Relax into your chair.
Escort your inner critic . . . your editor out the door.
Shed your ideas about what perfect writing means.
Give yourself permission to write the worst stuff possible.
Writing isn’t about talent, it’s about practice.
Creative writing is an act of discovery.
Take a deep breath. Relax into your breathing.
Rather than write for an audience, write from an instinctual level.
Immerse yourself in writing. Let go of your worries. Just let go.
Write to satisfy an inner desire and to go to a meaningful place, that’s all your own.
Go deeper into the recesses of your mind and really write.
Write to get to a powerful level – not for an audience.
If you notice thoughts and feelings that cause discomfort, take a deep breath and exhale. Look around the room. Get up and walk to a window, or get a drink of cool, refreshing water. Then get back to writing.
Write from the well that stores the fears. Let the tears come, let the stomach tie up in knots. It’s okay to write the story that is difficult to tell.
When you are writing, if you run out of things to say, or don’t like the direction your writing is taking, write “What I really want to say . . .”
If you want ideas about what to write, click on Prompts on The Write Spot Blog.
To Alison: I was very touched by your writing about the shadow.
Reading your story, as I considered the word shadow, it made me think of Mid Western skies, that have small clouds looking like big puff balls, and sometimes they take on shapes of creatures, animals, imaginary friends, monsters etc. Occasionally these small clouds will block the sun, then pass by to allow the sun to shine again, and over and over again. Growing up in Southern Calif., we rarely had days like that, and I remember being a child of between four to six years old, and afraid of sunlight changing to shadows over and over. I have no idea why I was afraid, possibly the darkness that was cast on the ground as they passed in front of the sun. I tended to worry that maybe the sun would not come back out from the clouds.
I have heard the word “shadow” also used when describing a despicable side that most of us can possess, and thus it is hidden in ‘a shadow side of that person,’ some people more than others. I very much appreciated your story about finding worms under rocks, and Kathy’s reminiscences, I had to laugh out loud, seeing, in my mind, those worms coming out of the ground, yet at the same time feeling sympathetic for the worms.
My father did fly-fishing with flies that he would create himself by ‘tying them.’ He would do this on camping trips, in the evenings, when our family of, then: my older brother, my mother, me, and, of course, my dad, all by the light of a kerosene lantern. We would be in our truck camper. After dinner which was cooked by my mother, Dad would get out his box of many different kinds of feathers, set up a tiny vice in which to hold a hook, and fashion them into the most beautiful flies. Watching him fly-fishing was like watching a ballet. I wanted to learn how to do both but, alas, he felt I was too young to try.
Unhappily, the shadows that I had to deal with my father were not under rocks, they were the incestuous ‘things’ that he did to me –(where is that Kleenex when I need it?) — I lived under this very large shadow for many years. The incestuous behavior finally stopped when I was 12, and we had quite a “tangle!” This time it was about him deciding that something I had done needed punishment. I can’t recall what it was he felt I should be punished for. He came into my room and started taking off his belt. He ordered me to take down my pants and bend over my bed. He intended to whip me with his belt. I knew what he was planning to do was very wrong, and not just because I was too old to be spanked. I would not allow him to do that. He attempted to force me into that position, and I fought him off. I would not submit! I hit at him, and stood up to him, yelling at him to not touch me! He smiled at me, turned and walked out of my room. He never attempted to punish me physically, or sexually touch me again. I don’t remember where my mother was during all this, I do know that if she had been home, she would have brought a stop to it quickly. This shadow of sexual abuse was such a strong one that I blocked it out of my conscious mind until I was about 23.
It came back to me because of a TV movie about a girl whose father committed incest with her. Watching that movie, – It all came back. I felt dirty and confused. I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was about 30. Due to depression, I made an appointment and told a psychologist about it. I also have written about it. I attempted to talk to my father about it shortly after the
appointment with my psychologist. Dad told me our pediatrician, who was also a family friend, advised him to do that to help me protect myself as I became a woman, because I was overly trusting with men. Specifically the men in my parents’ group of friends, who were all from our church. I found out that Dr. Bill also treated his daughter the same way. His family ended up with some tragic events directly caused by his treatment of his son and daughter. Both of his children ended up on drugs, and his wife committed suicide. In retrospect, I never believed my father was acting on someone else’s advice. He is now 94 and suffering the effects of old age and several injuries. With the exception of his wife, our stepmother, he is a lonely man because of choices he continued to make regarding our family.
That shadow did not just hover over me.
The good that came from that shadow was, and still is that I had learned that talking (and now writing) about painful shadows is so important.
The connection for me was as an Intensive care RN. I took extra time with patients and their families; explaining everything that was in the room, what it was for, if it was being used at the time or not. ICU rooms are frightening enough, even though many of the instruments and connections are not being used.
I encouraged them to talk to each other, the patient and family members, about how they were feeling, and what was happening. I coaxed them to ask any questions they had. I would often be asked to be present when the discussions with doctors or other hospital staff were going on. I would be there if there was any way I could, more for moral support, than to answer questions, and to do what I could to find out answers for them, if no answer had been available at the time. Ninety percent of the families and patients ended up literally passing the Kleenex, and often smile through the tears because they felt so relieved to know what was happening, and also to know that they were on the same page, and had lifted the drawbridge, and crossed over the moat of being afraid to know, or afraid to tell each other how they felt, including loving, or feeling upset, or angry.
I vividly remember a patient who was about fifty-six years of age with a terminal respiratory condition. The first time I met the family, they were very angry at each other, a slight of some kind had set it off. I believe they were acting out displaced anger. They were under the shadow of grief, knowing their mom probably would not leave the hospital alive. At my request, the family and I sat down in the ICU family conference room to chat. I was able to talk with them about displaced anger, that they (the family) could be angry because their mom was sick and dying. It was understandable that they can’t allow themselves to be angry at their mom for being so sick, they couldn’t be angry at a disease – that would be futile, so they took out their anger on each other. Occasionally I have had family members direct their anger at me. That was not the case with this loving family.
Their mom was my patient for five or six days. The last time I saw them, all 8 of them were standing around the bed, holding hands, telling stories, mostly funny “I remember” stories. Their mom was conscious and alert, and weeping happy tears. They had managed to work through the hard stuff and have a day to be silly and loving. Unknown to them, this was the day before she passed. I loved the love they had and shared that day, and I wept along with them when she passed as her family was, again around her bed, touching her and talking softly, loving words.
mcullen Post author
I admire your courage in telling this story. I hope, I think, it gets easier with the re-telling. As I read, I wanted to be that child, cozy in the truck camper, feeling safe and loved. Then, my empathy with the teenage girl standing up for herself. Brava! And kudos to the nurse-you. Your patients were in your fantastic care. I’m sure many families are grateful to your loving attention. Thank you very much for posting. I appreciate you!
Marlene: Thank You for your comments. I owe you a debt of gratitude, you encouraged me to take my time with it to read aloud, see when it was finished. It is a great relief to have it said in writing. It is …freeing! – that keeps coming up, because it is true. My father has always denied adamantly that anything like that went on. He just tells everyone that ‘MaryAnn has a very active imagination. – that is pretty much how he treated all 4 kids in the family. I am the first to have stood up to him…many times since then. Makes me feel sad – wish it had not been that way. My older brother 13 months older than me, is the only one who escaped it. Someday, after Dad goes to whatever reward awaits him, I intend to write his story. Not all of it bad. He did come around the hard way as a child. Thank You again for being the positive influence in this part of my life.
mcullen Post author
You are very welcome, Justine. This speaks to the power of writing. 🙂
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