I know the struggles that writers face because I am a writer myself. I’ve authored academic articles and collections of poetry, and I’ve had to meet hard deadlines as a marketing writer for a major architectural firm and for a nonprofit organization.
I’ve personally experienced the frustrations that come with trying to keep a creative practice, from the guilt of wasting time checking my gmail, reading my horoscope, and going down a Pinterest K-hole when I was supposed to be writing, to being paralyzed by self-doubt, anxiety, and negative self-talk. I’ve watched my desktop become a graveyard for unfinished projects, abandoned ideas, and dreams.
I thought I could fix this by taking classes and joining groups. I tried books and followed blogs. I tried to write my “shitty first draft.” I tried getting through The Artist’s Way at least 4 different times. I tried to put my “butt in chair,” to “write what I know,” and of course to “just write.”
But nothing worked. In fact, it just made me feel worse.
However, there’s something I’ve learned that helped me go from being a struggling, blocked writer into being a writer who is productive, confident, and happier, and who is finishing projects, meeting creative goals, and watching her publishing record grow. I realized I didn’t need more advice on how to write --
I needed to learn how to be a writer.
I’ve been helping writers since 2001, when I taught my first composition course back at UMASS-Amherst while working on an MFA in Creative Writing. Even back then, I started to notice my own writing gremlins creeping in and taking the joy away from something that I used to be able to do with such ease.
It got so bad that I dropped out of grad school. However, I couldn’t give writing up, so I started grad school again, this time at The New School University where I finally, in 2005, got my MFA in Creative Writing with a Concentration in Poetry.
Despite this, the gremlins didn’t go away. They multiplied. They got bigger and a lot, lot meaner.
I procrastinated. I missed deadlines. I got published less and less.
And that hurt, deeply and profoundly. It broke my heart because I knew I was a writer. I could feel I had something to share with the world, but each time I sat down to write, I found that I just couldn’t do it.
This went on for years--11 to be exact. I had had enough. I decided I would sit down with the determination that I was going to listen to my heart. That I was going to figure out how to be the writer I wanted to be and write.
I thought about my 10 years of teaching writing at different colleges and universities in New York City and Seoul, South Korea. What helped students? What didn’t? What were their major challenges or problems?
I thought about all the dissertations I had consulted on. How did I help those writers get through their blocks?
I talked to any writer friend that I could about their practice. How did they manage their anxiety? How did they stay focused? How were they able to be so persistent and get things done?
I read books--so many books! But, I didn’t read writer’s advice on writing. I read books about anxiety and the science of creativity. I read books on presence. I did research on resilience and learned about what helped people thrive despite getting derailed or experiencing trauma.
I did research on what helped kids learn and succeed.
I became a Certified Life Coach through the Life Purpose Institute where I learned about overcoming blocks, creating a healthy mindset, and achieving goals.
Through this work, I started to see a clearer picture of my writing dilemma. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a writer. I just didn’t know how to be a writer in a healthy way.
I tested out what I learned, and I started crafting a life that not only supported my writing but, more importantly, supported me as a writer.
Within 6 months, I finished a poetry manuscript. Within 9 months, I had a poem accepted for publication in a magazine I loved. I started co-editing a poetry journal again. And now, over a year and half later from when I began, I’m consistently getting published and have a new book coming out this year.
I want the same for you. Your writing is important and your voice matters. I want to help you share it with the world, and I will do my damndest to get you there.