Passion and Paper Tigers

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Fear preys on passion, but it is a paper tiger. ~Vautaw

I received a check for $25 today from the Poetry Society of Indiana for winning 1st place in the Linda Bannon Memorial Category with a poem I wrote specifically for the contest called, “Overflow“.

In my mind, I wielded the check like a sword to shred the paper tiger that has pursued me since the day I dared to publish my first word. Apparently, it worked, but I know a legion of paper tigers exist for every word I dare to share.

I am taking advantage of this momentary victory and boost of confidence by dreaming big, writing like I am already famous, and visualizing my name among the greatest writers of all time: Hemingway, Vonnegut, Faulkner, Joyce, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Eliot, Bronte, Woolf, Plath, Atwood, Angelou, Christie, Cartland, Steel, Vautaw…

That last one is me, one of my pseudonyms, fits right in doesn’t it?!

Whew, I got that out before the next paper tiger spotted me and fueled my inner critic with enough adrenaline to make me want to escape through the open tab to check my email or scroll social media… anything to avoid the thoughts of inadequacy, of not being good enough to even think of being in the same sentence as the “greats” or “real” writers, of dramatic despair of dying with my words and stories left unsaid…

But, wait, I have my sword. I may not even cash the check. I may post it on my vision board as a reminder of an Amelia Earhart quote, “Fears are just paper tigers“. So, write to your heart’s content. Write the words that you want to share with the world. Write the stories that make your soul shine.

En Garde!

WriterKat

 

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Write Now

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. (2)You can’t think yourself out of a writing block. You have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ~ John Rogers

I have a dozen book ideas floating around in my head, some of which have characters suspended in time like the mannequin challenge, for over a decade! I have used every excuse in the book to procrastinate including writer’s block, no time, distraction, foggy brain, you name it! But here’s the thing. I’ve ran out of excuses. Time is on my side right now. A couple weeks ago, I lost a “temp” job that I used as my “no time” excuse for years. The whole reason I decided to do temp work in the first place was so I could write! Somewhere along the way I got complacent. I stopped doing the things that nourish my body and soul. Creativity took a back seat. And I was willing to stay in the comfort zone because I believed I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” writer anyway.

That j.o.b. crutch is gone now. It’s just me and reality. The truth is I have let myself fall victim to the disease that strikes many writers and creative types and that is fear. Fear of my writing not being good enough. Fear of no one wanting to read what I write. Fear of wasting my time. But guess what I’m wasting time already and not accomplishing much. Why not dive into that fear and watch the muddy water turn crystal clear! Fear and action do not mix. Fear thrives in a stagnant environment. Once you take action, the water starts to aerate and life begins to grow. That is where I want to be, among the living things.

Writing is the key that unlocks the door to my world of wonder. It awakens my imagination and takes me out into the great big world that sometimes seems scary, but at closer look just wants the same love, passion and purpose that I seek.

 

 

If You Really Knew Me

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I attended a writing workshop yesterday led by three fantastic facilitators (Lorraine Marshall-Rey, Michael Brockley, and Jeffrey Owen Pearson). The workshop title was “Writing the Lonely Life” and the topic was loneliness, being alone, and writing. I will attend a writing workshop on any topic. I like to keep my claws sharp. Plus, I meet the most fascinating people at writing workshops. There seems to be an automatic trust among kindred spirits. After a few minutes getting to know each other, we put our vulnerabilities on the table like scalpels during open heart surgery.

One of the ice breakers the fantastic facilitators used was an exercise called “If You Really Knew Me”. We went around the room telling each other what they would know about us if they really knew us. We discovered that one of the facilitators (Mike Brockley) has over 700 “conversational” ties, each one with a theme or story. We learned that a couple writers struggle with depression, one writer just graduated and feels lost, another one used to be in a cult. I shared about overcoming a phobia of escalators and using that same fear-facing strategy to publish my writings that I had spent years putting in a box or throwing away.

After I left the workshop and thought more about the exercise, I thought about some other things I could have shared, like how I have a touch of OCD that prevents me from letting any canned goods be upside down in my cabinets or how I would rather read and listen to the rain than watch TV or how I redirected negative emotions of an abused childhood to write and publish books to help others that have gone through the same thing.

But then, if you really knew me, you would know I wouldn’t want to mention anything that seemed like bragging. It is a fine line we walk between sharing our stories to get to know each other better and staying silent to avoid sideways glances and shoulder shrugs.

Of course withdrawal is where loneliness begins and thus the need for workshops such as this one where we learn about anaphoras and ghazals, pair up to create couplets, dance, laugh, birth poems, and make new friends that helps fill the abyss of loneliness with the connection we all crave.

Write on.

WriterKat

Below is a poem my new friend Helen Townsend and I created at the workshop. We both created couplets separately, then when we paired up to put the poem together, we were in awe of how one line seemed to be responding to the other, almost as if the inner voice of strength was talking one through the fear (which was a word we both came up with when asked to list the cost of loneliness). It was a fun exercise. 

Defeat

I want to step out into light

but loneliness keeps me in a shroud of fear.

    Take off your eye glasses

    De-focus your fear.

I am a fist

of pain and fear.

    Twirl your precious stones

    let your fingers forget fear.

My face hides a

self-imposed prison of fear.

    Walk outside in inside-out-socks

    Your feet splash puddles of fear.

My strength is here

I don’t feel fear.

 

 

You’re Fired

writerkat.com (26) A young man got fired at my day job recently. It was his first “real” job. I’m sure he felt defeated, but if I could have talked to him, this is what I would have said…

I knew from the moment I heard your celebrity name and saw your chiseled face that your light shines too bright for this solemn place. You are young, full of life and energy – not yet resigned to a life of mediocrity in a dead-end job where you cross off the days on your wall calendar counting days until your sentence ends and wish your week away along side TGIF co-workers who long ago abandoned their dreams and think this is as good as it gets, in this life anyway.

Learn the lessons from your brief time here because the test will come again and again. There will be many failures along the winding road that leads to where you are meant to be, where you thrive, where you feel you belong, where you make a positive difference in the world. Use every perceived failure as a stepping stone to success.

Take it from someone with enough regrets to fill the Grand Canyon because she settled for “steady” pay and sub-par benefits while her dreams passed by like clouds in the sky…

Go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out as a reminder to never settle for a life of mediocrity, but instead to do the things that light up your soul. Consider yourself blessed.

Write on.

Back Talk

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It was beautiful outside today but inside my mind a storm was brewing. My nature is quiet and peaceful, but when too many negative things happen at once, something goes haywire in my brain and I feel like a volcano about to erupt. Usually, I can get control of it, but today wasn’t one of those days. It seems like once you let that one thought through that says I’m having a crappy day, the Universe conspires to confirm it by releasing a meteor shower of more crap.

I am a peacemaker and when my environment is chaotic without any sense of control, the lava flows. My calm demeanor turns to angst. My smile turns upside down and when mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy! My quiet, flower-child self turns into a drill sargeant barking complaints and commands to regain order in the household.

Am I the only one who can pick up after themselves or the dog who insists on relieving himself inside at random places (like my grandson’s original one-of-a-kind painting of Einstein) even when he is taken outside to potty multiple times a day and has a puppy pad? Am I the only one who can do laundry or cook? Am I the only one who can run errands? Am I the only one who can work to pay the bills? Am I an enabler who has bred a sense of entitlement by my passive personality? Those thoughts were clanging into each other in my head when my IP training kicked in…

BREATHE I tell myself. Take a deep breath and find something to be grateful for. It was pretty hard at first because my mind was on a roll confirming my “bad mood” by naming more reasons to justify my frustration.

What are you grateful for? My coaching self asks.

I just don’t feel the love today. Lord give me strength to deal with everything.

One thing. Find just one thing.

Fine. Whatever. I say to to my coach self like a rebellious teenager (that I am being reintroduced to since taking my nieces in to raise a few months ago). I’m grateful the sun is going down and it’s cooling off outside. I’m grateful this day is almost over!

The sun. Yes. It is cooling off outside. You are cooling down inside too. Feel it?

Thoughts become things,” I hear my mentor Mike Dooley say in that positive part of my mind conditioned by years of personal development.

Okay, yes I am a bit calmer, but you know what would really cool me down? A McDonald’s sweet tea and a Mocha frappe. I have a $1.55 in change and five McCafe points!

You realize that’s over 80 grams of sugar? My skinny self buried beneath layers of inflamed adipose tissue says.

Yeah, well I need something to put the fire out.

Try water. You know your moodiness could be caused by dehydration!

Water isn’t touching the flame today baby.

The happy-go-lucky side concedes this round. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles. Some days aren’t wrapped up with a sweet ending like a sitcom. Fortunately, a day is only 24 hours and HOPE for a brighter tomorrow is hard wired in my brain.

Write on.

WriterKat

 

 

 

Honorable Mention

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“There is no dishonor in honorable mention.” ~ Mike Rothman

There was a time when honorable mention felt like losing to me…

“If she can’t win, she doesn’t want to play.” My cousin said those words about me when I was ten years old or so and a group of us kids were playing red rover or some similar game that I decided I didn’t want to play for reasons I don’t even remember. My cousin continued his berating, “It has to be her way or not at all.” He was talking to them about me right in front of me. I was furious, stomped back into the house and slammed the screen door to make the point that I was mad which probably just confirmed his point to the group. My cousin’s biting words stayed with me all these years. I think about it from time to time. Am I really that rigid that I don’t want to play if I can’t win? There have been many times in my life when I felt like that was true. I have never been into sports perhaps because I know I can’t win without training and I have no desire to train for any athletic event, not even hippity-hop when I was in the fourth grade. I was always last to get picked for the team and I really didn’t care. I would rather be sitting by myself somewhere coloring or reading a book.

Writing is a different story, sort of. I want to the be the best, do my best, but often feel like I fall short which used to prevent me from entering writing contests or attending big writer conventions where MFAs and bestselling authors abound. I remember the first time I attended the Midwest Writers Conference. I felt so inferior after coming home from that event. It took me months to get beyond my self-imposed limitations of thinking what makes me believe I have a chance of getting published when there are so many great writers who are struggling. Thank goodness self-publishing became popular and easily accessible or I would have probably never pursued publishing my writing.

Once I self-published, it was like breaking through an invisible barrier. Suddenly, I could say I was a published author. I began to see myself as a writer. I continued to study, read and write, becoming a little more confident with each poem and story I wrote. I began to enter writing contests, only a few that meant something to me. I remember the first time I won a writing contest, it felt like I won an Olympic gold metal. All I won was some random poster from the 70’s that became ashes along with all my journals, poems, stories and books when my house burned down a couple years ago.

After the fire, I got a new perspective about what is really important in life. I no longer wish to accumulate things. I would rather accumulate memories. I no longer write to “win” a contest or get published. I write to say what I feel I have to release into the world. If it resonates with someone, that is wonderful. I love when that happens both as a writer and a reader. But, I’m no longer in competition for the coveted “best-seller” title or winning any awards. I write because it is who I am and what I have to do to quiet the voices in my head. I write because I love the written word. Passionately.

When I got an honorable mention at the recent Mounds State Park Poetry contest, I felt that twinge of “first place” memory and smiled inside because I am in the game now, playing, having fun, right along with all the other writers who submit their art for something that is important to them.

Being willing to step outside your comfort zone and writing from your heart, that’s what makes you a winner!

Write on.

Kathy G