writing

Crying Over Spilt Ink

I wrote my first poem in 5th grade about a snowflake. That is all I can remember about it and I wish I had kept it. I took it up to my teacher to read and she said, “That’s nice.”
Unlike many kids I enjoyed school and liked many of my teachers. In fact, I found it easier to get along with the teachers than the students. I knew I was a nerd of sorts because I got great grades most of the time and other kids would sometimes call me one when I did better than them on a test or assignment. It made me proud, but not particularly special. Most of the kids got pretty decent grades in parochial school so I never saw myself as above average in any way.
Then I walked into the public school system in eighth grade. I had been around a few goof-offs before, just not so many. Because I was from parochial school I was put into the classes for average kids. By the end of the first semester, the teachers recognized I was above average and petitioned to get me into honors math and English.
There was one teacher in particular who encouraged the other teachers to agree I was not just average, who saw me as someone who had special gifts even. That was my English teacher, Barb Duncan. When I showed her my writing, she encouraged me to enter an essay contest, in which I took third place and for that I got my picture and essay in the local paper.
She told me I was a strong writer who had a lot of potential. She inspired me to keep writing. When I wrote my first short play a few years later for a high school project, I dedicated it to her during the performance.
My parents never discouraged my writing or my interest in any of the arts and even seemed adequately proud when I wrote an essay at age 16 that won me a trip to Washington DC for a week. But they never inspired me and coached me the way Mrs. Duncan did, probably because they didn’t really know what to do with a child interested in the fine arts other than to just let her do her thing.
Mrs. Duncan pushed me, wanting to see more out of me. I’ll never forget her—she was very petite, probably almost a foot shorter than I am. She had a long, dark braid down her back and totally didn’t look like the type of woman to ride a Harley, but she had a wild passion in her for the open road apparently.
I wish now that I knew how to connect with her again. I haven’t seen her since probably just after college. What she would think of me now, I wonder. My pen was dormant for so long. Do I still have the talent and promise she saw so long ago?
I sometimes wish I still had some of those early teen musings to look back upon. Would I see what she did? I once had a folder full of writing that I did when I was young, but I can’t find it now. I would like to see some of it. Though much of it is silly romance or angst I think I am now in a good place for looking back, for now I can recognize how far I have come.
I sometimes wonder if I would have taken as great an interest in writing and the English major in general if it wasn’t for Harley Duncan, as the students called her. I couldn’t stop writing once I was told I was good at it.
However in college, my writing professor told me my scope was limited and the amount of writing I did diminished steadily until all I did was journal. I didn’t take any more creative writing classes after that. All I wrote about was the pain I experienced and I showed almost no one my writing.
My husband rekindled my interest in the written word when we were dating by saying he liked the way I wrote my letters to him (we lived in different towns). In grad school a few years later, I took another creative writing class as a requirement. I was very nervous about presenting my short story to the class to critique but received so much good feedback that I was once again encouraged to write a little.
However, it took nearly a decade before I would take up my pen on a regular basis again. I not only had to gain self-confidence, but I also had to feel I had something worthwhile to say. Ink is still not filling a notebook a month—not yet anyway. But ink is spilling forth gradually. It may not happen every day, but it does happen usually at least once a week. I haven’t worked out an adequate way to reward myself for daily writing to get myself into the habit. There are still a lot of gaps between entries. However, I am writing more than I was just three months ago and I must relish and reward that achievement.
There is no sense in crying over the days I didn’t write because they are in the past. I can write today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. I must write until my current notebook is full, no matter how bad the writing is. After I reward myself, I must then begin again with another notebook. I must just take things one line at a time.
Barb Duncan only began to fan the writing flame in me. Other writers and bloggers are now tending to it. It might have nearly gone out once or twice, but it has never been snuffed completely. Now I have a passion for sharing what I have learned. It is no longer a single flame flickering, but a roaring fireplace providing me with the hot, burning desire to write, to create something useful and worthwhile.
This blog was inspired by a writing prompt that asks the writer to recreate a change of mind. It is from Write Starts by Hal Zina Bennett, which is a great little book of prompts I use for exercises. This prompt is spelled out on pg. 39-40. The title is my husband, Allen Posz’s, brainchild and I thought it went well with the piece.
Has someone ever inspired you to want to improve your skills? Has that memory stuck with you? What kinds of stories would you like to see me tell in this blog? Fiction? Nonfiction? A particular genre? Feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what direction you would like to see me go, as well as sharing something you remember about someone who gave you direction in your life.

Introducing Psyched to Write

I know I just posted yesterday and I usually only post once per week, but I just had to share with my followers that yesterday’s post inspired me to create a new blog about writing, psychology, and overcoming obstacles to creativity, particularly for people who have mental illness. This is my launch into the world of being a writer and I just had to share it with you, my loyal readers. Yesterday’s post from here was posted in the new blog, which will have regular posts of it’s own each Tuesday beginning March 5, 2013. I am very excited about this new blog and I hope you will be, too.

The blog is called Psyched to Write and the URL is http://www.psychedtowrite.wordpress.com so go over and check out the “What It’s About” tab to learn more. My posts here in “A Lady’s Tales” will continue each Thursday as scheduled. Spread the word to all your writer or creative-type friends. Who knows? You might be next to enter the blogosphere! Be psyched to write, and write on!

Marsha Holtgrewe-Posz

A Writer’s Pep Talk

It is Thursday evening, so I am a bit late with this week’s post, but it is still technically coming out on Thursday. This week, I will walk you through the type of conversation I have to have with myself whenever I have a negative thought about me. This post is based on the quote below and demonstrates exactly what I needed therapists to teach me. This is something I could have never learned on my own. I have started this writing journey, and I am getting closer to feeling that it would be impossible to not finish it, but I still have a ways to go. Enjoy, and put this method to good use if need be.
“Every time I start on a new book, I am a beginner again. I doubt myself, I grow discouraged, all the work accomplished in the past is as though it never was, my first drafts are so shapeless that it seems impossible to go on with the attempt at all, right up until the moment…when it has become impossible not to finish it.”
–Simone De Bevoir, Force of Circumstance
I can really relate to this quote because I feel like a beginner whenever I start a new project whether it is writing, knitting, scrapping or anything else. I look at the supplies and wonder how I am going to put them together into something coherent. I have the core belief that I am not good enough for anything, something so deeply ingrained that I’ve become a source of frustration for many therapists over the years. I don’t know where it came from or how to get around it either. Thinking positively rarely works because I don’t believe any of the positive thoughts I force myself to have. Rational Emotive Therapy comes closest to working as long as I remember to use it. This method forces me to question my thoughts, to ask things such as, “How do I know I’m not good enough to succeed? What evidence or proof do I really have?” It also forces to me to give honest answers to those questions. Let’s walk through it.
I’m on the precipice of beginning to write my memoir. I am reading books about writing and making myself finish them before I begin writing. I tell myself it is self-education. Knowledge is power and knowing things will keep me from writing a disaster. But how do I know it would be a disaster? Am I truly educating myself or stalling? What is the real motive behind all this self-education? Am I ever going to know enough to be a good writer? These are questions I must ask myself and force myself to answer truthfully.
Here are the facts. I do know I was successful in my grad school creative writing class. I do know my short story really connected with my readers. I do know my professor saw potential because I got an A in the course. I do know that only one of the 15 or so students didn’t like my story, but I also know he had no real knowledge of the subject matter. I know that no writing will please everyone all of the time.
So why do I linger on these thoughts of not being educated enough and feeling inadequate in general when I ought to just jump in, start writing and have fun with it? Not all writers feel the need for an MFA in creative writing or any other degree for that matter. Some writers have little college experience at all, so why do I think an MA in English literature doesn’t make me enough of an expert? Good question! I still don’t know the answer, but my hubby has begged me not to return to school, so I’ve begun reading on my own. I have already learned a lot from my reading (which justifies the expense of the books), including which of the 4 paradigms of writing is likely to suit me. So why am I not using it? Because I am afraid of doing it wrong. But there is no correct way to write. These are just suggestions of common methods. Yet I still feel I should immerse myself in knowledge to avoid mistakes. I have news for myself: There will be mistakes. Lots of them. Just when I think I have found them all, a reader will find more. Every writer makes mistakes. In fact, every person makes mistakes. It is ok to make mistakes. It is even ok to fail. What is not ok is giving up or not trying at all.
This mental banter is necessary for me to work through negative thinking and eventually I come up with a statement that I can see as true and work with it, such as the italicized final sentence of the last paragraph. Unfortunately for me, confidence is not in my nature. I have to earn it through battling myself, and it is always hard work. One of my therapists once told me I have the biggest wet noodle with which to flog myself that she ever saw. I have to prove I am worthy of anything and repeat that on a constant basis to believe it.
I wrote this back in January as I embarked on a journey to write my memoir. As I prepared for this week’s blog entry, I came across this and realized I needed to hear it all over again. Once again, I have doubted my abilities as a writer. However, skills I have learned in therapy help me argue with myself when I need a pep talk of sorts. It can help me evaluate the facts rather than rely on what my emotions about a situation may be. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you have doubts when you begin any new project about your abilities to complete it? Can you talk yourself out of self-doubt and despair? If so, what is your method? Please comment below and write on!