Writing and Trust

By Milli Thornton

Do you remember the first time you connected with the joys of writing?

For me, it was age 13 and a story assignment from our English teacher. I was burrowed into a warm and glorious cocoon, inhabiting a special, exciting world only I had the power to create.

After I emerged, I remember being puzzled that my classmates were underwhelmed with the assignment. I didn’t say anything sophisticated to myself about that. (“Oh, that’s because I’m destined to be a writer and they’re not.”) I just felt things. Like eagerness to write another story, and happiness when Miss Thomas encouraged me.

When I was 19, I wrote half a book’s worth of science fiction novel on my cheap, clunky typewriter. On a creative high I shared my pages with a family member, an avid reader of novels. Her response was “That could never happen.”

When I was 28 I shared the first draft of a story that had been pouring out of me with two women from my writer’s group. They were from the post-war era and knew about things like rations and root cellars. They both pounced on one sentence from my story, where an outcast woman in Middle Ages Britain was surviving on some withered apples that she bartered from a market stall during winter.

They crowed and crowed over the shocking idea that I had included such a detail without checking my facts. Didn’t I know that apples would have rotted long before winter came?

Neither said anything about the devastating emotional and physical journey of my character, or that I was writing with a level of passion they had both mentioned wanting for their own writing.

Later, they came back to me and said they’d checked and found that such a thing was possible. Yes, my character could have been gnawing on some withered apples to survive the winter! But it was too late. My passion for my story had already withered and died. Having them deny the heart of my writing in favor of a fact that could have been researched later left me barren.

Other “deny the spirit of the writing” incidents over several decades built up to create paralysis. Which is what led me to write my book; it was what I needed to move my gnarled writing limbs. I began to hear from others who’d been similarly affected (or much worse). In my years of working with wounded writers, I’ve heard stories that sometimes fill me with outrage—even while my heart expands with compassion for the ones sharing their painful anecdotes.

When it comes to the dread these types of critiques can create (even years down the track), going back to remember our first, undiluted joy might help reconnect something.

I remember how it felt to write before I thought of calling myself a writer. The primal experience was about being connected to a vast place so full of stories and wisdom and adventure we will never run out. All I did was tap into the channel and trust. Unselfconsciously.

This phrase came to me out of the blue and I have it taped to my monitor:

Trust my imagination. It knows the story better than I do.

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse.



44 Responses to Writing and Trust
  1. Maryse
    March 18, 2011 | 7:17 AM

    I agree, Milli. Writing is a love (and hate, at least for me) affair with trust and all that is beyond the grasp of my 5 senses. Something always comes when we trust. And you know what? The same is true for all aspects of life!! 🙂

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 1:36 PM

      Thank you, Maryse. This was a special post for me and I love that you found it and made the first comment. I was excited when I saw your name there. 🙂

  2. Lois
    March 18, 2011 | 10:25 AM

    Gosh, Milli, you and I had our first connection with writing at about the same age! 😀 I was reading Theodore Waldeck’s The White Panther (a book I’ve been wanting to buy for ages, but it’s always too expensive), and when we were given the assignment to write a short story, I took what I’d read (the idea, not the material) and began writing my own story about a black panther. I had so much fun coming up with things to put the panther through that I never finished it. I had to hand it in before I could reach the end. I still don’t remember the grade I got on it.

    I don’t remember ever having to deal with anyone battering my writing back then. It was more the technical things we were being taught that turned me off from writing…well, that and “life.”

    Then in my mid-20s I got the idea to write about Joseph (you know, the guy with the coat of many colors), and that really took off. I did lots of research, created distinct personalities for his brothers, really got to know Joseph as a person who loved the Egyptians, as well as his own people, very much, etc.

    Then I lost the whole thing in a fire. 🙁

    That didn’t stop me forever, though. I discovered Fear of Writing, then Nanowrimo, and I’ve been writing ever since!

    It’s not always hurtful people that stop writers from writing, and I’m glad that wasn’t the case with me! And I’m glad you kept at it, otherwise, we never would have met! 🙂

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 1:43 PM

      I totally love the sound of your stories! But I was so sad to hear you lost Joseph in the fire. I was just getting ready to ask you if I could read it when you said that. 🙁

      Writing about a blank panther sounds very visceral; a magical adventure that you could lose yourself in.

      That gives me an idea for an animal I’d like to write about. Which might heal something else for me in the way of stupid critiques. When I was in my late 20s I took a correspondence course for writing. I submitted a story about humans told through the eyes of some animals. I loved that story and it was so dear to my heart. The instructor said, “I never write in the voice of an animal,” and made sure I knew how unliterary that was.

      Although my mind knew that was just her bigoted opinion, my heart lost the passion for my story. I never developed it into the fun novel I had envisaged. Your anecdote definitely inspires me. Thank you, Lois. <3

      • Lois
        March 18, 2011 | 4:50 PM

        You’re welcome, Milli. 🙂

        I’ve actually given some thought to starting over on the story of Joseph. I’ll let you know what I decide. 😉

        The White Panther was based on adventures Waldeck had with real life white panthers, and although I didn’t have his experiences, I had my imagination. My story wasn’t magical, but the experience was. 🙂

        Actually, I’d forgotten that someone in my family (who shall go unnamed, but I think I told you about it) had given me a hard time about my writing. This person had read one of my character journal entries and decided to copy and paste my entire entry into an e-mail, then write me a big long letter on top of that saying I should keep a Bible next to me when I write. This person lectured me on writing things that weren’t very “Christian” (in a manner of speaking). I’m a Christian, and I think he would have been totally right if I was writing Christian fiction, but I wasn’t. I was writing something much more mainstream thant that. The whole thing angered me enough that I gave serious thought to quitting writing altogether.

        Thankfully, I remembered that I’m writing for myself, not for them, and that solved that! 😀

        Milli, I’m so glad you continued to write, in spite of the negative opinions about what you wrote. I wish I could read that story!

        • fearofwriting
          Twitter: fearofwriting
          March 18, 2011 | 5:02 PM

          You know, I was almost going to suggest that you try restarting your Joseph novel – but it’s not always easy to re-create something we were passionate about it, so I hesitated to say it. But if you do that would be exciting!

          About your panther story I meant exactly what you said: that the experience of writing it would feel magical. That’s what the writing teacher I mentioned obviously didn’t “get” about why that kind of writing can feel so good. She was a “serious” published author—and good for her—but taking ourselves too seriously can have its rip-offs.

          I do remember you telling me about that person. It’s great to know that the incident didn’t even come to mind until later, and not in immediate response to my post about prejudiced critiques. That means it must not be affecting your writing, and for that I say Three Cheers and yippee-kai-yay.

          I might still have my animal/family story somewhere. I kept a lot of my writing from that era. It’s all packed up in boxes that never got unpacked when we moved to this tiny house, so maybe that’s an adventure for next time we move.

          • Lois
            March 18, 2011 | 5:19 PM

            That’s true, and that’s part of the reason I have yet to restart Joseph’s story. I’d like to someday, just not today. LOL!

            Funny you should mention that she was published, and I didn’t think of this until now. I got an e-mail from Holly Lisle this morning in which she talked about a published writer who had nothing but negative stuff to say about her first novel…a novel he hadn’t even read! Luckily, she didn’t let the negativity get her down. And you know, she couldn’t even find him on Amazon without doing a painstakingly long manual search, and it didn’t appear he’d written anything!

            And to the lecture I received, I say La-dee-da-dee-da! 😛 (That’s the BBC Robin Hood influence there. Ha!) There wasn’t even anything in there about my skills as a writer. It was all about using curse words and certain situations. O_o

            That would be cool…even if you were the only one to see it. I’m sure it would bring back great memories. 🙂

  3. j
    March 18, 2011 | 11:25 AM

    Love this post. I had lunch with another writer this week. I was telling her how the writing industry is set up to encourage an unhealthy reliance on external validation. To get published, someone must approve of your piece (and their approval often comes with editorial strings attached). And even when you self-publish or blog, there is the worry about whether your words will connect…

    This sentence in your post really touched me. “Having them deny the heart of my writing in favor of a fact that could have been researched later left me barren.” That is incredibly heartbreaking. And a reminder to me to be gentle with the writers I have the pleasure of reading/working with.

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 1:55 PM

      Wish I could have been there for that lunch conversation. What you said about external validation and the publishing industry is worthy of a post (or even a blog) all its own. I know how much I’ve been affected by it at various stages, even though I’m self-published.

  4. catherine
    March 18, 2011 | 12:05 PM

    That you went through all of that and are still writing is a testimony of your strength alongside your vulnerability. Having created a book called Fear of Writing was a feat in itself, but you didn’t stop there and stay safe in your home. Instead you began to form groups to work helping others in releasing the same types of fears of criticism. And then later took those very fears even more public by creating your online course to be available to people all over the world.

    I cannot say enough praise for you Milli because it was your continual rise above painful and shattering emotional reactions, to create a venue for hope, that gave me the chance when I so recently started creative writing to bypass most of the fear and go straight to the joy.

    I learned to love reading as a very small child, but I could only admire those books and wish that I could write stories too. Your mentorship helped me turn that wishing into hoping into calling myself a writer. And the confidence I have gained from working with you has helped me to write for myself first.

    Thank you for sharing your experience that weathered the test of time and led you to become more!

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 2:00 PM

      Thank you, Catherine. This is humbling. It was actually watching you enjoy your creativity with so much childlike pleasure and non-self-judgment that gave me the inspiration for this post. I’m inspired to heal the remaining nooks and crannies so I can have that level of creative joy more often.

      You are the only person I’ve worked with in FoW who came to writing without emotional baggage or previous experiences that skewed things a certain way. That, in itself, has been healing for me. Just to see what’s possible when we can live our creativity without old shadows and pain. . . .

  5. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    March 18, 2011 | 1:33 PM

    What a great opening question! I loved hearing your story, Milli, but it got me thinking of my own as well.

    I’d have to say it was when I was 15. I wrote a humor piece for English class about how messy my room was. I wrote that even though all of my possessions were on the floor, I could find things because they were layered by when they were tossed there, like sedimentary rock. My humor verbally was usually met with blank stares, but with the written word I could imagine people actually liked my sense of humor!

    I didn’t have the clarity of self-knowledge you did, however. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began thinking of myself as a writer, and only recently that I’ve embraced the identity of “creative writer.”

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 2:02 PM

      Your anecdote has me both laughing and feeling a bit teary-eyed. I love that you shared this. I was laughing with delight that you would write a story about your layers of mess. I wish you still had that, in your 15 year old’s handwriting. I would publish that on my blog with great pride.

      It’s definitely to everyone’s benefit that you’re making huge strides with your creative identity. You’ve done some extremely courageous things. And there’s no stopping you now!

      • Patrick Ross
        Twitter: patrickrwrites
        March 18, 2011 | 2:47 PM

        Milli, you’ve motivated me to dig it out (thank you, Mother, for saving so much random stuff from my childhood), it’s from my high school literary magazine sophomore year. I’ve scanned it and uploaded it to my Writing Samples page on my blog! http://artistsroad.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/ross-signatures-1983.jpg

        • fearofwriting
          Twitter: fearofwriting
          March 18, 2011 | 3:07 PM

          Great idea, Patrick. After you shared it with me by email I was thinking this really needed its own URL. Thanks for sharing it over here at FoW.

          Such a fun read. I love the part about not spraining your ankle. ;D

  6. Dan Goodwin
    March 18, 2011 | 1:59 PM

    This is a great reminder to help us listen to ourselves, and not the naysayers that try to tear us down – usually through envy or fear.

    My earliest memory of being excited about a story was in primary school, I must have been about 9. I remember a long, rambling adventure I wrote, that I think was based on a dream I had. The only details I remember are something about a rocket ship, and a lot of yellow.

    A little later, when I was about 12, my English teacher asked me to read a poem I’d written called The Hunter out loud to class. It was about a lioness hunting, then herself being hunter by a human.

    He paused to consider it after I’d read, said “absolutely wonderful” in his thick Welsh brogue, then asked me to read again. And again. I was somewhere between terrified at the exposure but beaming because I’d had such praise. It was a huge moment in my writing career. 🙂

    The next school year he put me up to the top class in English too! Then I ended up going on to gain an honours degree in Computing and Mathematics, but that’s another story!

    You’re right Milli, we need to trust our imaginations, and trust that we know how to bring these stories in us to life. 🙂

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 18, 2011 | 2:08 PM

      Wow, I felt my heart opening with joy as I read this. My eyes are full of tears about how wonderful your teacher was for validating you! (But I can also relate to your saying you felt a bit terrified at that level of exposure.)

      What could be more wonderful (if this was a movie) than getting that compliment coming at you in thick Welsh brogue? There’s something so right about that. 🙂

      Thank you for finding my post and for sharing your stories. I’m feeling so uplifted.

      ~ Milli

    • Patrick Ross
      Twitter: patrickrwrites
      March 18, 2011 | 2:50 PM

      Wow, multiple readings, what a goose-bump moment!

      Your degree program reminded me of a poet I met last year who was an engineer. He said based on his experience he believes the creative process involved in higher-level mathematics is quite similar to the process a poet goes through in crafting his or her expression.

  7. Natasha
    March 18, 2011 | 11:31 PM

    It amazes me how thoughtless people can be and not just to writers. I know pregnant women who have been heard, “My God you’re HUGE! You must be ready to pop any day. How far along are youOnly to respond, “I’m only 3 months” or worse, “I had the baby.” Thoughtless!

    What I have found with the special insults given to creative types is that they often come from people who are so afraid of what others might say that they could not possibly fathom following their dream. So, they become a member of the “That’s far too difficult. You should have a backup” club. I wish they’d all get toegther and just go bowling.

    You are inspiring because you threw some eggs at the naysayers, followed your heart and look at you. You should be proud of yourself. Heck, I’m proud of you and I just met you.

    Keep on writin’

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 19, 2011 | 1:25 PM

      I hear ya. When I was pregnant with my daughter, one day I decided to sun myself in my bikini. I was getting close to nine months—but in my opinion a pregnant lady is a work of art so wearing my bikini was artistic. (LOL!) My husband saw me and noted how much I looked like a beached whale.

      (I long ago divorced that person, needless to say. ;))

      You’re right about the people who are too afraid to live their dreams so they have to squash someone else’s creativity. In a way, they need love even more than the person on the receiving end of the bad-apple critique.

      (Ha. I love my own pun there.)

      Thank you for coming here on this particular day, for my special post. 🙂

      ~ Milli

  8. Kate
    March 19, 2011 | 6:55 AM

    Milli,

    Thank you for sharing such a personal post. I’m so glad that those experiences didnt quash your writing drive forever as I know it can for some people.

    I had a similar experience at eleven when I rewrote the Greek myth Medusa. I remember getting totally lost in the story and was amazed that I could put my own frame around it.

    If we want to be brave enough to release our work into the world I think that trust and writing are inseparable. As writers we tend to be sensitive creatures and have to trust ourselves first and foremost. I’ve just received my manuscript back from the first reader and without trust this would never have been possible.

    Thanks for making me think deeply about such an important part of the writing process.

    Kate x

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 19, 2011 | 1:30 PM

      Kate, your story reframing Medusa sounds like an amazing experience. I wish I’d written that! Or could read yours.

      I love that feeling of getting lost in writing a story. If more of us could spend more time there more often (with our hearts open like children) I believe we could help heal some of the ugliness and sadness in the world. Maybe we already are.

      I’m so happy for your milestone of receiving your manuscript back from your first reader. So good to hear that trust feels like part of it for you. That really does make all the difference.

      My biggest, best wishes for the continuing journey of your manuscript! Keep me posted.

      ~ Milli

  9. Estrella Azul
    March 19, 2011 | 12:14 PM

    Love that quote, Milli!
    I completely understand what you mean in your last paragraph, about what you’ve felt before calling yourself a writer.
    I’d like to think I’m like that myself, I’m calling myself an “emerging writer” and though I’ve been writing for a couple of years now, I’m still more comfortable with that adjective in front of “writer” 🙂

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 19, 2011 | 1:35 PM

      Estrella, I totally get why you feel good still calling yourself an emerging writer even after a few years of writing. Sounds like the wisdom of self-love talking. 🙂 🙂

      ~ Milli

  10. Bell
    Twitter: StartYourNovel
    March 19, 2011 | 12:15 PM

    My “magic moment” happened when I was 9, although I must confess that what came out was fan fiction. Masters of the Universe fan fiction. I only changed the names and premise a bit. Lots of fun to write, though.

    Anyway, that early burst of inspiration was short-lived. At 9, I was a lot more into drawing (this ongoing love affair with visuals would lead to a consistent interest in photography both as a consumer and an image-maker).

    My love of writing reemerged at 15, when I penned a number of truly absurd short stories. I had discovered surrealism and was head over heels in love with that particular aesthetic.

    But then music kind of got in the way. I played in rock bands for about 10 years.

    See, it’s a pattern of self-sabotage, in a way. I kept going for stuff that produced more immediate results and rewards than writing does.

    But now? After a lot of thinking — and a good deal of soul-searching — I found me some trust. Wasn’t it James Michener that said he was a crap writer, but a great rewriter? I gave up on being perfect, and that gives me confidence. When I hear the likes of Harlan Ellison say “[the fans] treat everything that comes out of my mouth like the pronouncements of the Delphic oracle… I’m a person, I’m human, just like they are,” that gives me confidence, too.

    I look to others for support, but not for validation. There’s a difference.

    Milli, I understand why you were hit so hard when those two women from your writer’s group wouldn’t let go of the bit about the apples. I might have felt the same under similar circumstances.
    The thing about writer’s groups is, you’re going to be in there with people whose talents and expectations greatly differ from your own, and some of those people may feel threatened by other writers. By the quality others have attained to. You’ll see the same dynamics at work in similar groups, like camera clubs.

    For what it’s worth: tearing somebody down — cutting them down to size — that’s not being a critic, that’s the tall poppy syndrome. Offering thoughtful, plausible criticism, with any degree of objectivity, is really, really hard. “Everyone’s a critic” is just a platitude, and it is completely wrong.

    The moment you’re confident in what you do, you’ve found your path. From then on, every setback or put-down will help you grow and evolve.

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 19, 2011 | 2:02 PM

      Thank you for this amazing comment. My heart was already overflowing with healing vibes from the comments I’ve received. Yours is one more incredible piece of love and sharing.

      I loved your stories about the things you wrote when you were young! My first story was totally absurd (even for science fiction) but that’s one of the great things about it, IMHO. 🙂

      Even though you called it self-sabotage, I can see that part of your dilemma was being multi-talented. There’s a whole set of issues that comes with that, and maybe you were focused in the places that were right for you at the time.

      I relished those quotes and bits of wisdom you shared from Michener and Ellison. And I agree with your thoughts about critics and the Tall Poppy Syndrome. It happened to me so many times – from family, friends, other writers, writing teachers – and I was the super-sensitive type who could not objectify my experience.

      I was able to finally pour my deep personal understanding of what it feels like to become paralyzed by critics into a way to support others writers who desperately need help with it. I’ve been hearing so many stories of this ilk for the past 10 years, it didn’t occur to me I might need to still sometimes share my own story.

      These things happened to me so long ago, I was surprised when some emotional healing I was doing about family issues led to this post. I revised and revised and pared it down to just two anecdotes, otherwise it would have been a blog-book. 🙂

      When I was done, I had an intuition that whatever other belated healing I needed was going to come from the experience of posting it and letting people comment. Wow. It’s been SO amazing I’m almost hoping no more comments come in for a while. I feel saturated with emotion. (The good kind.) Your comment almost blew my love circuits. 😉

      You sound like an amazingly creative person and you understand the magic. I’m so pleased you’ve found the trust and self-belief you need to live your writing dreams. I can feel the depths of that emanating from your comment.

      ~ Milli

  11. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    March 20, 2011 | 3:33 PM

    Knowing who is doing the critiquing is important in knowing when to be offended by it. My first critique group had a know-it-all in it. He was the Simon Cowell of all critiquers. If someting was slightly off, he’d comment that it was trash. He once threw my submission at me. He told another writer she was no good and the story would never go anywhere.

    He didn’t sugar coat anything, but he also went over board in degrading it. If it was a wonderful piece, he said nothing. His silence on the positive had me soon figuring him out. He was a sadist who never had a thing of his own published, had no writing degree, and never submitted anything to the group. Once I realized he was not qualified to tear me down (no one is, really), I was able to sit back and enjoy watching him make an ass of hisself each meeting. I quit when I got bored with it.

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 21, 2011 | 12:52 PM

      I loved it when you said, “Knowing who is doing the critiquing is important in knowing when to be offended by it.”

      Thank you for sharing this story; it’s a great antidote to bad critiques. Sadist sounds like a good word to describe what he was doing. It even makes me wonder why he wanted to be there. Did he feel ANY love or magic for writing whatsoever? But, Grinch that he was, he probably longed for it worse than anyone . . . but his heart was too closed off so all he could do was rob others of joy because he couldn’t have that joy for himself.

      I do feel compassion for him – but I’ll feel that from a safe distance. He could destroy me with a single sentence, by the sounds of it. He makes the ladies who were getting in a tizz about my winter-time apples look like Sunday school.

      ~ Milli

  12. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    March 21, 2011 | 9:40 PM

    Hi Milli,

    So sorry I didn’t make it by the day you posted this. I did read it in email and then we had a busy weekend.

    We’ve talked a lot in private about the stings that other writers can let loose on you. I’ve had some healing in the area, but I still get a sore spot once in awhile. I think that’s the main reason I lean more towards freelance. The critiques don’t hurt my creative soul.

    But I’ve been thinking about this post since I read it and it’s not just in writing that we get stung and let fear overwhelm us. As you know I still have a lot of things I’m working through. If I could pinpoint when the issues started, I may could work through them quicker. Until then I just keep plugging along making as much progress as I can.

    Thanks for sharing this. All of the comments you’ve received are awesome too. So many people stepping up and calling out the baddies! Way to go!

    Bug Hugs! (typo–but it’s cute enough to leave. :-))
    Patti

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 23, 2011 | 1:53 PM

      I agree, Pattikins. Non-writing things that sting can contribute to our writing fears, as well.

      I do understand why freelance would feel like a refuge for you. I have my own crab shells that I peek out of, looking around with my eyes on stalks to see if things look safe. 😀

      You’re doing wonderfully at working on your Stuff and it feels great to have each other for Bug Hugs while we hopscotch our way down the healing path.

      XOXO

  13. Dana Pittman
    Twitter: danapittman
    March 22, 2011 | 11:06 AM

    “Trust my imagination. It knows the story better than I do.”

    I love this. I went home for a sad occasion and I had family members buying my book. Of course, people asked questions and we chatted. But I said something like “I never thought I’d write a book…” and my mother said “I don’t know why not…”. She went on to describe all of my journals and books, and books of poetry as a child. I didn’t realize she remembered.

    It brought a new awareness to my writing. Beyond the readers, and my new fans (yeah! I have fans…sorry), it’s about your soul expressing itself. And no matter how I try to rationalize or plot the story is the story. It’s expression at nearly it’s purist form.

    Thank you for this quote. I will add it to monitor as well.

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 23, 2011 | 2:01 PM

      Dana, so wonderful that you had family buying your book even though it was a sad occasion. And I cherished your Mom for keeping those memories of your younger-years love for writing safe in her heart.

      It’s special that the experience brought a new awareness to your writing about how it’s your soul expressing itself. I’m having a “writing down my soul” awareness adventure right now, too, so thanks for sharing that on my blog.

      Goodonya for having fans for your book. That kicks bootee! 😀

      • Dana Pittman
        Twitter: danapittman
        March 23, 2011 | 5:30 PM

        It was a shining moment in the mist of sadness. I’m sure your adventure is very interesting. 🙂 I’m like the others, thank you for this space. I’m off to check in.

  14. Square-Peg Karen
    Twitter: SquarePegKaren
    March 23, 2011 | 12:31 PM

    What a joy it’s been reading (no, not reading – experiencing!!) this ongoing conversation. I love how you’ve created such a lovely, encouraging space here, Milli!

    Also love your humor–your note about sunbathing and “(I long ago divorced that person, needless to say. )” made me laugh LOUD!

    Such wonderful stories in the comments, I feel like I’m sitting in a room full of writers (something I’ve never experienced) shooting the writerly breeze. Awesome.

    My own “first” is something I’ve been meaning to write a post about – I was pretty young, maybe 8 or 9 y/o. I came in from recess and wrote what would probably be called Creative Nonfiction. My short story featured me (big surprise) as hero (hey, I was 8 or 9 – lol) – I can’t remember what my heroic act was, but I remember who it involved “saving” — and she found the note where I’d scratched out my story (even then I wrote my stuff on whatever was handy – and also misplaced things — sigh).

    I don’t remember what was said – only that the gal handed me my paper and looked at me like I had 3 heads and I felt huge shame. I didn’t share another story for maybe 30 years (altho I honed the craft of academic writing- writing from the head – and willingly shared that)…

    It’s both hugely sad AND heart-openingly wonderful to hear other writers share these experiences. Thanks for this, Milli – and thanks to your wonderful commenters!!

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 23, 2011 | 2:17 PM

      Karen, so serendipitous that your first visit to the FoW blog would land you on this particular post. Your story was immensely sad as well, so I’m glad you found the experience of reading this page so heart-opening.

      I hope you might also find it comforting to know that I’ve worked with many, many writers who stopped writing for 10 or 20+ years because of a blow to the heart—such as your experience of having your writing exposed by a withering look. Not that we’re into rejoicing in other people having the same pain and loss . . . but because it can help so much to know we’re not alone. The shame can be tremendous (even for a long ago event, which we might settle for numbing over as the years go by) and the hallmark of shame is feeling alone with it.

      I’m tickled pink that you could feel you were in a room of writers shooting the breeze! If you’d like to test the waters of our live community, check out the 10K Day, which is held on one Wednesday and one Saturday each month.

      In fact, today is our Wednesday event and our 10K-ers are busy posting their check-ins. If you enjoyed the comments here I know you’ll enjoy that comment page too. No sad stuff at all this time – just comradeship and creative inspiration, with some silliness and fun beverages thrown in for good measure. 😀

      P.S. Our next 10K Day is this Saturday. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do or how many words you end up writing – participating is the main thing.

      P.P.S. FoW champions baby steps. You could write that blog post you mentioned above. Could be another window into your heart.

      • fearofwriting
        Twitter: fearofwriting
        March 23, 2011 | 2:19 PM

        Oops, I meant to say “stopped creative writing for 10 or 20+ years.” You’ve obviously kept the writing flame alive with your academic writing, and you’re a blogger too (to my great pleasure).

        • fearofwriting
          Twitter: fearofwriting
          March 23, 2011 | 3:47 PM

          Wow, I just watched the video on your blog about the definition of a square peg. I’m definitely preaching to the converted! 🙂 You help people free themselves from whatever their inner prisons are and help them live their square-peggedness. Yes, I definitely resonated with your description. I actually feel the need to watch your video again to let it sink in even further.

  15. Square-Peg Karen
    Twitter: SquarePegKaren
    March 23, 2011 | 4:37 PM

    Ohmyword, Milli – I LOVE that you resonate with the Square-Peg description and am so grateful for what you said above (kinda giving me goose bumps…many moons ago I worked in a juvenile detention hall and has this idea that prison work would be my life long work -wild thought – maybe it IS! only different bars and walls than I was originally thinking!!).

    I adore the 10k idea and it’s my fervent plan to be at the April ones – can’t do it this month because – well, Wednesday is nearly done — and then Saturday Little Princess is supposed to visit (and I love to spend loads of time playing while she’s here!) – looking forward to more reading over here where I’m visiting with other writers!

    Thanks again for this lovely spot to meet and encourage/be encouraged — and for your wonderful comments (the phrase “preaching to the converted” cracks me up — I get it wrong most every time I try to use it — i either say: preach to the choir or sing to the congregation — not sure why it causes me such trouble — how ’bout I just roll in the aisles?)

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 23, 2011 | 5:04 PM

      Hilarious! I loved “preach to the choir.” It makes me think of that scene from The Blues Brothers where the church ladies are dancing wildly with their fans and color-coordinated nylon dresses and the men in their Sunday suits are doing back flips while James Brown as the preacher sings the sermon. And then Heaven cracks open and the light streams down onto Jake Blues and he says, “THE BAND!” and starts doing back flips down the aisle. 😀

  16. Tracy Mangold
    March 23, 2011 | 7:04 PM

    Beautifully said! I know that feeling well. I recall the days of clunking out words on my old Royal typewriter, writing away as I listened to music that I picked out for each scene and laughing at my own writing – I know – that sounds sort of snobby maybe? I don’t mean it to. But that was when I wrote for me and I think we forget to do that as we get older – to write for OURSELVES. You reminded me of that. Thank you. Great post!

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 23, 2011 | 7:12 PM

      Tracy, that doesn’t sound snobby at all. And how could it be? “Writing for me” could never be snobby.

      I love that I could remind you of clunking out words on your old typewriter. Snoopy Writers Unite! 🙂

      • fearofwriting
        Twitter: fearofwriting
        March 23, 2011 | 7:13 PM

        P.S. I *love* that Irish saying on your blog. And your blog name and header image are just too precious!

  17. Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    March 27, 2011 | 12:20 PM

    I can so relate to this — especially after starting out as a journalist/technical/business writer. Writing fiction/creative nonfiction was so much fun until I told myself (and others) that it was what I was concentrating on. Then I felt so much pressure to produce, I even felt like a fraud. It’s an ongoing fight to put myself back in the moment and just enjoy what I’m doing.

    • fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      March 27, 2011 | 2:56 PM

      I know what you mean, both about feeling the pressure to produce creative writing (after declaring that’s what you do or intend to do) and the feeling like a fraud. I’m feeling the same things after declaring online “I am a screenwriter.” Now I don’t even want to open my script software. 🙁

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve worked with writers who longed to awaken their creative writing selves after being steeped in the journalist and/or technical and/or business writer side of things and I know it takes a big heart. Your blog looks full of that (as well as creative vibes) and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

      ~ Milli

      P.S. I love the name of your blog. 🙂

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