Where to begin? Because of so and so, and of something that happened, I’m to start keeping a journal of my thoughts and feelings and whatever else I care to share. WTH.
Okay, let’s start from the beginning. My name is Carla Jones. I’m twenty-five, and I live with my parents. Eh, that sounds like an opener for one of those Alcoholics Anonymous sessions. I’m not an alcoholic, but I am a screw-up.
Damn. That sounds pretty harsh now that it’s out there. But this is what my shrink wants to read, so there you go.
I lived a fairly normal life, I guess. Grew up in a small town in the mountains. Mom was a telephone operator for many years before switching to being an administrative assistance at a local community college. Dad’s a salesperson at a hardware store. I have two sisters. Trish, the eldest, moved out of the house when she was eighteen. She joined the Navy. I hardly ever see her. Mandy, the baby, is off to college, studying power engineering. She’s the brains, like Dad.
Me? I’m the oddball. The one with all the problems.
Heck, I’m not even related to these people. Not by blood anyway. You see, my parents tried to have another baby after Trish was born, but nothing happened after four years. So, they adopted me. Mandy came along as a complete surprise three years later. That left me, a brunette with blue eyes, sandwiched between these blonde-haired, brown-eyed individuals. Yep, like an oddball.
We lived next to Mom’s parents (Dad’s parents died when he was a boy). Nana and Papa to Trish and Mandy, but not to me. They made that well known as soon as I was old enough to understand. I was to call them Pat and Dave.
Trish and Mandy were always into sports. I tried, but I was deemed too klutzy to play on any team. So, I turned to running. I never competed, though. All that hardcore training and competing in meets or races never interested me.
I never excelled in anything in school. It’s not for the lack of trying…it’s just that I really didn’t care. I studied just enough to pass the exams. That’s it. Mom and Dad never really pushed me. They pretty much let me do my own thing. They rode the other two daily, though. They accepted nothing less than As or Bs from them.
When it came time to head off to college, I had no clue what to major in. I wasn’t interested in science or math or business. I ended up picking a major in Communications with a minor in Creative Writing. I had always doodled with poetry and wrote in my journal, so why not take them one step further, right? Boy, my Dad was not happy with that. I asked, what’s wrong with being a writer or a journalist? He said that those weren’t respectable fields. So, in order to appease him, I switched to a major in Kinesiology with a minor in Athletic Training.
I got as far as sophomore year before dropping out. I sucked in science classes and ended up failing them.
I refused to move back home—didn’t want to endure the daily scorn from Pat and Dave or the disappointed looks from my parents. Instead, I moved to a small city an hour from home and got a job working as a writer for the city’s newspaper. I rented a tiny, run-down apartment downtown that robbed me of over half of my monthly salary. I had no furniture, slept on an air mattress, and ate meals on the grungy carpet.
I guess I got too carried away with my sudden independence, or perhaps I was just overly desperate to be accepted for who I was. The people I ended up hanging out with liked to smoke pot. Personally, I hated pot, but these people made me feel like I was a somebody, like I actually mattered, so I just went with it.
Anyway, I ended up getting caught with some weed and was sent to jail. Lost my job and my apartment. Dad bailed me out and took me back home. Not sure what he did, but he somehow got the charges against me reduced so that there was no court or jail time for me. However, the judge ordered me to see this shrink, and since I liked to write, this same shrink gave me this ridiculous journal assignment.
I’m writing this from my hospital bed. Actually, I’m in a psych ward within the hospital. The day after I wrote the first entry to this journaling assignment, Dad and I got into a big fight. Apparently, I’m a hardship to him and Mom, and it’s starting to affect their health and job stability. I guess I just lost it. I yelled at him saying something like, well, if I’m such a hardship, perhaps I should just remove myself from their lives.
I ran into the only bathroom in the house and locked myself in. I grabbed a shaving razor and proceeded to slash the top of my hands. Freaking out, Mom called 911. From there on, everything’s just a blur. I remember waking up in a hospital room, strapped to the bed. My whole body felt bruised. Mom was sitting beside me, crying. Dad, well, I haven’t seen him since that night. She said that it took three people tackling me to stop me from continuing to slice my wrists. I don’t remember that part, but she was right, both of my wrists are bandaged up. The top of my hands are also bandaged, so I can barely write this stupid entry.
This stupid assignment. Stupid shrink. I hate him. I hate them all.
I’m still here, in the psych ward. It seems that I’m not ready to be released yet. Or rather, my parents aren’t ready to take me back home. Either way, I don’t give a rip.
Mandy visited me yesterday. She said she was worried about me. She then turned around and told me how angry she was with me. How could I be so selfish to have hurt Mom and Dad. I told her to get out of my face. I don’t need this from her or from anyone for that matter!
Why is everyone against me? What have I done so wrong to be treated so? Pat stopped by for a few minutes. Long enough to tell me that my own parents were seriously considering having me permanently committed. She went on to tell me that she did some research on my biological parents. My mother gave birth to me at the age of 13. She had been raped by her 16-year-old cousin who then committed suicide shortly afterward. Pat said that I should never have been adopted and that I’ve been nothing but a heartache to Mom and Dad.
After she left, I just lied down on the bed and cried.
The shrink told me that I was actually starting to make progress and that I should continue to journal. Whatever.
Today, I wrote my first poem in months. It’s called “Alone.”
Heart is the bridge to
one’s soul, break it in
pieces and it will
strand you, immerse you
with unspeakable loneliness
You know what? After writing this, I felt better. Purged. Does that make any sense? I’m looking back over it, and am wondering…where did this come from? Am I really that pathetic? Do I really feel that way?
The answer is yes.
It’s been a while since the last entry. I have a good reason. Well, make that twenty-five reasons, as that’s how many poems I’ve written. I’m somewhat amazed at how dark and desperate some sounded. I thought about rewriting a few so they don’t make me out to be some kind of psychotic bitch, but I didn’t.
I worked up the courage and gave some to the shrink to read. I felt certain that he would definitely have me permanently committed after reading those particular ones (that would just please the family wouldn’t it?). I was stunned when he said that they were really good. Then he had to ask if I had thought about submitting them to places to have them published.
I’ve been released from the hospital/psych ward. Since I’m no longer welcome home, I’m now living in a halfway house of sorts. I’m working part-time as a dishwasher at a college. It’s nothing glamorous, just a no-brainer, tedious job. I did something last week that scared the crap out of me, though. I submitted a few of my poems to four literary journals. Shrink seems confident that one of these places will publish my work. I have serious doubts. I mean, who would want to read my stuff? They’re just stupid poems. Nothing special about them at all.
I’m in disbelief. I received word yesterday that my poems have been accepted by Julienne Literary Journal to be published. Oh. My. God.
I think I may have even hyperventilated because I found myself on the floor breathing hysterically with a bag over my face. All those poor people at the post office. God bless them for not freaking out on me.
Good news keeps rolling in. Apparently, Dad has been working with a judge to try and get my criminal/drug/psych ward incarceration expunged from my record since it was my first offense, and guess what? As of this morning, I’m a free woman with a clean record! I’ve a feeling that my shrink may have had a hand in this even though he vehemently denied it. I know better.
This will be my last entry for the journaling assignment—the psych sessions are ending. As I read through the earlier entries, I hadn’t realized just how full of anger I was, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned that I no longer need to be. There is so much more to life than holding on to the feeling of anger because people refused to accept me as I am. No more. I want to live my own life the way I feel is best for me. I no longer need to rely on others to help me feel worthy. I can do that for myself. Writing poems and journaling have shown me that. They became the keys to unlocking my true soul.
*First published with GFT Press March 2016
Just a little blurb this week about an essay I have published with the current issue of Doll Hospital Journal.
In the essay, In Search of Hope, I recount my struggles through various losses and disabilities that brought me close to suicide as well as my battle with anxiety and depression. Mental illness also runs in my family.
What helped me through all these?
Writing, and the love for my family.
For those of you struggling with mental illness, just know that you’re not alone, and to never give up!
*To read this digital issue, click on the Doll Hospital’s image on top and this will take you to the site to download the item. It will ask for $5.00 but this is only a suggested donation amount.
*This post is written for this month’s BlogHop for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
For many I’m sure that the New Year is to be celebrated.
It’s a time when I tend to freak out.
I’m getting ready to start the second half of my forties, and with each New Year that passes, the ticking clock grows louder.
Throughout my life, I have experienced variety of losses. And because I am acutely aware just how short life really is, I can’t help but to feel that I’m somehow missing my calling.
A calling to what???
That question has haunted me for many years; and, I’m no closer to the answer now than I was a year ago.
There are clues though.
I’m certain it has something to do with writing, and with helping people.
But, that’s all I know.
I keep writing stuff, but I’m hopping from one form and genre to the next with no idea of which area should be my specialty or niche.
I’ve opened my blog to try and help struggling and/or new writers gain more exposure but feel I should be doing more.
Now, I’m looking at yet another New Year.
And I’m really freaking out.
What should be my writing goals?
What should I be focusing on that will bring me closer to whatever my calling is?
Is there any point in trying?
The question for December: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?
Wow, my first month with the group and they just had to ask this question. What is a writing career? I have always considered a career as something you get paid for while you pursue a passion or an occupational path which leads to promotions and higher pay grades.
I have hung up that “hat” in January 2015. You see, I have a progressive disability called Usher Syndrome (where I’m slowly losing my vision coupled with moderate hearing loss); and because of this, I “retired” and went on Social Security. And because I receive the SS disability benefits, I’m not to earn an income.
I’m only 45.
And believe me, I still have lots to live for!
So, back to the question.
In order to clear my conscience and help me figure out my answer, I consulted a dictionary and here what it had to say about the word, career:
Hmm, still having trouble with applying this word to my situation. Let’s see what else I can find.
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”-Maya Angelou
That’s it! A writing career to me isn’t about “making a living” but “making a life.”
Now that I’m feeling better about things, let’s move on.
For the first part of the question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now?
Though I’ve been regularly writing and publishing (short stuff) since 2007, I still haven’t found that niche. I desire to have a book of some sort traditionally published in five years, but whether it’ll be the fiction or nonfiction sort, I haven’t a clue. I have dabbled in all forms and nearly all genres, and I’m still in the dark.
Does this mean I should try to be one of those multi-genre/format kind of writer?
Or, should I continue to try and narrow down the area or areas of “expertise” for myself?
I’m starting to wonder if maybe I need to find a mentor to help guide me on this journey.
Sheesh, I’m all over the place. See what you did, IWSG? 😉
On to the second part of the question: what’s your plan to get there?
At this juncture, I plan to continue what I’m currently doing: craft the kind of fictional stories that I’d want to read, and then find a home for them; plus write micropoems and essays about my various life experiences (have been dealt with a lot of losses that I’m still trying to work through).
Survived this one.
What about you? Where do you see yourself, as a writer, in five years?
How do you view yourself as a writer?
Or perhaps something else?
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”-Stephen King
Why did you fall in love with books? How about with writing?
For me, it was the ability of books to transport me to other worlds; to meet new and interesting characters, to explore exciting and wondrous places and creatures. They took me away from reality and I discovered the magical realm of imagination.
In time, I learned to transform those fantastical worlds in to words.
Magic was real to me. I believed in impossibilities.
Myths and legends.
I’ve been called naive for most of my life. Probably because I choose not to see the world in its present state (dark, ugly and full of chaos and violence); but with possibilities and potentials.
Hope and beauty.
I choose to look at the world with a child-like view.
Hence, I still believe in Santa Claus and elves, and knights in shining armors.
Does this make me silly?
It’s how I survive in these ever darkening times.
However, for the past several years reality has been slowly poisoning my mind.
I wanted to write darker stuff. The media is full of these kinds of images and messages.
My inner being grew more hollowed.
Depression and negative thoughts settled in.
These writings that I could never seem to finish made me feel so…so empty.
I began to doubt myself as a writer, and even considered giving it up completely.
Then yesterday I sat down to watch an old favorite movie; one I hadn’t seen in several years. Actually, I watched the first two back-to-back:
I felt like a kid all over again. My mind full of magical things.
The same ideas I had many years ago but have shelved them.
It’s time I honor the writer I truly am.
“I want to be magic. I want to touch the heart of the world and make it smile. I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree. Or under a hill. I want to marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing. I don’t want to pretend at magic anymore. I want to be magic.”-Charles de Lint
I’ve had it pretty easy in my writing life. Grammar and syntax come naturally to me. I had great English teachers who praised my creativity and encouraged me. My mother was a reader who indoctrinated me early in the joys of fiction, with the help of a great library. No one suggested that writing wasn’t a good career choice, or that I needed to be more practical. I’ve had support out the wazoo.
So far as a crucible to forge a writer in, my childhood was a good one.
Many writers have had more to overcome—unsupportive or outright abusive families, second languages, mental health issues, political persecution. All that is to say that I know I have very #firstworldproblems when it comes to my writing life.
See, I was always going to be a writer. Ask people who knew me in first grade. It’s always been on my agenda. An assumption, like being a mom and a teacher. A given.
As I grew up, I used to talk about writing a lot. I’d get all dreamy and imagine my future career as a world-famous novelist. But it was always a hazy dream, filmed through Vaseline so you couldn’t see the harder realities of it: the actual work. It was “someday.”
But I wasn’t doing anything to make it happen.
Sure, I wrote. Once in a while. When I felt inspired. When I was in the mood, or when one of my ideas was just so tenacious there was no escaping it. But I didn’t take myself seriously as a writer, and neither did anyone else. Why would they? It was like I thought some big publisher was going to somehow just find me and pay me to write without my ever having proven I could even do it. A fantasy discovery scenario. Not a career plan.
Then, I was turning 42, which Douglas Adams taught us is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It was my crisis moment. I told myself it was time to give writing a serious attempt. There was a lot less “someday” left than there once was.
The obstacles in my writing life were all internal. Setting priorities, finding focus, making time. I was my own worst enemy, putting my own dream last on the list of things I would spend my days and hours and years on.
That’s when I committed to a daily writing habit. It was a game-changer for me.
It was harder than that might seem. At age 42, I was in the middle of a teaching career and a marriage. I was parenting two daughters and a dog, maintaining a house and household, fighting the battle of the bulge, and trying to have some kind of social life. There were a lot of pulls on my time. And I’d made a habit of many years of giving my time away.
But, I started to insist on writing time. Slowly, over the course of a few months, I renegotiated my contract with life, and made sure there was room in it for writing. I gave up things that I could: television, social opportunities that I didn’t want badly. My initial goal was 250 words per day. Just one page. And I struggled to put down that many words. It took me two or three hours some nights. It was hard and frustrating.
But I am stubborn. And it got easier. Soon, I could write 250 words in half an hour. I learned that the words didn’t have to all be keepers. That sometimes, I had to write garbage to get it out and get to the good stuff underneath. I learned that if I could just get something on the page, I’d be able to make it better in the next pass, but that I had to give myself something to work with.
Now, I can’t imagine a day without writing. I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day, depending on other life demands. A day when I only write 250 words is a day that was full of lots of other life—parties, sickness, travel, or something—and a decision I made about my use of time.
My family notices when I haven’t written. They see me getting grumpy and say, “Hey Mom, did you write yet today?” the way other families might suggest you get a sandwich, take a nap, or take your meds. It’s that important to my equilibrium.
And because I’m writing every day, I’m getting better at it. I have flow. I’m finishing things, revising and polishing and publishing things. People are reading them. Some people even like them. This summer, I sent my third novel off to my publisher. I get to say things like “my publisher.”
So all this is to say, if you want to be a writer, you’ll have to write. Look at your life. Figure out what’s in your way (even if it’s only you that’s in your own way). And find your way around those obstacles. You can’t ever get there if you don’t start the journey. And it’s quite a trip!
Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. You can find her Menopausal Superhero series from Curiosity Quills on Amazon, or request it at your favorite independent (or big box) bookstore. You can find her online on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+, and now on Tumblr.
Hello everyone! I have a very special guest here today to talk to us about something we all struggle with as writers. Please welcome C Hope Clark, author of two mystery series & editor for FundsforWriters!
I get these whims to literally cook up something remarkably different. Like a pot roast that adds cola, or a Christmas cookie with real lavender flowers in the icing. I even tried spaghetti cooked in a Bundt pan, with the sauce afterwards filling the hole and drizzled all over the top. It looked weird and tasted okay, but the jokes about it continued from my sister for years.
Truth is, I’m a darn good cook now. My sister hasn’t tasted much of my cooking in a decade or two, but my family and neighbors have come to appreciate what my kitchen produces, especially since much of it comes fresh from a garden, the chicken coop, and years of trial and error.
One thing I have learned, however, is that I don’t want to try out a new recipe for a special event (or test it on my sister). I could be remembered for the potential fiasco instead of my prowess.
The same goes for releasing your writing to the cold, cruel world. In our excitement to become published and start that portfolio of our accomplishments, we forget what can happen if the release crashes and burns. I baked that spaghetti dish probably thirty years ago, but my sister reminded me of it just last week. I also self-published a plain, basic little book in 2001 that I wish I never had. In spite of my attempts to forget those mistakes, they continue to pop up from time to time.
All too often we are remembered for our mistakes instead of our accomplishments. It’s a nasty reality, but oh so true.
A friend in one of my writing groups just sent her last chapter through the online group for critique. It took her months to submit, receive feedback, and edit. I watched her work just blossom over that time period as she found her footing and her voice. After the last chapter, I asked her if she was ready to send it through the group again.
The disappointment rang clear. She’d hoped to start contacting agents. I suggested she think twice about that choice. In sending the book back through for critique again, not only would the other writers look at it with a harsher eye in seeking more advanced ways to improve the work, but she would in the process grow phenomenally in her talent. Instead of analyzing basic storytelling, she and others could now study more intricacies of dialogue, voice, flow and syntax.
She was so primed to be published, and my response was this:
Don’t be anxious to be rejected.
She told me that sentence stopped her in her tracks. In querying too soon, she was indeed rushing into rejection. She was running into making a bad first impression on people she greatly needed to impress. She was attempting a new recipe in front of very important people, hoping they would like it . . . instead of practicing and rewriting long enough to know the recipe is a good one before laying it on the table.
Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, released August 2016, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers.
This is probably one of the most difficult part about being a writer. Revealing your vulnerabilities and fears to others. This is also a reason why most of us never truly reach our potential because of these fears.
I am one of them.
How do we break through the barriers that our fears place around us?
What about you? Are your fears holding you back?
If so, what are you going to do about them?