Tag Archive for risk-taking

Teen Writer Success: Curtained Confidence

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While conducting a writing workshop for teens, I encountered a 14-year old boy who didn’t interact in discussions or make eye contact.  His jet black hair covered his face Emo-style leaving only piercings and tattoos visible.

teen writers 4After giving instruction followed by an exercise, I walked the room for individual questions.  The boy was silent, sitting like a statue with black-nailed hands in his lap.  A notebook was perched atop the desk opened to a blank page harboring a lonesome, loitering pen.

Kneeling next to him, I asked him about his writing experience.  His head upturned toward me, and I imagined he was peering through the thick locks that hung over his face like a sheepdog’s.

Quiet and well mannered, he peeped, “I like to write, but I’m a bad writer.”

“Do you ever write just for yourself?” I asked.

He shook his head.

I instructed him to change his thinking, so he could exercise his desire to write and become a good one.  “Write just for you right now.”

teen writer 5The mop of locks slowly swayed from side to side as he turned away.  I thought of how some teacher, some parent or sibling, even some friend – a saboteur of his creativity and expression – had not liked what he wrote for some reason, then put him down, teased him, maybe lowered his grade.  He believed this person was right and himself to be very, very wrong.  Unrepairable.

I picked up his pen, handed it to him, then tapped the paper and said, “Please, can you give it a try?”  He tilted his head down, and the screen of hair fell upon the page like a final curtain closing on a poorly reviewed production.

When I came around a few moments later, I asked how it was going.  Without saying a word, he handed me the notebook.  On it was scrawled, “I want to write more.”  He wasn’t ready to say he was a good writer, but with the saboteur hammering on the walls inside his mop-topped head, he’d made incredible progress.  With five words, he showed he was willing to face his fear and express his thoughts in writing.

“That’s great.  You’re moving forward.  Keep writing.”

With barely detectable fervor, his head bobbed and the curtain shimmied like a musician playing a slow jam.   His arm was moving across and down the page.  I wondered if he was drawing, but never got a chance to look inside the curtain until a magic moment when it lifted as his head came up to face me.  There on the page were words, row after row of words from a teen experiencing freedom.

I hoped he could see my encouraging smile.

Here’s another story about Teen Writer Success.

*Academic Coaching available by appointment

Disclaimer —  It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Chart A Course To Write Your Memoir

Like clients Kirby and Jonathan, you can write and publish your memoir.
Consider the Memoir class as getting your feet wet, the Creative Writers Workshop as training, and personal writer’s coaching & editing as the swim toward the finish line.

 

Start Somewhere.

nyad.espncdn.com.1 - CopyDiana Nyad, 64, an American long distance swimmer, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage in September 2013.  She attempted the 110-mile swim in 1978, then three more times during 2011-2012 without success.  Undaunted, she kept trying.

Some take to writing easily, while others need encouragement.  All could become successful writers.

I’ve seen those who keep dipping their toes rippling the surface ‘thinking’ about writing while others tread water.  These waste mental and physical efforts.  With practice and determination, others jump in to navigate their past and write their memoir.

Get in the Water.

SWIMMING-CUBA-US-NYADOn earlier tries, Nyad was stung by jellyfish, harassed by harsh currents and battered by storms forcing her to quit.  Still, her quest wasn’t over.  She changed tactics, updated equipment, and kept trying.  Obstacles were just lessons to examine and conquer.

Many hindrances can slow writers, but our self-doubts can sink us.  My greatest lesson in how to deal with doubt came from my swimming practice.

Whenever excuses weigh me down, and I really, really don’t want to swim, my motto is ‘get in the water.’  This never fails: I begin with the assurance I can stop whenever I want.  All the negative messages float into my mind like stinging jellyfish or attack my gut like sharks.  I endure and keep swimming.

Interestingly, whatever was blocking me – sinus issues, achey body, ornery mood – improves or dissipates.  Each time, I accomplish my goal of swimming my usual number of laps.

Jump headfirst into your writing.  Enjoy the weightlessness of freedom, the unburdened feeling of writing what comes from your pool of memories.  See what surfaces.

Swim with Friends.

diana-nyad-florida-to-cuba-swimNyad, like any seasoned athlete, dove to mental and emotional depths to acquire physical strength to complete her goal.  She didn’t swim alone; she had community onshore, as well as a boat load of folks for moral support and to watch her back.

In teaching memoir for years, I’ve seen group after group coalesce and support one another to dive deep into consciousness and bring up treasures.

Join the Memoir class, a guided group of no more than six participants. The expedition is more fun, even more enlightening, with others.

Go for the Goal!

nyad.cbsmiami - Copy“I have three messages,” Nyad said on the beach after her historic swim (Associated Press).  “One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”

Compassionate, honest fellow writers are crucial to your success; they want you to win! This happens with every Creative Writers Workshop I’ve led, a group of no more than 4 writers.

As your writing coach, I mentor you to chart your writing’s course and hold you accountable as you move from writing and revising to editing and publishing.

With friends and a dedicated coach on your team, you can more easily write and complete your memoir.

nyad.gmanewstv - Copy
Memoir Class

Creative Writers Workshop

Personal Writer’s Coaching & Editing, by appointment

 
References: Associated Press; Mike Smollins.
Photos:CBS/Miami; ESPN/CDN; GMA News TV; IlPostIt

Dead Air or Well-fed Relationship?

mother-daughter

“Just the headlines!” Paige demanded, interrupting me with more brass than a marching band.

I’d known her game through years of friendship.  As a retired broadcaster, she gets impatient with lengthy descriptions.

“Okay, okay!”  I feigned defeat, waited for her reaction, then went right back to telling the same story, only faster.

She tilted her head back into her thick mane, pursed her lips and squinted her eyes in submission.  If uninterrupted, I knew I had her for another ninety seconds.

Too soon, her phone vibrated on the table like a half-dead locust.  She diverted her gaze as she picked it up.  That’s when I stopped.

“It’s Peri,” she said beginning to text her daughter, then, without looking up or missing a keystroke, she added, “I can multitask.  Continue.”

I didn’t, preferring to wait for her full attention.  Instead, I watched her focus on making a point in minimal words.  Those two text all the time, talk on the phone weekly, and keep a strong face-to-face relationship at least once per month.  Each mode of communication enhances the relationship.  Paige views texting like keeping an eye on the ticker crawling across the bottom of the news channel, whereas phone calls are news programming, and being together is the up-close-and-personal unedited interview.

Texting complete, Paige looked up with faux irritation.  “Go on.”

And I did.  It was my turn under the network lights.

That doesn’t happen for me all the time.  I think of Hal, a buddy who texts occasionally, but when I return it, especially if I ask a simple question about how he’s doing, there’s dead air.  When I see him, he doesn’t share much either.  He gives out soundbytes like Halloween candy, a sweet little tidbit before smiling and closing the door leaving me outside.

Another acquaintance from years ago, Fiona, loved talking on the phone, so I rarely saw her personally.  Her modus operandi for gathering and disseminating information was simple:  share  a little to break the ice, ask leading questions, and get the juiciest morsel.  When she heard a gossipy soundbyte, her mind raced to an internal rolodex to determine who to call while the person finished the story and asked for support.  Like what happened to Marla sharing her heartbreak. gossip.girl

“You’ll be fine,” Fiona snapped.

“But I hoped—“

“Someone’s beeping in.  Call you tomorrow.”  Fiona got what she wanted and disconnected.

When tomorrow came, Marla didn’t hear from Fiona, but heard her brutally edited story from someone she never would have told.  Marla felt manipulated and betrayed by Fiona’s over simplification, which added to her pain.

Where’s personal reflection and honest interaction?   Hal hides it away from everyone, maybe even from himself.  Fiona fakes it and feeds off it from a distance over the wire.  None of this is new in our culture of mass communication, ever-increasing information, and survival-mode summarization.  Still, our fondness for using electronic devices instead of having face-to-face contact where we can sense emotional reaction and read nonverbal communication leaves something big out of the conversation.  Many feel the loss.  Some mourn it.

Though my friend Paige is sometimes anxious to get to the point, she still wants to experience the journey.  She loves the interpersonal, is integral within a large community, as well as treats family and friends with equal care.  She’s laughs, cries and hugs it out with her wide circle.  Paige achieves this by balancing written and verbal communication, as well as by integrating text, social media, Skype, phone calls and personal contact to nurture rich, rewarding relationships in today’s hurried world.

Soundbytes are simply a tease.  Headlines are just an invitation.  With the important people in your life, do you want to nourish relationships with nibbles or five-course meals?  And what would you like to consume to feel nurtured and satisfied?

 

Disclaimer:  It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Three Bars in a Single’s Joint, Still No Reception

texting.manFADE IN:

INT, INTOWN RESTAURANT, NOON

PHYLLIS, a thirty-something single, sits with her best friend JANEEN eating and dishing.

PHYLLIS

So I order a martini last night and spot this guy on the other side of the bar…

JANEEN waves for the waiter, who passes them by, and PHYLLIS looks at his behind, grins and raises eyebrows.

PHYLLIS

…he’s the right age, got curly dark hair, no facial hair and a nice build, so I stroll over to give him a better look.

JANEEN

Of you?

 PHYLLIS

Of course of me!  The place was dark, and I was wearing black. How else is he gonna see the curves?

JANEEN shrugs and stabs the last bits of her salad.

PHYLLIS

So I slink over holding my cocktail like a prize and position myself in his sight line, only he’s looking down at his smartphone.

JANEEN

Dumbphone…another dumbass hiding behind social media while in front of a possible relationship.  It’s like face time doesn’t exist—

 PHYLLIS

—except in cyber space!

PHYLLIS aggressively flags down the waiter for the check.

 PHYLLIS

So through the whole time I sip, he never raises his head.  And I’m getting irritated, thinking he’s probably sexting, and if I only had his number, I could text him something like ‘Look up and catch my smile,’ then I’m drinking more and getting pissed, ya know, like ‘why bother coming out to meet people if you will never make eye contact?’

JANEEN nods and laughs.

PHYLLIS

And then it gets worse when I’m done with my drink and over this one-way stare-fest while he smiles and laughs at his phone, and I realize this stupid bar that’s a WiFi HotSpot doesn’t let me text the waitress to bring me another lemon drop!

JANEEN

Ugh, more insulting than getting broken up with by having your boyfriend change his relationship status to ‘single’ on Facebook.

PHYLLIS

No kidding!

The women simultaneously pull wallets from purses.

PHYLLIS

I had to go home!

JANEEN

Alone!

PHYLLIS drops her gaze from her friend’s face to –

CLOSE UP—

JANEEN’s hand wrapped around wallet with acrylic nails and a three-carat solitaire wedding set.

BACK TO—

MEDIUM SHOT of PHYLLIS putting her wallet away as the waiter sits the check on the table.

PHYLLIS

I think it’s your turn to pay.

JANEEN takes the check, reads the total, then looks up at her friend.

JANEEN

Then how ‘bout the next time you’re angry, you just text me?

CLOSE UP—

PHYLLIS’ eyes narrow, then widen as she smiles.

MEDIUM SHOT—

PHYLLIS reaches for the bill and JANEEN pulls it away, then with her free hand, takes PHYLLIS’ hand.  They laugh.

JANEEN

Always fun to be with you!

FADE OUTput.the.phone.down

 

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