“The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.” Members post about their writing lives, their successes and failures, goals, achievements, and offer support and advice to others in the group. It is a time to lay our insecurities bare, because all writers are insecure writers at heart.
If you aren’t already a member, check us out and join up HERE.
The optional question for this month’s blog post is- Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?
I’ve said I quit many times before, mostly when I was younger and more prone to extreme emotional responses to writing difficulty. I’ve torn poems and stories from notebooks, ripped them to shreds because someone I respected didn’t like them, the people the writing was about made me feel unimportant somehow, or I was having a bad stretch and was sure all my writing was crap.
These fits rarely lasted more than a day or two.
I can only recall one instance where I actually quit writing for any extended period of time. I’d just graduated from the University of Utah with a (super useful) degree in English. Applications for graduate school had been submitted (to MFA programs), and I was supremely confident that very soon I would be sorting through multiple acceptance offers. In fact, I can’t think of a time I had been more sure of my writing ability, more certain that success was waiting for me to grab it.
One by one, each of the schools to which I’d applied sent rejections. Each was painful to receive, but the letter from the University of Utah delivered a crushing blow. The application deadline was July 15th, and my rejection was dated June 25th. Yeah, rejected before all applicants were considered. Ouch.
Convinced I was the worst writer of all time, I completely abandoned the craft
I spent the next two years without composing a single poem or short story. I did a masterful job of deceiving myself that I didn’t miss it, but that sort of dishonesty is hard to maintain.
Poetry brought me back. I’d joined an online community for a band I really liked, and many of the others participants were creative types. They shared snippets of stories, lines of poetry, other art, some of it quite good, and somewhere inside of me, I felt a compulsion to participate.
Completing five or ten line poems took hours at first. I questioned every word, every phrase and image, often deleting everything and starting over. It was difficult for sure, but I think I need writing to be very hard for a while. I had to earn back the skills I’d selfishly cast away in a fit of self pity.
Writing fiction again took me another four years. It wasn’t until I was well into earning a Masters degree in Library Science that I could no longer ignore the need to tell prose stories again (poems are stories, right?). There wasn’t single catalyst or event to get the ball rolling. Multiple factors came into play, but at my core, I’ve always felt compelled to write fiction most, and finally that voice refused to remain silent.
What about you? Have you ever quit writing? Why did you stop, and what brought you back?
I think I’m ready to get back to writing. The unintentional, but apparently needed break from writing has gone on long enough. I’ve tried to pinpoint the day when the hiatus began, when I last wrote something other than this blog, or a few lines here and there while editing drafts, but as this notion of not writing for a bit was not something I consciously determined, I’m coming up empty.
All my good habits are broken, which means I need to rebuild them. In the past, writing Daily Paragraphs has worked. I give myself a bit of structure- I am only allowed to write three paragraphs (if the writing wants more, I copy and paste into a fresh document, continue). I don’t allow myself to edit at all, or place any restriction on what I can write about. It worked really well in the past. I hope it works again.
I am also hopeful other writers have ideas, things they have used (or still use) to practice, create good habits. I am open to almost any suggestion. Got one for me?
And because we all like images, here is one from Monday night, after a fine and fabulous thunderstorm blew on through the Salt Lake Valley.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to enjoy having breakfast with a very good friend. She doesn’t like eggs, but I am willing to look past that. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, which is mostly my fault. I need to do better. We worked at the library together. We did good things. I love the library. I love librarians. They are among the best people.
I also made plans to meet up with another library friend in the early afternoon. We both share a love for a certain band. They performed in Salt Lake this past weekend. I got to attend. He didn’t. His young son, also loves this band. I had acquired a clever poster of the band members, and thought his son would enjoy it. It gave me a good reason to get out of the house, go to the main library, which is a place that still means the world to me.
I worked at the Salt Lake City Public Library for a decade. It was a career I sort of stumbled into, not realizing how much I’d love it, or how deeply the philosophies of librarianship would penetrate my personal, emotional, intellectual life. I made the best of friends, shared hours of conversations and debates with like minded individuals. The best part was the reference work. Finding the correct information from the best possible resources, seeing someone light up with excitement, was very rewarding. It was important work, it had infinite integrity. I like to think I made a difference in a small way in people’s lives.
I miss it more than I’d like to admit.
The first Wednesday of each month, the members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gather together to discuss our fears, successes, failures, hopes and goals. We are a fun gaggle of goons and you should totally consider joining us. Sign up HERE. We also have a nifty Facebook group that could use your contributions. Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
Last year, I was five posts into the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I had taken on the month long challenge with no real theme, and was flying by the seat of my pants each day, hoping an idea worth writing (or reading) about would magically appear out of the void. Some days were better than others.
I had two goals- 1. Meet new blogging friends. 2. Find a renewed passion for writing this blog. Success on both fronts.
As I will be in Mexico all next week (and was far too lazy to pre-write blog entries), I am not participating in the challenge this year (and it looks like many of my blogging friends have decided not to participate as well). I have been pondering the difficulties I had last year, which have continued into this year, in solidifying a theme for this crazy blog. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself writing more about, well writing, and the sorts of things that inspire me (family, memory, art). The blog readership hasn’t improved at that much, but my excitement about writing each Wednesday has.
Finally, almost by accident, I may have found what I want this space to be- A representation of the things and people that populate my writing world.
With the emergence of a more concrete theme, I came to another conclusion. I am done posting flash fiction or poetry here. Sharing it rarely felt successful, and I’m questioning my motivation for doing so in the first place.
Asking for a beta reader from time to time is still on the table, and I am always willing and wanting to share the fiction and poetry I write. I hope those of you who visit for IWSG will come back other Wednesdays and share your thoughts and ideas, suggestions on what is being discussed. You’re all such swell folk, and I’d love to get to know you better.
Questions- Is this *theme* a good direction for me to take with Residuals? Is wanting a theme even a good idea? What keeps you coming back to a blog?
I have some of the worst handwriting in the history of handwriting. It is a family curse. All my siblings (and my father. My mother writes beautifully) create equally atrocious letters. If word processing had never been invented, if I were forced to write everything by hand, it is highly likely I would not be a writer.
Elementary schools used to (maybe they still do) include handwriting in their grading system. My first D’s were earned in handwriting. I remember the teacher’s comment- “Sloppy work. If Ryan were to practice, take his time, his handwriting would improve.” Sorry, Mrs Lindsay, some of us are deficient in our fine motor skills (I’m not allowed near scissors), and all the slowness and patience in the world isn’t going to make things any better.
Still, there is something very appealing to me about handwritten texts (letters, poems, stories). I enjoy going through the stacks of letters sent to me by family and friends over the years, not only to relive old memories, re-discover forgotten moments, but to revel in the intimate connection something handwritten provides. Each smudged letter, crossed out word, is a connection to the moment of composition, a closeness to the expression of thought.
At various points in my life, I’ve kept handwritten journals. Some of these are day to day, what did I do, sorts of writings, while others are sketches- of emotions I’m dealing with, people I’ve encountered or characters I’ve created. I like the difficulty of handwriting, the struggle I have to write legibly. It focuses my efforts, narrows my scope. Sometimes, I don’t bother and just fly through a page, laughing at myself as the ends of words blur into unintelligible squiggles; sentences and paragraphs that barely qualify.
I’ve just spend the last two days reading a journal I wrote when I was between the ages of 19 and 21. Terrible spelling. Every event described was either the most important or most mundane of my existence. Certain phrases repeated themselves on almost every page. As I read, each entry made me guffaw at my strangeness, cringe at my hyperbole. Today, I plan to read a journal from my early years at the community college. I expect to have a similar response.
Every time I go through one of these readings, I am ready to commit myself to writing more often. I’ve managed a page a month for the last two years, but I want more. So much of life gets lost over time, altered or forgotten, and while a handwritten (or typed) account of an event is not free of bias or distortion, it is an honest attempt at telling.
Do any of you keep journals? If so, are they something typed, stored in a file, or are they written out longhand? Is your handwriting like mine?
Over the weekend, my wife and I spent several hours de-cluttering. Because our home has ample storage space, it is easy to put things in a closet, a bin, and forget they exist. I am amazed at the amount of stuff we’ve acquired over the last few years since moving to South Jordan. Add that number to the things we’ve hung onto for 20+ years of being married and we have an embarrassing amount of possessions.
Going through the linen closet, we discovered washcloths, hand and bath towels that were wedding presents. Faded and worn out, they had not been used in more than a decade. There were medicines which had expired years ago, first aid kits with dried out antiseptic wipes. We made quite a pile of things that must go from these items.
But it wasn’t only old and worn out things that were taking up space. Our storage areas and closets were full of nearly new items we weren’t using which could benefit others in our extended family (and beyond). We collected shirts, pants, and shoes, jackets, books, and put them into sacks with the intention of offering them to someone else.
Somewhere along the road. I’ve lost interest in the concept of more. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, it felt like I could never have enough stuff, and when I had the opportunity, I lobbied my wife to purchase these things. Often, I got the things I wanted.
I finally understand that there is only a fleeting pleasure in pursuing the bigger and better, and even less happiness in in the acquisition of things. And while I type, I see the arrogance of even writing about this, the privileged position of having a choice at all.
Even after going through and removing objects from my environment, I still have more than enough, more than I need, and certainly more than I deserve.
Luckily, none of us ever get what we really deserve.
It has been a while since I’ve talked about my boys. In the summer of 2007, Dylan and Destry were placed with us through the foster care system. They’d just had their 7th birthday. Nine months later, we officially adopted them into our family.
They are juniors at Herriman High School now. I feel the way most parents do- One day they were little boys, and the next day they’d become young men. I am grateful for the good people they are, regardless of the strange parenting they receive. They both have huge hearts.
What follows is a year by year photo essay, starting with their first weekend in our home up to last Friday, when they attended a school dance.
August 2007-Onion Days Parade and picnic, Payson Utah. Seven years old and not quite sure what to think of their current situation. They did get some swell MetLife swag.
Summer 2008- We went to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for a play-date with some friends. We arrived early (or were the friends late?). Here, Destry (left) and Dylan (right) ponder the pros and cons of swinging.
On the year anniversary of their adoption, we took them to Timpanogos Cave. Dylan is on the left.
October 2010- Halloween morning in our kitchen (our Sugarhouse, Utah home). I’m not sure what Dylan is supposed to be, but I’m assuming Destry is dressed as a tourist.
June 2011 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. One of our favorite places to vacation. I like to make the boys stand next to random statues (I have quite the collection). It likely makes me a bad parent (joking), but they are always good sports about it. Well, they used to be.
Outside Smith and Edwards Country Store in Ogden, Spring 2012- A bad hair period? Perhaps, but we’ve always let them wear whatever clothes they liked and have their hair as long, short, sloppy as they wanted.
Cancun, Mexico Spring 2013- We’d been at the resort less than five hours and both of them already had their summer tans going. Cancun is both boys favorite vacation destination.
October, 2014. Back in Cancun. Both boys look much older than the previous Spring. Here, they are posing with a kid from England they met while swimming about. They were inseparable for five days. I’m not sure they’ve spoken since.
The lads and me, Fall 2015 in our South Jordan, Utah kitchen. Dylan is sporting the rhino look, while Destry and I model a less severe style.
Track season, Spring 2016. Orem, Utah at Grandma Kempton’s house. While this photo is clearly posed, I am stunned at the difference 8 months can make. These are no longer boys, but young men.
Outside our South Jordan, Utah home- Last weekend, February, 2017. They had a grand time at the dance, and by all accounts, were perfect gentlemen.
It is funny, I feel I haven’t aged all that much. Yet somehow, in what feels very much like overnight, my family has changed from this-
It may have happened quickly, but if I stop and think, the years, events, vacations, good and bad days are floating about for me to remember. I am grateful for each and every day being their father. I’m a lucky guy.