Writing Wins and Woes: Back to School with Writing Final Edition

This is the last day of the month and therefore, my last edition of Back to School with Writing. I’m not sure what topic I’ll pursue next but hopefully the muse will hit me by this time next Friday. I’m calling this final edition Why do I write?

Why do I even ask this question? Simple. I ask it because writing is one of those professions with uncertain financial rewards, requires a lot of mental energy and therefore is very draining intellectually, is full of rejections so it definitely bruises egos and often doesn’t give as much joy as it takes from a writer’s life. Success? Yeah, you have a few, but so many more failures than successes. Don’t become a writer so you can become a celebrity. Most likely, you will always be unknown. Often you’ll even doubt your own abilities to be any kind of a writer at all.

Having said that, let’s look on the bright side now and explore why I’m still a writer, despite all I’ve just mentioned.

  1. I don’t want to be a quitter. You remember that saying cheaters never prosper? Well, quitters never prosper either. Why? Because they quit before they can. I don’t want to quit at something that has potential in my life to fulfill my dreams.
  2.  I’m driven to write. If you’re not driven to write, and you think you’re a writer, you’re probably not a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Sure, I took a few years off here and there when I was extremely busy and tired; aka raising babies and children, but even then I was journaling. I couldn’t help myself. Writing is in my blood.
  3. I like to write. Writing is fun. It’s one of those funny, quirky, creative jobs that are just fun to do. On my best days, anyway. Now that I see it as a job, sometimes it isn’t as much fun. What jobs are? I often have to remember what I’m writing for so I can make it fun again, which leads to point four.
  4. You get to share who you are with people. Writers are often loners. They don’t share their lives with people easily. Writing is a way to bare your soul. Even if I’m writing through a character, I’m often writing at least a little bit about myself. When I write, I tell my story.
  5. Writing has financial dividends. This is the toughie here, because it’s not always true. And sometimes those dividends are so minuscule, you begin to wonder if they’re worth the work you put into the writing of it. Can you make a living from writing? Not often, but it can add at least a little padding to your income. And this brings me to point six.
  6. As a creative option, it doesn’t cost a lot to write. When you look at other hobbies, they can be expensive. My husband is an artist. He has to buy canvases, paint, brushes, things to put these things in. Plus it takes a lot of space for him to work in. My writing doesn’t require anything but my laptop or a pen and paper. It doesn’t take a lot of work  space either. I usually just write at my kitchen table.
  7. Writing builds confidence. This is one of those things where the door swings both ways. Remember I said it bruises egos, but it also builds up self-esteem when someone publishes your writing. They liked it well enough to actually pay you for it. Wow! That’s something special.
  8. It helps people. Your writing may heal someone or help them heal. Have you ever written a letter to someone, and they said, that’s just what I needed to hear right now. Writing did that. An article may supply the information that someone might need right at this time in their life. Your story may lift someone’s spirits, or help them face something your character went through and they are going through, too. Writing is medicine.
  9. It improves your mind. Are you getting older, and can’t remember things so well?Write it down. Writing helps to improve your memory, keep you sharp and not age as fast. I know because I’m a grandma now and I’m getting older. When you write, people don’t see your age either. You can be eternally young through your writing.
  10. Lastly, writing makes me happy. It’s a dream I have to publish a book. That dream keeps me going. Knowing that someday I will achieve this goal makes me happy. It gives  me a reason to live and move forward in every area of my life. Because a writer is who I am.1133

Writing Wins and Woes: Writing from the Heart

A famous writing saying is to write what you love. There is a lot of practical, common sense to this. If you are excited about the subject matter you are writing on, chances are others will be excited when they read about it. In fact, most of what I write is about something I am really interested in. That’s why I do a lot of kids writing.

My interests are: animals, kids, babies (not hard to figure that out right now), science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, literature, spiritual things and cooking. As I look through the list of things I’ve written, I find that my first published work was  a short story about two kids and a dog, “Snow Treasure.”  It contains three of my interests: spiritual things, kids and animals. My one and only story for Daily Science Fiction, A Little Piece of Heaven, contains three of my interests also, animals, science fiction and spiritual things. I can go on and on with my list of published work and find that most contain at least two of the criteria for my interests.

It’s interesting to note that I succeed most at publishing something I’ve written when I’m most excited about the content. Can you write about something you don’t have as much interest in and get it published? Sure. I hate math, but I wrote an article that was very mathematical. In fact, I didn’t completely understand all I wrote. It was called “How many Petals on a Daisy” and it was published in GAK. From my research I developed an interest in the number of petals on different types of flowers. So I wrote the article. As a writer, you need to keep growing, even in things you may not initially have an interest or knowledge in, especially if you are writing a novel. Something will come up. Oh, there’s a fight in my story. I don’t like fighting, but I need to write a fight scene. There’s computer information in my story. I don’t know much about computers and how they work. I need to find out how they work. Sometimes research over the internet works, but often times you have to talk to somebody who knows their stuff. This is something I have trouble with. I don’t like to talk to people. I’m a loner. But a writer has to stretch themselves a bit when they want to excel at what they do.

Write about what you love? Sure. But try writing about something new, too. You might be surprised at the results and about what you learned in the process. 619

Writing Wins and Woes: Kudos to Great Teachers

This is my third installment of Back to School with Writing, and I just realized that my first two blogs were really “downers” on teachers. I’m not anti-teacher. I went to school to be a teacher (although I dropped out) and I’ve been a proud Sunday school type teacher since I was 16 years old. I really enjoy teaching and am thankful for some of the best ones in my life. Teachers shape who we become in many ways.

That’s why I’m sharing this blog. It’s my writing story. My desire to become a writer was definitely spawned by my sixth grade teacher, Miss Stehman. Miss Stehman and I had a lot in common. We both loved reading, and writing, and we both disliked math. Every Friday was Math games. We didn’t even have math class that day. Instead we played board type games. Miss Stehman fostered learning through singing songs while she played guitar, story telling by one of my favorite classmates who was the class clown and writing stories.

I wrote tons of stories in her class. Miss Stehman liked them and asked me if she could keep some of them. I was flattered. Never had a teacher shown me any attention, at least not in a positive way. I started to think, “Maybe, I’m a good writer.” I’m sure my stories back then were mediocre at best. I’ve had a chance to read one or two and they’re funny in  a childish kind of way but don’t seem to be evidence of a great author in the making. Somehow, though, she saw potential in me, and that fanned the flame. I never stopped writing after that. In Seven and Eighth grade, I told stories to my friends at overnight sleep overs. I remember writing stories that I shared with some of my friends, too. And in ninth grade, I won second prize in a speech contest for a patriotic speech I wrote.

I wrote story after story and kept writing but never got a thing published until about three years ago, when I decided to send some stories in to magazines. I tried a venue called The Kids’ Ark and was accepted. Thus, a writer was truly born. But it all began sixth grade with a teacher who thought a little nobody in her class was a pretty good writer. And for that I’ll always be grateful.1268

 

Writing Wins and Woes: Bullying isn’t just for kids

This is my second edition of Back to School with Writing and it’s a strange one. Bullying is rampant in schools. It isn’t unusual to hear of a kid committing murder or suicide largely due to bullying in school. I had my share of school experiences with bullying. Most of them were terrifying but in the long run I suffered through it and wasn’t physically hurt by anyone. I think everyone faces some form of bullying in life.

However, one of my worst nightmarish bouts with bullying wasn’t from a kid. It was from a teacher. I could avoid kids, for the most part, when I was in school who weren’t on my team.  But I was totally unable to avoid the teacher who’s class I was assigned to. This teacher, who shall remain nameless, was a math teacher in high school. I believe it made her day to bully someone in her class. Her form of bullying may have been called “teaching” to her but to me it ranked with some of the most humiliating experiences I had in high school, and believe me, high school was full of these kinds of embarrassments.

This is how it went. This particular teacher had something called “lucky lottery” in her class. If you have read the story by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”, you will know that this lottery wasn’t very lucky. When I walked in her class, I was forced to draw a number from a bucket. That number corresponded to a homework assignment from the night before. Woe is me if I happened to draw a number of a problem I wasn’t able to figure out.  We’re talking algebra here and plane geometry; classes that made no earthly sense to my non-math mind. Once in a while, I drew a blank card. Yay! That meant I didn’t have to publicly humiliate myself today.

If I drew the “unlucky number” of a problem I didn’t know how to do, I had to work out the problem on the board in front of the class with  my teacher’s so-called help. Her help consisted of asking me the same question twenty times, that I didn’t know the answer to, nor was I likely to have the answer strike me from the heavens while I was sweating bullets in front of the classroom. If I didn’t answer, she made fun of how stupid I was. She often used a whiny, sing-songy voice to belittle me. I remember her actually making students cry and then laughing at them for crying. “Did the big, mean teacher make little ____ cry?” she said to one petite girl in the class.

I decided at one point to take her advice and meet with her before school to get help with my math inadequacies one on one. That didn’t last long. Her individual sessions were about as fun as being trapped in a cage with a saber toothed tiger.

What on earth does this have to do with writing? Well, it made me a stronger person. I actually passed her class, usually with low “b’s” or high “c’s”. I learned to work hard at something I didn’t like. I learned persistence pays off and I learned that sometimes you have to deal in life with lousy people. It’s helped me on my jobs and it’s helped me when I faced a really demeaning rejection letter from an editor or publisher. Her class may be a reason I’m still writing today, even in the face of insurmountable rejections and lack of pay-off.  It may even be one of the reasons I’m still writing this blog week after week with few responses.

I don’t condone bullying. It’s a horrible experience. It can leave you wounded and raw but if you’ve been bullied, let it be a lesson to you to be kinder to other people who are not as “smart” as you are. Killing someone with kindness is so much nicer than bullying.kitty-cat-bullying

Writing Wins and Woes: Back to School with Writing; Writers in their right minds

Lefties are the only ones in their right minds is a saying that stems from the fact that left handed people use the right side of their brains more. My first experience knowing I was different was not a positive one. When I started school, I had a very old-school teacher. She decided that my being left-handed was wrong, and so made it her goal to break me of it. She wrote right and left on my hands so I would use the so-called “right” right hand to write with. My mom, on seeing this, to her credit, confronted my teacher who said “I don’t know how to teach a left-handed student.” Well, my mom let her know this was her job, and she better learn how to do it. I had no more trouble after that, although I often got only average grades in handwriting, where I mostly excelled at other subjects; except Math, but that’s another story for another nightmare.

I recently discovered that our current president, Barack Obama is a Lefty. That made me wonder how many other presidents were left-handed. It’s interesting because it’s hard to know. Like my experience in school, others have been “broken” of their handedness. Being left-handed was once named as a disability and people learned to write with their right hands who were naturally inclined to be left-handed. However, of the last seven presidents, 4 were left-handed. That’s well above the average. In case you’re wondering, they are our current president, Clinton, the elder Bush and Gerald Ford. It also has been reported that Reagan was broke from left-handedness to his right hand, so possibly five of seven were left handed. Wow!

Why is this? Well, lefties apparently are divergent thinkers. They excel in the arts, sports, music and information technology fields. They are good at things where opponents face each other. Maybe because we lefties tend to think outside the box, we go for “unique” careers.  Whatever the reason, there are a lot of talented lefties around. Of course, I had to find out the writers who were lefties. Here’s my list: James Baldwin, Peter Benchley, Lewis Carroll, Dianne Paul, H G Wells, Eudora Welty, among others. Also one of my favorite people of all time, who deserves a blog post of her own, Helen Keller,  was a lefty.

Are there any other lefties out there? I’d like to hear from you. We might be out in left field, but we’re always in our right minds. 1280

Writing Wins and Woes: Direction

I’m not very good with direction. I once visited the home of a bus kid from our church, and tried to leave the house via the closet. I’m known for veering off to wrong exits on highways because I followed the car ahead of me. I don’t know whether the place I’m going to is “up” or “down”. If there is a hill in the way of my going there, it’s always up, or a slope, it’s “down”. A map is useless to me. The best thing ever invented on the phone was GPS, and I can even get lost using that. Luckily, it re-routes itself.

I want to go a new direction on this blog. I love writing themes and starting in September which is next week, I want to explore a new writing theme of some kind. If I still have some readers out there, I’m open for suggestions. Themes in the past I have done were: Writing Recluses, Spring Cleaning the Writing Life and Mothers. I’ve also done some small holiday themes. Here’s some ideas I have for themes: Writing Fairy Tales, Juggling the Family with your Writing, What kind of author am I?, Back to School with Writing. Let me know if any of these themes catches your fancy. Otherwise, I’ll probably just pick one.

I’m very happy with my progress this week. I didn’t write a whole lot, but I wrote an article for a deadline at the end of the month, and submitted a fairy tale, also on a deadline. I was very pleased with the value of the work I did. In other words, I liked what I wrote. Sometimes I don’t like what I write as much.

It was my first week back on second shift but my husband was on vacation and we were trying to fit in some electrical work on the house, so it was hard to find time to get writing stuff in. So I’m glad I got anything done. Next week, I’m back to a schedule of trying to write every week day. Have a great writing week.13895200_10102107096314122_9099884758137303723_n

Writing Wins and Woes: All About Dogs

I am switching gears here and writing a little bitty book review with some personal insights attached. I just finished Jon Katz’s book, The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. And like usual, I began to speculate if I had read this book before. I am always re reading books that I like because I forgot which one of this author or that author’s book I read already. I tend to read everything by a certain writer if I like that writer. I guess most people do this. Anyway, I’ve ready many books by Jon Katz. He is all about dogs, and I love dogs, as well.

I feel an affinity with him because he’s had a troublesome border collie and we have, too. We presently have a troublesome corgi, which is not one tenth as traumatic as the trouble we went through with our border collie, Dunkin, even though we’ve had our corgi attacked in our own yard twice now by a pit bull who busted through our gate.

This book is biographical. It’s about a guy who obtained a border collie with behavior problems and decided to train him to herd sheep to combat some of those problems. To make a long story short, by this particular book, he has three border collies  and bought himself a sheep farm. His little anecdotes are really humorous. I particularly liked the story about how he traveled states away to his sister’s neighborhood where there were some runaway sheep that had gone very feral and herded them back into a makeshift corral. It took hours and he ended up roping them each separately and being drug around by them until he tired them out.  Having a sheep farm is more work than you could ever guess, and sheep are not particularly bright. He also has two donkeys that love cookies to keep life even more interesting. It’s a very good read. My favorite book by Katz is A Good Dog, about his troublesome border collie.

I wanted to go into my border collie, Dunkin, a bit. We got Dunkin from the humane league at eleven months. He had a sister there, too, but she barked so much that we bypassed her and decided on Dunkin. He was just sitting there so forlorn in his cage, and he put a paw out to us and it broke my heart. We adopted him and my life was very different for having him. We had Dunkin about ten years until we had to have him put down because he had cancer. I had nightmares about walking him because every time I did, he would end up lunging at a child or another dog or freaking out over noises or plastic bags blowing around. He hated fireworks, kids and random people. He bit around a dozen forgiving people and he was lucky that way, and so were we, that not one person turned him or us in for his lack of sociability. Dunkin loved me and followed me everywhere, even into the bathroom.

I walked him most everyday even though he had me to the point of anxiety attacks on our walks. I went through various harnesses, trying to figure out how to control an uncontrollable dog, but he loved hikes in the woods where he could be off leash and run to his heart’s content. He also loved frisbee and tennis balls. If I ever dared to sit or stand in one place, I always had a tennis ball dropped at my feet. Playtime? Through my experiences with Dunkin, I learned unconditional love, loyalty and patience. I still miss him so much. Dogs are family, and when people call their dogs their children, I understand wholeheartedly.

I started to write a book about Dunkin, but I misplaced it. Someday when I find it again, I may finish it. Dunkin taught me that I can love people/pets through their many imperfections. Perfect isn’t very interesting anyway.dunkin at door