doesn’t get handed to ya’ on a silver platter.” Introspection, navel-gazing was for losers–lazy, dole bludging no-hopers.

I was secretly a bit of a no-hoper. Life in my family was about action–a good day involved productive activities like getting the thistles ripped, clearing a paddock, cutting the lawn and planting a 2,000 tree orchard. “Plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.”

We spent an inordinate amount of time over cups of tea, standing around the tractor munching on homemade chocolate crunch, sponge cake or gooey caramel square. No matter how much heavy labor we were doing, everyone was overweight.

Then there was, “Needs cutting down to size, that one,” and those that struck at the heart of my deeply unaccepted tendencies, “I could do that! God, what a bunch of crap.” Referring to any piece of art that wasn’t a painted facsimile of a pretty landscape.

I grew up understanding anything I was helplessly drawn to was wrong, especially art. Also, books that ripped chests wide open for the rain to pour in, where people wielded emotions like rage, ecstasy, and sadness like swollen rivers, but in a complex language that didn’t immediately make sense. God forbid if nothing really happened in the story. Most things I loved were too artistic, or just weird.

My trick was to leave. At 12, I spent a month in Hawaii, and I wrote. At 16, I moved to Brazil for a year, and I wrote–a diary filled with lust, pining, and a shameless lack of brevity. A painful, emotionally-penned journey, detailing my relationship with the host family, boys, girls, sugar (I had an hour to hour survival stash of chocolate hidden in my undie drawer and by my bed), and a meticulous effort to fit in. Listing in detail all the Brazilian men I wanted, and the women I wanted to become. To invade. To take over. To body snatch.

For a while, I felt pretty morphed. Triumphant even. From a shy, fearful, hardworking academic girl, I returned from Brazil with hair down my back and arse hanging out of a g-string bikini. I felt beautiful, and, apart from becoming a famous painter and writer, I just wanted to get laid. So I did. Quite a bit. My favorite parts were always the build-up, the chase. I better not tell you about the beach, the moment the first tongue touched my labia, and I nearly died with the sweet pain of it. [Aaah, what the hell: It was a hot night in Ferrugem, and this Carioca boy was intense and brown and surfed so much I don’t know how he stayed awake to be lying in the sand with me when the moon was peaking. I primarily felt courageous to be with him.]

Over time, I left more places because I didn’t know how to stay. What I kept looking for wasn’t anywhere. Emptiness, a shell, a fake brittle world. I bolted New Zealand for England, England for Scotland, then Spain, Portugal, Sweden, London, and back to Brazil. Somewhere I lost my words. My connection with myself, with others.

As you can guess, I finally stopped, realized I could only find truth and love by getting okay with myself, with accepting how things are, as they are. Lady Muck? Turns out the giant, dumb, lazy blonde faker I had myself pegged for is also a reasonably sweet, intelligent, empathetic, loveable human.

And it’s all grist, right? For writing. The hurts, the awful memories. The ones that still make you cringe with what you said, what he did, what she asked, what makes you burn 25 years later. Write it down. Kind of fun, eh? I never imagined at 20, when I thought I wanted to write but was too afraid to apply for the creative writing program at Vic, that describing someone’s tongue on my labia would be part of a larger, far more cringe-worthy body of work. I never guessed I’d be excited at the thought of trying this spoken word thing now. Labia. Labia, my labia. It’s gonna be fun to say that one out loud.

 

Photo Credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/136466723467

Walking the Tightrope: Where Do Authors Draw the Line in Expressing Political Views?

small house balanced on the edge of a buildingI’ve always recommended that authors refrain from discussing religion and politics in their social media and branding. In today’s fiercely competitive book market, aligning ourselves one way or another on political or religious issues can lead to lower sales, mainly because if a percentage of the reading population disagrees with our views, they most likely won’t follow us on social media or purchase our products.

 But the election of President Trump last November has changed the political landscape in drastic ways. Where before, stating political views could negatively impact sales, we now find ourselves with a growing majority who are outraged at the current administration’s policies and its handling of diplomacy. That outrage has sparked ongoing protests worldwide, where millions of people have risen up to declare their dissent and willingness to resist the current political climate in Washington.

 Also new is the growing power the resistance movement has found in ignoring Trump’s brand. When major retail leaders dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing and shoe lines from their stores this week, those who do not support Trump stepped up their support of the retailers, and sales soared.

 Where before the Trump presidency it was judicious to maintain distance and equanimity concerning politics, the climate has changed to such a degree that we’re now finding that taking actions some view as political (as with the retailers who dumped Ivanka’s brand) can benefit sales. Those retailers who dropped the line claimed they did so because the line wasn’t selling. It was risky to drop a contentious and outspoken president’s daughter’s brand–these retailers must have known that the president, who seems to have little control over his responses to adverse situations, would react publicly (which he did by tweeting his dismay at what he considered to be unfair treatment of his daughter). But the stance by these retailers paid off in ways that many did not expect–sales lowered initially and then skyrocketed when anti-Trump Americans decided to show the retailers support for their decision by buying at those stores.

 So, given that being political can now influence sales, what does this mean for authors? And how do we in the publicity business advise our clients now that there’s a new normal for how consumers react when sellers share their views? How do those who feel strongly about the current administration express their views without driving off potential customers? And is it even a problem to lose those customers who don’t agree with our politics?

 These questions have surfaced strongly on social media, where friends, family, colleagues, and customers converge, and the new politics have created increasing divides among them. Many of us have watched as followers on social media threaten to unfollow us if we state our views, whatever they may be, too loudly or frequently. Many have drawn hard lines to followers regarding opinions–agree or be gone, they seem to say.

 As authors, when we lose followers, we lose business. Those who choose to follow our blogs and support our brand do so because we offer them something–information, entertainment, connectedness, or all three. If readers no longer follow us on social media, will they still buy our books? My sense is no–as this administration continues to divide America with its policies, I believe that we’ll see a corresponding division in sales. Those who agree with us and our views will support us and buy our books; those who don’t will boycott our offers and ignore future releases.

 For some authors, this tradeoff is worth it. Those who feel strongly about expressing their political views may feel that protecting our country and its democracy from what they see as an attempt to upend our basic freedoms is more important than offending those potential or current readers who don’t agree that the new administration is a threat to those rights.

 For me, it’s a difficult situation–supporting others who share my views is important, but so is maintaining distance from political rhetoric. There is also a professionalism component to all of this– if I indulge myself in rants about my political leanings, how am I serving those who read my blog posts and buy my books? Do they come there to hear my politics? Yes and no. For some, finding out that we’re on the same page politically is a good thing–my sense is that they will become stronger supporters of me and my work because we think alike. For others, the insertion of politics (and this goes for religion, too) into my branding as an author and publicist could be seen as self-serving or offensive–and those who disagree with me will not follow or buy.

 Given this new political paradigm where politics have become such an overwhelming factor in our lives, I would suggest that it’s up to individual authors whether to be political in their branding. As retailers like Nordstrom and TJ Maxx discovered, political action can have benefits. But there is also the reality that once you’ve identified your brand as leaning one way or another, you can never go back–existing and new customers will see which way you lean, and they will subsequently decide whether to support or shun you and your products based on those leanings.

 In the end, we are in a strange new world where politics and consumerism are colliding more than ever. As an author, being political may serve your social activism, but it most likely will also have an effect on your book sales. Still, many authors maintain that their brand is a reflection of who they are as individuals and being true to that sense of self is crucial given what’s at stake in our country’s politics. In today’s political climate, being true to ourselves and our political beliefs may be worth more to us than growing our book sales and, for now, that just might be okay.

__________

Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her by email at paula@paulamargulies.com, view her website at www.paulamargulies.com, contact her on Twitter at @PaulaMargulies, or say hello on Facebook at Paula Margulies Communications.

 Photo credit: unsplash.com/photo=ob-hsLNxYPc 

Stop Writin’ Solo: Why You Should Have a Critique Group

Group photo of people working on a shipWhen you hear the word “critique,” the next word that probably comes to mind is “criticism” (“constructive” not even a close second). Am I right?

 I get it—no matter what the field, being critiqued in any capacity exposes your vulnerability. But with all the grammar rules, generic conventions, and heaps of writing techniques out there, a critique group is going to be your secret writing weapon—I promise!

 I spent a year writing my book alone, cherishing ever word, every sentence, and every little world-building concept I conjured. My close family members were the only people I allowed to read my work, more as a way of holding myself accountable than for real advice. 

 Even after attending a writer’s conference and hearing again and again about critique groups, I was hesitant to share my work. But the thing was, my manuscript had problems. I’d already rewritten it once, and in both drafts, I hadn’t been able to bring myself to write the ending. Something wasn’t working, and I didn’t want to admit it.

 If not for an author whom I met at the conference, I’d still be guarding my writing and sending it over email to my mom, password protected. When the author found out I didn’t have a critique group, she introduced me to two people that she thought I’d get along with who were both writing in my genre. Perhaps it’s because we all trusted her that we immediately decided to trust each other. We started an email chain the next day, and the rest is history.

 My writing has improved immensely; my stories are more coherent, and my characters more four-dimensional. I’m better at discerning the problems in my own work, and never have writer’s block for longer than a week because I can use our weekly meetings for brainstorming instead of critiquing.

 This isn’t to say you should give your work to just anyone. Here are some tips for finding a critique group that’s a good fit:

 1.      Attend a writer’s conference or local writing event to scout some potential group members. Or peruse an online writing forum and post a thread seeking interested individuals.

2.      Get to know your group members before sending them any of your writing.

3.      Ensure they are in a similar stage of writing as you (and genre, if possible).

4.      Ensure they want to help you, and not just get help for themselves.

5.      Ensure they can commit to set meeting days and times (except holidays or crazy work weeks). 

6.      Ensure they are motivated and have goals they wish to meet for their own work.

7.      Find between two and six other group members. If you only find one person, you’re delayed for a week or longer when they’re busy. With more than six people, you won’t be able to give the proper attention to each submission.

 Once you find your group, it’s time to start critiquing! Here’s how:

 1.      Decide how often you’ll meet: once a week, bi-weekly, or once a month.

2.      Decide where you’ll meet, whether in person, over the phone, or via internet communication, like Skype.

3.      Submit via email attachment, at least a day in advance of your meeting.

4.      Start by submitting outlines so each member can get acquainted with the others’ stories. Then submit chapters, select pages, or plot brainstorms.

5.      Submit as often as you can so it becomes part of your routine.

6.      You can have a standing rotation to determine who goes first, second, etc., or you can go in order of who submitted first.

Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt at assembling a critique group doesn’t work out. Try approaching this like dating—there might be a few bad ones before you find “the one(s)” who will help take your writing to the next level!

 Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/150776912405

5 Ways to Reframe Your Writing Goals

looking down from a very high and scary place1) Old Goal: Submit Work

New Goal: Get Rejected

We’ve all seen the contests and call for submissions. They look so attractive, with money or exposure or cache attached to them. You might think of all the other writers who are also submitting their work and freeze up. I’ll never get in, you might say. My work isn’t good enough, you might cry. Well, that may be true. So prove it. I dare you to prove that you aren’t good enough. That you’ll never get accepted. I fucking dare you to prove it so hard. Show me I’m wrong. Collect as many rejections from as many different places as possible. Get letters from agents, editors, magazines, publishers, contests, residencies, freelance jobs, and any other place that will reject you. Collect as many letters every month as you possibly can. Because the truth is, you might (and probably will) get rejected from many of them. But, just like no one can hit a home run every time, no one can strike out every time, either. Sooner or later, while I’m eating crow reading your rejection letters, you’re getting lucky and making contact with the ball. It might just be a single to get you on base, but at least you’re not still on the bench. Added bonus: you will have written more stuff, and most likely written better and better stuff, which improves the chances of getting accepted. See how you did that? You’re welcome.

But, just like no one can hit a home run every time, no one can strike out every time, either. Sooner or later, while I’m eating crow reading your rejection letters, you’re getting lucky and making contact with the ball. It might just be a single to get you on base, but at least you’re not still on the bench. Added bonus: you will have written more stuff, and most likely written better and better stuff, which improves the chances of getting accepted. See how you did that? You’re welcome.

2) Old Goal: Finish a Book/Story/Whatever

New Goal: Build a Pipeline

Stop thinking of your book as your magnum opus (that’s “big work” for anyone who doesn’t drink wine or speak Latin). Thinking of your book as something that needs to make a difference and be big and important is a sure fire way to make it crash in a fiery ball of anxiety and fear, creating a massive crater of disgust when it hits Earth. Instead, think of your book as a stepping stone. As in, once I finish this, I can start another one. Then another, and another. Then it becomes a flow of books that lead to your other books, all available to eager readers. Bam. You have a pipeline. You’re welcome.

3) Old Goal: Sell Books

New Goal: Connect With Your Tribe

Many of us are trying to make a few bucks with our blood, sweat, and tear-stained pages. But putting pressure on ourselves to be merchants might be getting in the way of connecting. So find a new frame. No one likes a salesperson. So don’t sell. Share. Give. Listen. This is what we do with friends and people we connect with. This is what your goal should be. Find readers (and other writers) that you connect with. This is a more organic relationship than selling something to someone, and it lasts longer. I can buy a car from a guy, but I won’t remember him years later. If I buy a piece of art from someone I know, you bet I’ll be back again later. It’s the difference between a transaction and a meaningful experience. It lasts. You’re welcome.

4) Old Goal: Improve Writing

New Goal: Write Crap

We all want to be better. At everything. All the time. But the truth is, improvement takes time, and perfection is an imaginary thing. So don’t work toward that. Work toward creating a giant pile of pages with stupid shit written on them. Make it big enough for a bonfire. I read a study that divided a pottery class into two groups. Group A had to make one perfect/amazing piece to get an A. Group B had to make a number of pieces that would weigh a certain amount altogether. Who made the better work? Group B, of course. They weren’t concerned with quality, so they just kept at it, practicing more and more and more, all semester long. They weren’t getting in their own way, and as a result, naturally improved. Not every piece was amazing, but Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he was at bat. You won’t either, but the more you play, the more you’ll run the bases. You’re welcome.

5) Old Goal: Write Something Important

New Goal: Scare Myself.

Nothing good is ever easy, and vice versa. Writing something important or profound isn’t easy, and making an effort to do so is often unsuccessful. Instead of trying to be important, be real. Write something that delves deep into who you are and what you believe. Write about things that are deeply personal. Write something raw. I once wrote a piece about a homophobic character. It was excruciatingly difficult since I would never say the things this character said. But, at the end of it, I had written something that mattered to me, something that exposed a certain pity for those who hate. It was terrifying to read the words I had written for this character. This, of course, was a few drafts in, and this draft captured the essence of the story more fully than the previous drafts when I hadn’t wanted to ‘go there.’ Go there. At the very least, you will have written something that is important to you. You’re welcome.

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/131559787216

Pretend I’m a Kitten

Three newborn kittensWhile critiquing my writing, please pretend I’m a kitten. Because while I’m as feisty as they come, I’m also sensitive. This is not always a great combination. Sometimes I can serve it, but can’t return it. Sure, I’ll dish it, but I refuse to eat it. Mess with the bull, you’ll get the blubbering mess who has torn the horns from her scalp and is trying to stab herself with them while bemoaning, I don’t deserve to be so forsaken. I’m human; I have those days. For now, for the sake of argument, let’s assume every day is one of those days. And also that I’m a kitten.

Let’s role-play. Here I am, walking into our writing class/meetup/poetry jam/critique group/creepy online chat room. I might look put together because my shoes match my scrunchie, but that will be a fluke. Here’s the truth—on the inside, I’m a disaster. It doesn’t matter why. After this meeting, I’m thinking about tying a bunch of twigs together and floating myself out to sea, beckoning large black birds to come feast slowly on my vital organs, killing me softly with their beaks. (You can sing that last part.) I even brought some Styrofoam in my trunk in case the twigs aren’t buoyant enough with my weight on them, but I’d rather not use it because our oceans have enough problems without an additional slice of something with a gazillion year half-life. I will die miserable, but on good terms with our planet.

Before I take myself out, I’ve brought something to read aloud, and it stinks. Of course, it stinks, I wrote it while feeling sorry for myself. This piece reeks of Eau de VICTIM. Few people can get away with VICTIM as their theme. If the main character is a whiner, she better be darn good at something else too. As in, she’s a whiner but she bakes a crazy good cheesecake. Or, she’s a whiner, but she’s also a psychotic axe-murderer who held the word record for underwater hula hooping in 1985. Whining solely to air injustices doesn’t work. I hate to be so bIack and white about things; maybe there’s a person who can pull this off. In general, my thought is that whining is what journals and therapists are for.

Back to our group thing. It’s finally my turn. I read my woe-is-me story out loud (because I have a lot of them, in my journal). There is an extended moment of silence. You want to say, NO. Erase. Redo. Start over. Now is when you should remember that I’m just a kitten. I have big paws that I trip over. I fall asleep in crazy places and funny positions. I make noises that are considered adorable by cat people and, more often than not, I’m scared, but I puff up to look tough. Kittens like me prefer constructive criticism, because we just got here, and we have a lot to figure out. So please, tell me the truth because I’ve come here to learn and improve, but say it with kindness.

Here at thefeistywriter.com, we encourage you to embrace your feisty side, the part of you that says, “Here’s my story, no apologies!” We also remind you to create more distance between yourself and the parts of you that shun praise but shed all armor when baseless criticism is fired straight at your guts. People can be jerks. But not us feisty writers! We are gentle and helpful when people share their truth with us, even when their truth smells like a box of cat turds. We go easy. I’m a kitten; you’re a kitten. Let’s play around and be open and curious with this craft we love and encourage others to do the same.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Y_pLBbSAhHI

How to Be a Feisty Writer

Cowboy on Bucking BroncoIt’s not easy to be a writer. Writers are often plagued with heaps of self-doubt and loathing, so much so that it can be debilitating.

But there is a cure.

And it can be summed up in one sentence: Take the ego out and stay in creative motion.

Now I know that is easier said than done. In our culture, we are rarely taught to remove our ego from, well, anything. But for writers, this is not only a vital idea but a healthy survival skill. The reason is that there is no exact path to predict when success or even acknowledgment will arrive. And, in my humble opinion, writers give up way too soon, before they have had any time to gain traction. Any writer, especially a new writer, will encounter rejection and general knocks to the head. They tend to take these knocks so seriously that they are filled with pain, depression, anxiety, lack of self-belief. But really, it’s all part of the process. So how to keep moving and enjoy the process to boot? Adopt the feisty writer attitude.

A feisty writer is one who is always in creative motion, working toward their dream tenaciously, no matter what. They don’t travel along a lot of highs or lows; they just keep on with their craft. I personally have been feisty writing for so long that I may take it to an extreme. Recently, I had a play run in Chicago, and it got great reviews. Or so I heard because I didn’t read them. Don’t get me wrong; I was overjoyed to have them. But I’m no longer in the game for the highs or the lows—for the outside accolades. I’m in it to be a writer. So, in a way, I’m unstoppable because nothing anyone says, good or bad, can stop me. (This doesn’t mean I don’t take critique—every writer needs a healthy critiquing and editing process). It’s just I know the path I’m on and it’s no one else’s business to tell me if and where I belong. It’s up to me to define it for myself.

How can feisty-ness work for you? Here are some guidelines:

  1. Write every day.
  2. Don’t look for your writing to determine your self-worth. If it took a writer ten years to get recognized, should they spend the decade hating themselves? (No)
  3. Be in motion. You are a train that is constantly moving, creating, thinking, dreaming, churning out material.
  4. If someone tells you that you can’t do it, look to see where you can improve your craft (learning and growing as a writer is unending). Use that input as fuel. Then answer back: Just Watch Me.
  5. See rejection and failure as part of the rites of passage.
  6. Believe in yourself even when faced with a stupid rite of passage.
  7. Find your writing community. I can’t stress enough how important this step will be for you. A good tribe can keep you going even when you want to stop.
  8. Dive into the joy of what the moment brings you. Don’t miss all the amazing moments in search of outside praise.
  9. Never give up. Never ever ever ever ever. Just keep coming back. The world will notice. Eventually. And in the meantime, you will be doing what you love, surrounded by a tribe you love.

Photo Credit: New Old Stock: Cowboy on a Bucking Bronco nos.twnsnd.co/post/128035620901