Between business meetings or kids’ baseball practice, admit it:
You hunger to make sense of your moments. Quirky images and quirkier characters float through your imagination. But who are you to make time to give them attention? And who’s got the time, anyway?
Or maybe you’ve found the time and met with publishing kudos. But now the next project glowers like a demon. You’re filled with doubt. What if you had only one story to tell? Who are you to write another story?
And you know what happens when you try to ignore the urge to write and tell stories? You act out, don’t you? It’s like a little dust storm in your soul, blowing that scratchy grit everywhere, but you keep tending to everyone else’s needs or grading other people’s papers or getting business done – anything “done” but writing your stories.
Soon the little dust storm is a Santa Ana wind. You’re agitated. The roof is coming loose. Your friends and family take cover and stop replying to your ballistic emails.
You don’t need accountability circles, or fiction formulas or story doctors.
Maybe you need to shape your grit-pocked shards to a polished state – even if you carry a full schedule.
The presence of mind to pay attention to the words-at-hand
The ability to shape rough stuff into something loved and delightful
The quality of art that awakens in us the fullness of the world
Clear-eyed, no-blame assessment about goals, capacities, circumstances
The quality of being humane and helpful
I bet you have a story of how a cruel word could’ve crushed your spirit. I do.
Between caring for my 10-year-old and 7-year-old several years ago, I had learned how to steal an hour here and an hour there to write that first “practice” novel so many of us have in a drawer. My kids and husband had learned to respect the boundaries of my writing life – my space for peace, solitude, and meaning-making. I started a second novel. I had grit, I thought, and enough talent and wit to get me to its finish line.
The problem: I was taking artistic risks, pushing myself beyond my own comfort zone, trying to shape a story that was, frankly, beyond my mastery of writing craft at the time. I needed helpful perspective and guidance.
A friend had invited me to a writer’s group. It seemed like a safe place to gain that help. Many writers offered useful insight for me. But one writer, an experienced writer with modest publications, arrived the night of my critique with feathers spread, chest puffed.
“This is shit,” she announced and proceeded to decimate my efforts.
Her final words: “I hate it.”
And the nominal leader didn’t intervene.
I walked away from writing for a year and a half to get my bearings. It took me a hundred journal pages of angst, probably twenty pounds of chocolate, and multiple boxes of Kleenex, but I eventually found my bearings. I didn’t find them because I ranted and raved about the leader’s lousy facilitation. Or how wrong the critique had been. Or because I thought I was better than the other writer.
I got my bearings when I calmed down and took my writerly self by the hand and asked her what she wanted and needed. And heeded her wisdom.
I’ve had to address myself with kind clarity and to coach my inner writer back to the page more than once in the years since that first devastating critique. And not only because of unkind feedback, but because of self-doubt, anxiety, awareness that I haven’t always mastered the level of craft I need to realize my aspirations. Wanting to write doesn’t equate with being able to write. But getting feedback about what does and doesn’t work for a reader need not be destructive, either. No one learns when they’re being attacked.
I have since published essays and stories, trained in the Amherst Writers & Artists Method™, led numerous writer’s circles, co-founded a writer’s company, led over a dozen workshops. I have worked directly with writers such as Robert Boswell, Karen Brennan, Priscilla Long, Lauren Groff, and David Shields. I also am completing my Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree at Warren Wilson College.
Writers I’ve worked with have been signed with literary agencies and jump-started their freelance careers. They’ve completed manuscripts and learned how to revise them. They’ve gone from believing they weren’t writers to establishing their own critique groups, grounded in an approach based in kindness.
That’s the truth I know, and that’s why I founded A Fiercely Kind Word.
In a funny way, I’m on a mission to further the idea that kindness can prevail among writers – a culture where competition, positioning, and awards can overshadow the original yearning toward connection and beauty that inspires many of us to write in the first place.
To make our worlds more meaningful.
To contribute our verse of beauty.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Shape Your Ideas
Get 5 Fiercely Kind Word Prompts to start shaping your ideas into stories.
A Fiercely Kind
3 levels of engagement
to help you awaken your inner writer and honor yourself as a writer.