I wrote my first post “Planting the Seeds of Compassion”
along with I believe, more than 1000 other writers. We wrote about good deeds, selflessness, rejecting anger, and now we come to that one, four years later.
What have I learned about compassion in the four years since 1000Speak?
Since this blogging movement took place, #45 has come into the picture. Before he became leader of the US, I could ignore him, turn from his fake television show and to something worth my time. Now, being America’s neighbour, I can’t simply turn the channel. I wish I could.
I can look for compassion in myself, offer it to other people, but he is a good example of one time I cannot.
The creators of #1000Speak have stated:
“Due to current world events between Trump-era America and the Brexit Shambles, the theme for 2019 is how to get beyond complacency or apathy to find compassion in times of division, and how to be compassionate towards people we disagree with, without condoning cruelty.”
Anyone who can judge character could spot the lack of it in the current president. That is me, lacking compassion in not even trying to understand what someone (#45 voter/supporter) may be thinking, but there are times that I come to a brick wall and there’s nowhere else to go.
I can try to understand what brought the US to voting in such a man. I can do this. I can’t give compassion for the man himself. I could try to imagine him, as a child, to wonder at what made him into the man he is today. I can and have done this, but unlike with the same for his base, I know he is who he is and he won’t ever change. It’s nice to be able to believe in redemption, but reality smacks you in the face like walking (face-first) into that brick wall I just mentioned.
Ouch! Now my nose, your nose is broken and bloodied.
Of course, I condone no cruelty toward anyone, not even him, but the world took an ugly turn since we first wrote about compassion, and there’s no point in covering that fact up.
I still try to live the best life I can. I am not at all complacent or apathetic, though I feel so helpless most times. I have done several things since 2015’s 1000Speak, including making an effort to improve life, here in Canada specifically, for those who are blind like myself.
I discovered the benefits of yoga and I learned the basics of how to play the violin. I let the music sooth my jangled nerves. We need to take care of our own well-beings, if we even have a hope of showing compassion toward those we disagree with, fundamentally.
Those who are self-serving can and will do what they please. I can let myself live in disgust and anger, or I can focus on the better world I’d like to see.
I can see that there is more going on in the world than what’s happening in the US or in the UK, though those places are major players in the world.
I can worry about a new friend’s birthplace in the brewing nastiness between Pakistan and India that’s going on, has been for many years. The world is full of greedy, selfish men who run things, not to mention a few women who are making giant moves on the world stage, in charge of countries too. It’s all about power and it sickens me, but I can’t let that feeling of being so small in a big, big world get me down. If I do that, compassion for others or not, I would drown in the despair of it all.
I’m afraid of where the world is heading, that we’ve allowed the fascination with something so destructive as nuclear weapons even become an available option baffles me to no end. It is so easy to lose control of many things, of it all.
So I let other bloggers and writers I’ve been blessed to know since starting to blog myself speak to the beauty that still exists, like here for example,
and I keep searching, determined to stand with those finding silver linings.
I owe a lot to the instigators of this compassion movement:
Though it has fizzled out somewhat from the original explosive response to the idea of writing on compassion.
It won’t ever fade away completely. It is a necessary effort, but I am still fighting with my internal bewilderment at the choices of other people, not wanting to call them out on it, but being unsure how to find a way to better understand.
I guess I can’t claim any great victory over my emotions on many things going on in the world today and since 1000Speak. I wish I had come to some grand revelation on the path to seeing the other’s side. I am still searching for a way to that place of comprehension.
I still wanted to participate, on this four-year anniversary, though my wisdom is lacking in my contribution. I am showing up, anyway, and showing my willingness to keep trying. I will not give up on the search for more and greater compassion.
I learned about how such organizations work. I learned how much work there still is to be done.
I wanted to make my local movie theatre and all movie theatres more accessible and tried, through survey, to ask other blind Canadians their thoughts.
I wanted to make my library, not to mention all public libraries, more equal in the literature on hand.
I felt like I failed, for the most part on both these things, but stay tuned to 2019 and see what happens. That’s precisely what I intend to do.
Okay, so with a new year starting and some Internet difficulties, I am late to the Just Jot It January #JusJoJan
party, but I am here now, quite possibly breaking some rules to start the month off right.
I’ve taken part in this January blogging ritual for the last two years I believe.
No, wait, three. Three, really?
Three years with this January blogging activity and now, here we are at four.
Five years with this blog, which I started on my thirtieth birthday, to face my fear of rejection and get my writing out there.
I don’t know how much of a theme it is, beyond the writing that I love, but I chose to call it Her Headache because I write about life and life has brought me headaches of all kinds, painful in the head and in the heart too. It has transformed my life, along with everything new and wonderful happening since entering my thirties.
It’s been great, leading to many wonderful opportunities, but as I start a new year, I struggle to find my footing. As I head toward my five year anniversary with this blog,
next month, I am unsure where I am going with this space and hope to figure it all out. Jotting down some ideas throughout the month may just help.
From now on, rest of the month, I’ll write something, every day, except on Wednesday, where I take a break.
I am finding this life, this life of mine to be rather enigmatic,
but that’s the journey, and the journey continues as I jot. So onward I go.
However, I could never forget my usual Saturday blogging ritual.
I suppose I’ll only go with one, as the day grows late.
I suppose I made it through all the years before now and I’ll do the same this year.
I suppose I am being selfish, worrying that somehow #45 will mess up my travel plans with this silly corner he’s painted himself into, when so many American workers are the ones working and not being paid.
I suppose I should stop worrying so much about all the things that might not happen, most likely won’t ever happen.
I suppose 35 isn’t really so different from being the 34 that I am now.
I suppose this year has a lot in store, even though that little voice in my head likes to try and convince the rest of me that there’s nothing left yet to experience.
I suppose I will just have to wait to find out.
Also, thanks, VirgoBeauty,
for the first guest contribution to this month of jotting.
Blogging. Jotting. Blogging. Jotting. They won’t all be as long as this one.
I meant to include this last week. Lizzi wrote this incredible story about her time in Kenya. If you haven’t read it, you should.
I am thankful for tall mountain pose.
Someone who knows a lot more about yoga than me found this one. I’ve been trying it out. The woman describes the poses well, though I don’t know I am all that good at following the instructions. The deep breathing is the nice part.
The music in the background is rather soothing, but for the clanging bell sound that makes me think of that warning bell you hear at a train track as a train comes near. Not so relaxing for me. Kind of triggering.
I am thankful for a challenging week.
I have been doing A to Z for the first time and this week has been rather fun. I’ve not put too much pressure on myself with it.
I am thankful for an opportunity to share a little piece of myself.
I am thankful for a night out at an author reading which involved some helpful men who showed me through the library and a kind word from an author, on a night I almost missed out on entirely.
It had been a rather bad week and I almost backed out and stayed hidden at home. If I’d received the rejection to a writing pitch I would receive while I was at said author reading, or if I’d heard the unsettling news that would come later on that night involving 45 and missile strikes, I may have chosen to stay hidden. Thankfully, I hadn’t. It was a rainy night, but I am glad I braved it anyway.
“Ann Walmsley author of the Prison Book Club will be sharing her experience of becoming a book club volunteer at men’s prisons in Ontario. This incredible book recently won the Edna Staebler award in 2016. One juror Bruce Gillespie quoted: “Walmsley’s book provides a unique glimpse into the lives of incarcerated men and the transformative power of literature and fellowship.” Featured several times on CBC it is truly a honour to have her come to Woodstock Public Library.”
After the reading, I introduced myself to the author and bought a copy of her book. I spoke to her about being a writer and she gave me a bookmark with her email and told me I could email her if I ever had any questions about writing.
I have moved on from Brahms’ Lullaby and on to learning a song I didn’t recognize from my teacher’s description, until she played a little of it and a song that came, preprogrammed on my brother’s little keyboard from childhood, it all came back to me. I love the different violin techniques in this one. It will be a challenge, but one I am quite excited about taking on.
There are scoops when playing the violin. Going from one string to another.
Not all slurs are nice, but the one that occurs in this song is a new technique to me.
I am thankful for family members who are handy and generous with their talents and time.
A leak somewhere in my shower, dripping water down through my ceiling and into my living room are a different sort of April showers. Keep that outside my home preferably.
I have an uncle and cousin who do this sort of thing, fixing showers and leaks for desperate nieces and cousins like me.
The machine they had to use up in my ceiling was loud and reminded me of a dentist’s drill. Again, triggering.
Now I have a layer of dust over everything, including my books, but all is well again.
I am thankful for a day of family, an early Easter/birthday celebration.
Family days include fun, laughter, children playing, and scoops of vanilla ice cream.
I am thankful for my siblings and the siblings (my nieces and nephews) who have each other.
My nephew now has a sister, a sibling, and all of them have a friend for life.
This makes my list every year (National Siblings Day) and every year it is more and more true.
This year mine are willing to do something special with me in a few months, zip lining alongside Niagara Falls, to celebrate my twenty-year anniversary of my kidney transplant.
They are the best.
I am thankful for a surprise phone call from a friend.
I was tired, after this week, but it was nice to talk and catch up.
It’s been raining, off and on, all day long. This is April – to be expected. Not so bad.
I am feeling a little like I am frozen, and I’m warm while I say that. I don’t need to be out in a snow bank to say it. It is January, a new year, and I am frozen by many fears. I am afraid I will accomplish nothing, that this year of 2016 will be empty and a blank void in my life. I feel frozen by indecision and by uncertainty, but I hope I can find a way to thaw from that feeling of being frozen by all of this, that I can find the courage to take risks and keep moving forward.
I am equal parts afraid and optimistic. I am a lot hesitant and somewhat hopeful. The fear that I could go a whole year and not get anywhere at all clings on tight. On the other hand, I see a wide open year ahead as full of unknown possibility and promise of something great.
You never know the experiences you might have, the events in life that you just can’t plan for, and the people you may meet, who may come into your life for all kinds of reasons, for the short term only or for longer.
Here I am, a year on from the fear and those remarks I made on my blog at the start of 2016, and a good year for me personally and creatively, trying new things, all by deciding to focus on myself is how 2016 actually turned out.
And now, I end 2016 and begin 2017 by looking back, at the year I’ve just had and ahead to the year to come.
Then, to kick things up a notch, I thought the best way to focus on my writing was to take a writing workshop with a Canadian writer I’ve admired since I began blogging and seriously writing. Carrie Snyder – Obscure CanLit Mama
Her style to creative work was just what I needed and it made me open up and here I am, one year later exactly, off to broaden my writing workshop horizons.
In reality, my brother had just come off a close medical call and was becoming himself again. I had lots to be thankful for.
I just needed a bit of a push, some creative inspiration,
and a path for a new direction in my life.
The year 2016 would, by many, be labeled “The Year All the Greats Died…the cursed year” even if you look at that with perspective from other years, past or future.
It began with David Bowie, but for me, it all started with Snape,
as Bowie hadn’t quite meant to me what he’d meant to many others who felt his loss.
A new year maybe, but a new month meant another #1000Speak,
focusing on the subject of forgiveness.
With the start of 2016 I decided to start a new Friday tradition.
This third month of 2016 would bring more music, as I would discover my theme song for the year and forevermore: Scars – Emmanuel Jal Feat. Nelly Furtado
and I would officially begin to learn how to play the violin, with lessons that would challenge and reward me, in both big and small ways.
Then, in honour of International Day of Happiness, I wrote a piece for March’s #1000Speak
about how music makes me happy.
By this point in the year, I decided to cut back on blogging and write more of the memoir I’ve always planned for.
The writing mentor was a big deal, for that, as great and knowledgeable as she is and as much guidance as she’s been so far, but it was a sign that I could make writing my future – only I could do that.
Weeks before, at the end of May, the lead singer of Canada’s own Tragically Hip announced his fight with brain cancer and all his fans of Canada were listening, especially all across the country, one night in August.
“Regarding the influence from his poet-balladeer father, Cohen has said, “He’s tremendously helpful. Forget that I am his son. I was tutored in lyric-writing by Leonard Cohen and I had his sensibilities to draw upon. And I’m not just talking genetically. I could literally talk to the cat and he could lean over my notebook and point to a couple of phrases and say, ‘These are strong, these are weak.’ How can I consider myself anything but incredibly fortunate.”
Canada loses a great artist and the world all feels it, a distraction, in the form of RIP Leonard Cohen,
just following the chaos in the United States.
I focused on my own personal growth for a greater part of 2016, but managed to fit in a little, last minute dating during the final days. Also, I made new and face-to-face connections with a few local women writers. So, a balance of personal and social, for good measure.
A few of the final famous deaths of 2016 would include daughter/mother pair Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but for me, it was the loss of this guy that brought me back twenty or so years:
I watched Days of Our Lives multiple days a week, while I was sick at home from school or stuck on dialysis. It was my favourite soap opera of the late 90s, as ridiculous as the storylines always were.
And now, here I am, and another January is upon me.
It is a bit of a contemplative month, with the new year so new and fresh, but I value it for its melancholyish quality. It is a quiet time of reflection and so much possibility ahead.
As a new year begins I search for the motivation I see all around me, the kind that is going to get me to the places I strive to get to. I feel the blueness of January and hope I can find some momentum in the months to come.
My 2016 Resolutions were:
I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.
Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.
It’s almost 2017 and my neck is growing sore from looking this way and that. I turn my head back to 2016 and marvel at all that was hopeful and positive for me personally.
Of course, the rest of the world seems as out-of-control as ever, if not more so. I can’t say the year has been a bad one for me though. It’s a strange contrasting feeling. As bad as this year has been for many, January of 2017, for a lot of people isn’t looking much better. I can see their point. I plan on leaving all that behind for a week and focusing on my own personal growth and having new experiences.
Then I turn my head the other way and try to imagine the year to come.
I could list a set of goals I have for myself, things I hope to achieve, some I’m even banking on. I have this list in my own head. I just don’t know how to think of the months ahead in tune with those that I have to look back on.
The year 2017 feels like a momentous one, even when I stack the possibilities up against the things I never expected to do this year but surprised myself and did anyway.
I try to keep things in perspective. Sure, 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and on June 5th, it will be twenty years since I received a kidney transplant from my father. It still works so well, that I pleasantly surprise myself that everything’s still looking good in there.
I plan to begin 2017 with a BANG, so to speak. I will take a leap of faith with myself and the world. From there, I can’t say what the year might bring.
I turn thirty-three in a few months and I wonder about growing older. One minute I think I am still young and I have lots of time to achieve my dreams. Then, at other less upbeat moments, I think I am past my prime, whatever that was.
I plan to keep taking violin lessons. I want to write and write and write. I hope to submit my writing and take more chances with it, to hell with my fears of rejection or those pesky feelings of never being enough.
To celebrate on June 5th I would love to go zip lining for the first time, with my family all around me, in my favourite place in Canada and in the whole world: Niagara Falls. I am not usually much of a social person, but this time why is it I feel like I want to invite the whole world to join in the festivities?
I feel like I need to top this past year with the year to come, but that’s likely putting too much pressure on myself and on 2017 and might also be putting down the year that just was, which was full of music and writing and a podcast I am so proud of.
In 2017 I am looking forward to having a new niece or nephew and I can’t think of anything better than that, to mark all that is so wonderful about a year like 2017 could be.
Then there are those empty blocks of time, days and weeks and months that are currently a void of the unknown. This feels daunting but doesn’t need to be. It should mean all the possibilities in the world and endless hope.
If I don’t think too hard, which I have trouble with at the best of times, all the scary events that are possible for 2017 in the world remain as background noise. I fear that noise will grow louder and impossible to ignore, but if 2017 turns out anything like 2016 in my own life, I refuse to let reckless world leaders ruin my year. I’ve been waiting for it to arrive for twenty years now.
My thorough, month-by-month breakdown of my 2016 year’s successes and slips is to come here by the end of December.
Also, check out what Kristi from Finding Ninee
thinks of and hopes for, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond.
Every so often, I feel the strong urge to do something wild or rebellious. This could mean experiencing great heights or a radical new hair style/colour.
June has begun so I figured, new month, so why not new me?
Of course there’s nothing so wrong with the old me, but it can’t hurt to continuously attempt a reinvention of oneself, from time to time, just to keep things fresh.
That is why I asked my hair stylist for something new and different. I felt the urge, but couldn’t adequately express to her what that might look like. This is what’s hard when you can’t even really see yourself and what your hair looks like in the mirror.
I did it. I chopped it all off. I’ve done this a few times before, but not for a few years now.
I felt the weight lift as the piles of hair vanished, but what did I really achieve in the end?
I came away feeling slightly restless and disappointed. It wasn’t the stylists’s fault. I myself didn’t know what I meant about something wild and rebellious, so how could I truly expect her to?
I don’t know if what I wanted could even be done. Or if I just don’t have it in me to really let go completely. Maybe that version of myself never existed or ever will.
It’s days like this that make me want to try new things and experience as much as I possibly can, while I am still able.
This doctor was new to me, but he came across friendly and intelligent – just what you want a doctor to be. I’ve seen many different doctors at the kidney transplant clinic over the last ten or fifteen years (since moving from the children’s hospital to the adult clinic), making hard to keep up with them all at times.
This particular nephrologist told me what I already knew because my brother had already been put on the medication. All transplant patients were being put back on a drug most of us haven’t been on since immediately after transplant. My brother, being only two years out, well it seemed like a no brainer. Both our immune systems are compromised, in order to keep the transplanted kidney working, but I have been stable for almost twenty years.
He explained it in simple and direct terms, being very thorough in his explanation. There was no question – of course I would go on it. I would start taking this antibiotic, three times a week, for the foreseeable future. It was just strange that here I was, getting ready to celebrate my eighteen-year anniversary, and I was being put back on one more medication.
Right after transplant, you are on so many medications you need a chart to help you keep track. As time goes on, these can be reduced and almost always dwindle down to only a few. This felt like a step backwards for me, but a necessary one, just to be safe.
He was great, making me feel at ease, or as much as possible. This was not a huge threat to me, but I would do what I had to make sure I never had to face the worst.
I found it strange.
How much am I drinking? How much am I peeing?
Most people give little to no thought about these things, but as the doctor told me my blood levels, we discussed the importance
of keeping up on the liquids. It was a slight increase, but nothing to worry about at the moment. In the world of being a kidney transplant patient, it all goes back to a slow creeping up of the bad levels in the blood. After years the kidney slowly stops functioning like it was, eventually leading back to the need for dialysis and another transplant.
After eighteen years, admittedly, I’ve become somewhat complacent. I drink what I want, when I feel like it or even, when I think of it. after speaking with this latest physician, I make a more consorted effort to do better.
Last year, on June 5th, I did not speak about another year with my father’s kidney, here. Instead, on that day, I rode an elevator up to the top of a tower and stepped outside, looking down on the city of Toronto.
I did this for several reasons, but mostly because I’ve decided to make it my mission to take risks and chances, to try new and exciting things, as my way of appreciating the life and the second chance I’ve been given.
It was sobering to learn there was this horribly dangerous strain of pneumonia that has been hitting, not the newly transplanted, but those who have had their kidneys for years, people like me. If taking a preventative medication three times a week could help avoid this; I wasn’t about to take any chances.
It just made me think. This pneumonia has hit people who may have become complacent too, not meaning to let themselves slip. Then, suddenly, some random antibiotic resistant virus hit and cost them, not only the function of their transplant, but their lives.
I don’t think of the possibility of rejection of my kidney or even death, not often, but on the occasion of my most recent checkup, the thoughts crept back in.
In that moment, it hit me how much I don’t wish to ever go back on dialysis. I don’t want to have to feel that way, unwell like that, ever again, but we don’t get a say in what ultimately will happen with a transplanted kidney. This particular chronic illness has not been cured for me, but I fool myself into thinking otherwise. Then I am brought back to reality, unable to stop wondering when it all could come crashing down.
As I touch the scar from that surgery, eighteen years ago to the day, I am grateful for these last eighteen years and hopeful, appreciative for however many more years I may have.
Think positive, right? I could be the exception. I could be the first to keep my first and only transplant for the rest of my life.
This is a flame of hope that burns bright inside my heart.
Thanks Dad, for being responsible for this hope in the first place.
It seems only fitting to me, that this transplant anniversary and Father’s Day share the June spotlight. Of course, I could never thank him enough, even if I had a million Father’s Days in which to try.
So I will keep on taking my meds, drinking…
It’s all about the intake and the output.
I will keep on living my best life, checking items off my
as we discuss such things as creativity and mental illness, whether it’s worth getting an MFA, and how to handle rejection.
And now I hope you learn as much about writing as I did from Alana.
KK: First, where are you located and what is your background with writing?
AS: I’m located in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve had an interest in words since my parents started reading me bedtime stories. I loved trips to the library and bookstore as a child. At my elementary school, there were some opportunities for students to explore creative writing, like our parent-run Paw Print Press. I got to write and illustrate a couple of stories, and then they were produced into little picture books with covers made out of cardboard.
I eventually majored in English as an undergraduate, took lots of writing classes, and was an active participant in my school’s literary magazine and writing workshop. After graduating, I decided to take the next step and pursue my MFA. I’ll be graduating from Antioch University, Los Angeles this December.
KK: What skills do you think are required to be an artist, either to be a writer, musician, or both?
AS: Passion and determination are the biggest ones. I also think it helps a lot to be naturally empathetic and sensitive if you want to create art that resonates with others. You have to be willing to look inside and look at others in a deep, meaningful way to be able to capture the world and reflect it back through words, art, or music.
KK: Do you believe in the connection between artistic talent and mental illness? What do you think that connection is and how does it manifest itself for you?
AS: I don’t really believe there’s a connection between talent and mental illness. If anything, mental illness can make you more internal and sensitive, which might in turn bring new levels of perception and power to your creative work. But you can be a thoughtful, insightful person without any diagnosable mental illnesses. While mental illness has given me something to write about, it hasn’t helped me actually write. It usually prefers to get in the way through discouraged, depressed outlooks and anxious, stressed thoughts that I have to fight in order to get back to work.
KK: Do you think writing talent can be taught or learned or do you think either someone has it or they don’t?
AS: This is an interesting question; I got into a debate with my boyfriend about it just the other day. I think everyone is born with certain inherent strengths and talents. Words and language have always come naturally to me, so I embraced that side of myself, and luckily felt a passion for developing it. I think it’s possible to be good at something you don’t want to do and be bad at something you wish you could do. Writing can certainly be taught, even if a person doesn’t have a natural strength with it. But it sure helps to have that. It’s much less of an uphill battle.
I also think that empathy and insight play a role here as well. Not everyone is naturally good at looking inside themselves or seeing the world around them with clarity and understanding. You need that to create work that resonates, and I’m not sure that can be taught.
KK: What advice do you have for a writer just starting out?
AS: Every professional writer will give the same advice: Read. Read a lot, and read widely. But everyone who will ultimately make it as a writer doesn’t need that advice because they already do. You have to love reading and stories to become and be a writer.
Besides reading, I would recommend finding a local writing workshop/critique group, maybe taking some classes, and writing whatever interests you without worrying too much about what it is or where it will ultimately take you.
KK: What does the term memoir mean to you?
AS: Memoir is a work of autobiography that has a theme, focus, or covers a select period of a person’s life. It’s creative nonfiction, meaning that it’s based in fact and experience, but some creative liberties can and will be taken in bringing it to life.
KK: What is the difference between a writer and an author? Do you think the words are interchangeable?
AS: I define “author” as someone who has published a book. A “writer” is someone who writes. I don’t think the words are interchangeable, although an “author” is certainly a “writer.”
KK: What is your writing or creative process? Do you have a routine or do you let the inspiration strike when it will?
AS: A lot of people would probably judge my creative process. There’s a lot of emphasis on the “butt in chair” routine: sit down every day, or a least several days a week, for a specified amount of time or amount of words, and make yourself write. Eventually, something will come out. They say this is how professionals work. It’s not how I work.
I always have ideas floating around, incubating. I often write down notes and brainstorm. I typically set out to write in the mornings, but not every morning. Sometimes the writing is just thinking or note-taking. If I’m in the middle of a project, I work on that. I’ll go several days, even a week, without writing a word, then spend 10 days straight writing thousands of words a day. I let my interests, project, and ideas guide me. Deadlines will dictate it as well.
I don’t wait for inspiration, exactly. I have to keep my mind open and searching so I have something to say whenever I do sit down. But I tend to sit down when I feel compelled to, although I do have a nagging sense of obligation that makes me force myself now and then.
KK: What is your experience with writing programs? Do you believe it is important to be trained or can there be other ways of gaining the same wisdom and experience?
AS: I have mixed feelings about writing programs. If you just want to write for fun, take some classes here and there, maybe join a local writing workshop. If you want to teach, get an MFA or PhD. That’s necessary. If you want to write professionally, it depends. Classes and workshops are a must, but I don’t think a degree is necessary. I wanted the option to teach, and I love writing classes and workshops and being part of a community, so that’s why I pursued an MFA.
KK: What do you think is harder to write: fiction or non-fiction/memoir? Why?
AS: For me, it’s probably memoir. In fiction, you have to create a whole world from scratch, but you can dictate and structure what happens in it. In memoir, you already have the materials, the enormous, misshapen pile of clay that is your life and memories. From that, and only that, you must sculpt a beautiful statue. You have to take a million little moments and turn them into a structured, cohesive, engaging narrative that makes sense and will connect with others. And if you don’t have an amazing memory, it’s even harder. I’m glad I kept journals as a teenager, or I’m not sure I could have written mine. But both genres are tough.
KK: How do you handle rejection and what tips can you offer for dealing with it for other writers?
AS: I don’t handle it as well as I’d like, but it depends on the rejection. Individually, they aren’t so bad. One after another can be discouraging and make me question everything. I’m one of those people who can’t not write, no matter how much I get rejected, no matter how low I sink in confidence. It’s part of me. If it’s part of you too, just remember that it takes rejection to get to acceptance, and becoming a successful writer will take time and perseverance. Try not to let it get you too down in the meantime. Editors, agents, and teachers are all subjective in their tastes and feedback. Take their advice seriously, but know each one does not represent the entire world of opinion.
KK: What is your feeling about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What do you see for the future of both?
AS: This is a tricky question. I’ll start by saying that I’m an advocate of whatever path works for you and your project. I think self/indie-publishing has an interesting and promising future ahead of it. I like the idea of writers taking our work into our own hands, maintaining creative control, and publishing on our own terms.
That said, traditional publishing still has its place. It’s very hard to get teaching or lecturing positions as a self-published author, if that’s your goal. Publishing houses also have more resources and money for promotion than you’ll most likely have on your own, unless you’ve developed a huge following already. People say publishers make you do all your own promotion, but that isn’t true. From what I can see, you’ll spend way more time promoting as a self-publisher than a traditionally published author. If you self publish, it’s all up to you. No one is helping. And that can be really, really tough.
KK: What do you have planned for the future for your own writing?
AS: Right now, I’m querying a memoir about my struggle to overcome anxiety disorder and depression as a young adult. I also have some essays in the works to submit to blogs and magazines. I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo in November to get a new novel going. I have a couple novel drafts in my virtual drawer that I occasionally look at and revisit. So, I have a lot of different projects in the works. I’m not sure which one will take off first.
Thank you Alana, for your candid answers to my questions. I wish you lots of luck with NaNoWriMo next month.
have you recently been kicked in the chest? Have you ever been slugged in the gut?
I only ask because I have become accustomed to these figurative injuries to my spirit lately. I can’t describe it any other way.
People have been writing about the universal topic of love and rejection for thousands of years. Writers know what it is to write about the tough side of love: rejection. Why do we love and why do we write? Both are pretty much guaranteed to result in that “being kicked squarely in the chest or the gut” feeling I have been feeling a lot over the past few months.
I don’t know why I delayed these experiences as long as I did? I can’t help but wonder how much farther along I would be in all this right now. Yes, I do know. Fear.
A bad first experience with a high school relationship with a boy soured me to putting myself out there in search of romance and love and it took me nearly ten years to open myself up again.
I am now in the midst of a grand burst of creative inspiration and ideas for things to write about. It must have built up in me until I had to take the leap. I waited so long and now I am in the midst of getting kicked in my torso somewhere by rejection after rejection.
It’s a strange minefield I am navigating now. The feelings of being rejected in love and through submitting my many pieces of writing are eerily identical.
Every single time a memory of my recent broken relationship pops into my head I feel the familiar kick in the gut. Yes, depending on the moment and the day: sometimes it’s the chest (right where my heart is. This, explaining why that broken heart thing has stuck all these years) and the next time it might have moved down only a small bit.
If I write something I love enough to show to others, strangers who have all the power and might or might not approve and share with others, I love it as if it were the object of my affections, feeling as if we (through revealing myself) have just embarked on a mad affair. So you might ask then: why do writers like myself put ourselves through the torture of submission after submission? The answer is obvious I suppose.
Why do we continue to pursue romance and love, even after being burned, most times more than once? Why do we once more put our hearts on the line and risk rejection that may or may not befall our hearts and our guts? It seems counter-intuitive when you look at it logically, but hope shines a light of future success: in love and in writing.
I put off all this way too long and now I am immersing my heart in rejection from all sides. It seems foolish and yet, I do it anyway. Maybe I am simply a glutton for punishment. Maybe I can’t take the hint. Who can say. I feel hurt and alone after love and I feel hurt and alone after every rejection I receive with my writing, but I keep on writing and I keep my heart wide open to the possibility of love once again.
I know I am not alone and I know I will reach the light of brighter days. I take what constructive criticism from those who didn’t want my writing and the lessons I’ve learned from past broken relationships and look toward any future rejection as moving me one step closer to the right guy I will open my heart to and the perfect home for the writing I long to reveal to the world.