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Teen Writer Success: Curtained Confidence

Academic Coaching available

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.

Teen Writer Success: Attitude Adjustment

*Academic Coaching available by appointment

“I hate writing,”  she proudly snarled as I finished reading her essay homework.  Before I could begin feedback, she beamed, “I love math, and I plan on studying computer science at Georgia Tech.”

I was taken by her confidence in opposing passions.  “So how are you doing in English class?”

“My only B’s.”

Her disgusted tone told me these grades soiled her perfect GPA.

“Do you think that’s because you really, really don’t like doing it?”

She shrugged her shoulders, pouted her lips and darted her eyes to the side, obviously long since finished with examining her grades.

teen.4“Do you think you will have to write at Tech?”

“Probably.”

“Will you despise it, too?” I asked directly.

She looked at me quizzically. “Yeah.”

“And in your career, will you have to write?”

She swallowed.  “I guess.”

“Will you loathe it?” I whispered and raised an eyebrow.

She realized I was joking, so I smiled and began pointing out all the good in her essay.  In addition to a strong grasp of structure and grammar, I illuminated clever phrases, intelligent ideas, and keen persuasive techniques.

Her face lifted, almost glowed.  “Really?”

“Really,” I nodded.  “Like it or not, you write well.  Well. . .well enough for a B, and that. . .” I paused to put down my pen before looking her square in the eye, “that is mainly because you are fighting the process.”

Her gaze was locked on mine as she wanted the answer.

“Maybe it’s time to stop hating it, and partner with your writing.”

She grinned slightly.

“Befriend your enemy,” I proclaimed as I put my pen away, our time ending.  “You’ll need that friend for college and scholarship apps, a resume, and then all the way on your way up the ladder.”

“When can you work with me about writing again?”

“When you shift your attitude.  Anything you begin from a sour position is bound to turn out poorly,” I said, pausing to take a breath.  “And isn’t it telling that even with all that negativity, you’ve still made B’s.”

“I’m ready to make an A.”

“Then get ready to enjoy your work.  Beginning with a positive outlook makes everything easier.”

After thanking me and parting, I knew writing would most likely never overcome math as her favorite subject, and that was okay.  At least her writing could benefit from some of her wonderful enthusiasm.

Here’s another story about Teen Writer Success.

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

Love/Hate: Writers on Writing

5 Writers Respond to Dorothy Parker

On Writing’s Beloved Struggle

The members of the Creative Writers Workshop were asked to view the image and write a quick, honest and heartfelt response.  At 100 words or less, they could edit this, if needed, but not over think it.  Here are the results —

dorothy.parker.1

Typing is a cumbersome, antiquated mode of transmitting words onto paper.

Did Dorothy Parker mean to say, “I hate typing? I love having written?”

Writing is to the book, as dancing is to the dance.

‘Having written’ permits the writer to proclaim, “I am a writer.”

If I asked Dorothy Parker why she hates writing but loves having written, she’d reply I haven’t suffered the bi-polar nature of writing:  A mad churning out of words, or comatose waiting for inspiration.

If I got to hate writing, I’d quit. Let the writers do it instead.   –Kim

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I laughed out loud at this! Dorothy Parker, as usual, says volumes in a few words. It makes me wonder how much she must have struggled with writing and rewriting to whittle things down to the economical sentences she’s known for—not one word is wasted. It reminds me also of another quote by a famous writer: “Sorry this is so long. I did not have time to make it shorter.”  Making it shorter and making it better comes after first writing sloppy or bad, which most of us hate to do! Shitty first drafts everyone, shitty first drafts.    –Karen

Note:  “Sorry this…” by Mary Jackson in the New English Review and attributed to Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, etc.  “Shitty first drafts” by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird

Dorothy.Parker.9

I need to conquer this Goliath within me, this giant writer that rules over me.  Actually maybe not, because then that will be self-destructive. Maybe I’ll just harass her into a malleable acquiescence, use her to release my creative juices, go on dates with her, coax her into the silences of my soul, to find the words resting there and release them onto the page.  Because if this Goliath keeps ruling me in the same way, then no one will ever read my stories, and the pent-up energy will find other less satiable channels of expression.    –Hana

dorothy.parker.2

I actually don’t hate writing at all – once it starts it’s sort of like what I imagine body surfing to be. Getting a start can be tough, especially if writing a book, can’t help thinking about the overarching storyline.

Don’t know about loving having written. Sometimes pleased, sometimes not, sometimes anxious about something in it, like “did I paint someone in an unfair light?” Today looked for the first time at all my chapters. Not going to look too hard, or I’d begin reworking, finding all the gaps that need filling, etc. Well, have to start putting something on paper for tomorrow – one of those times beginning a new part – always the hardest to get started!   –Ann

Dorothy.Parker.by.Kris.Heding

This irritated me.  Then I thought if I were DP, that nimble, clever broad, I’d rather be at the Algonquin with creative types loudmouthing and cackling, my brain firing on all cylinders, one hand gripping a cocktail while the other fluttered punctuating my voiced assaults.  In solitary with those fingers pounding keys, brain all alone, would be an utter bore.

I enjoy every part of writing, including talking and laughing about it.  Wish I could’ve met Mrs. Parker.  I’d ask ‘Can you really be that good at something you hate?’ then be on guard for the exploding wisecracker.   –Wayne

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Algonquin Round Table members

Please share your response in 100 words or less.
Consider joining a Creative Writers Workshop for all the fun and creative expression of the Round Table without the smoke, booze and attitude (at least in the room, though whatever happens on paper is celebrated).  Groups are forming now on evenings and weekends.  Each is limited to four writers.  Email me with your intention.

 

“Typewriter” — Dorothy Parker Facebook fanpage
“What Fresh Hell Is This?” — Libby Fife
“Book Page Collage” — Kris Heding