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 "Getting Past The Shoulds To Write" 
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Post "Getting Past The Shoulds To Write"
Getting Past The Shoulds To Write
Catherine Franz

During the past few months I have received many questions as
to how I have gone from an unknown writer to over coming
society’s adversarial thoughts on what writing should be and
become a well known writer. So, today, I was inspired to
write on this. Let me present a gist of my story. And like
all stories there’s always more depth.

When it comes to being judged by society’s belief of what
good writing is, I thoroughly understand the pressure. Been
through that. For years I was a closet writer because the
feedback I received from writing instructors (from various
levels) was, "your writing different and I'm
not really qualified to comment." I took this to mean, "I
was a lousy writer." So daily, I quietly wrote, read it,
agreed, and tossed it into a growing set of boxes.

Years and 72 boxes later, my insides were screaming. The
screaming displayed itself in anger everything I did and
everyone I touched. After my father died, I was fed up with
life, society, and all the shoulds in my life. I knew I was
angry at something but had no idea what at that time. With
a full level of frustration and disgust, I decided to give
up everything, take off a year, and travel to every writing
conference, study anywhere I could, with anyone I could, and
"really" learn to write. I had no idea what I was looking
for at the time. Now I realize that I was looking for my
personal voice and my writing voice.

After traveling I returned home to Virginia not feeling that
much better about my writing than when I started. I did
notice that my skin was a little tougher but I was still
angry, still embarrassed about my call to write. And as far
as my skill level, I didn't feel there was much improvement.
The feedback I received was similar to what I received
before. One teacher, at a workshop at Puget Sound Writing
Conference, Washington state, told me, "If I kept working at
it maybe (with a big voice emphasis at maybe) some day in 10
years or so I will be good enough to release my writing."

Occasionally a light appeared in my tunnel. One time was
when I was attending the International Writer’s Guild (IWG)
yearly retreat in Syracuse, New York. Hundreds of women
writers, all supportive, all different in so many ways. The
positive energy was empowering. I took away from this that
there wasn't any exact science to writing. Learning to
trust my own womanhood at 52 was a completely new eye
opening experience for me. There was a shift in my writing

A few weeks after my year, I woke up crying. Not a gentle
sob but a whaling one. I was pissed. I was angry. At the
world, at myself, at the lamp shade, it didn't matter. I
kicked shoes, took walks, and wrote pages in my journal
trying to understand what was happening. There was a rage,
an internal fight between what feedback and their
suggestions and my internal dialogue. Later I realized the
writer inside was fighting to get out.

Afterwards, my pissed let to, "screw everyone." I apologize
for the language ladies and gents but I'm sharing my truth.
I decide to just put it out there and let it land where it
may. Grammar mistakes, imperfections, whatever emerged.
Let the commas be too many or too few.

The first time I had to let go it took me a week of internal
dialoguing, and more edits than I'm willing to admit to, in
order to let go. (Actually my first experience with over
editing.) My emotions changed by the hour. My family ran
for the hills and didn't know what to do with me. I didn't
even know what to do with me.

The first time an English specialist sent me their
suggestion that I might want to improve on my grammar first,
mind you they never were specific of where or even what they
were reading, I would cry again. This would cause me to
stop writing for the remainder of the day. The next day I
was back to a "what the he__" again (thank goodness).

Next I wanted to tackle adding discipline to my writing.
Boy 'o boy that was easy to say yet hard to implement. I
soon learned that I preferred cleaning out the refrigerator,
even visit the dentist rather than sitting down at a
specific time to write. Since then and over time, I learned
how this same avoidance rippled its way into other places in
my life.

At no given time did I ever suffer from writer's block. I
always felt comfortable writing on almost anything (a
blessing and a curse). The curse being I was spreading my
focus too thinly. Yet, I was happy and having a ball and
that’s why I kept on doing it that way. Looking back, now I
can see how badly I needed to release all my bottled up
emotions at that time.

Success at focusing in didn't come easy. But eventually the
excuses ran out and the emotions balanced it started to come
naturally. When I learn to place my needs first, which also
meant writing, anger never emerged. In fact, I was down
right pleasant to be around the rest of the day. My
discipline started with one hour of writing every morning
and has evolved into a 5 to 8 morning experience and an hour
in the evening reviewing my days notes.

The more I wrote, the more outlet opportunities knocked on
my door. I began three ezines, including a daily. Then I
began writing for other professionals and Internet and
magazine articles.

When I began to allow my writings to go public, even one
email from about my English skills set me to tears and I
couldn't write the rest of the day. Thank goodness it
didn't last and the next morning I was writing again. At
that moment I realized the importance of a disciplined
writing time.

Eventually, I began to receive feedback on how people loved
what I wrote, liked my ideas, and by passed the occasional
grammar error. My name even found its place in a few local
newspapers including the Washington Post. The positive
feedback was far bigger than the "you've need to do better"
messages. They began with three pats to one scolding. Then
moved to six pats to one. Then 30 pats to 1.

And the most amazing part -- I was happier than ever. You
could find me starting my weekend day writing at McDonalds
(the only place open at 6 am), by 10 at the bookstore, by 3
the library, by 6 returning home and satisfied. There were
bum times on park benches especially in the spring, museums
and shopping malls when the weather was nasty. At my
frequent stops employees or regulars stopped and asked what
I was working on and willingly shared their thoughts and
ideas on the topic. Some agreed, some didn't, but the magic
was my writing was richer because of them, because of the
environmental switches.

My writing kept improving and what I produced tripled.
Occasionally I would read something I previous wrote and sat
numb, not believing, "I wrote, that!" My inner critic even
stopped punching.

Now my pat to grammar email ratio doesn't matter. I know
there’s more to learn yet I'm so glad my writing is out in
the public eye. I write every chance I can and make the
space for it in my life. Topics don't matter nor does first
quality matter. Just as long as it’s on a page somewhere
and safe.

A little while back I began outlining (Mind Maps) before
writing. Previously outlining wasn't my thing. I've also
learned that if there I don't have a certain number of
points don't begin to write. Yet even I don't have enough
to begin writing, my mind is still tumbling and building and
something better always appears. Something that couldn't
appear without the tossing first.

Over the years, my penmanship has gone from good to worse.
What I have also realized is that my first draft is
sometimes just me jumping and trying to find my way around
on the topic. Almost like a maze. Afterwards, I highlight
the good and usually find there is more than one topic to go

My advice to people who desire to write -- follow your
heart. Trust that it will lead you down the right path.
Trust today’s writing will always look different tomorrow
and your writing will always improve and evolve the more you
write. Not any book you read, writing conference you
attend, the best lessons are learned by writing regularly.

One of my favorite quotes is, "Big things come from the
smallest actions." The light will come after you complete
many small actions. The same as I did and many who preceded
me, there is light available in the tunnel and you will see
changes within yourself that will transfer onto the pages.
Writing will always be an evolving process, even after the

Worry about the grammar until its time, not before. If you
learn one writing tip a week and work it into your writing
all week, it can't help but improve because that’s 52
improvements a year.

You don't need a lot, one word can do. For one year I wrote
394 articles from one word -- honor. Every time I completed
one article the word was complete, another appeared. If I
had thought I could write this many articles from one word
before this experience I would laugh at you. Eventually I
called a truce. It was amazing watch my bar as it kept
getting higher. An experience that fuels my beliefs today.
Whenever I began to write another honor story I was
transitioned to age seven watching my Dad pitch the ball
against the steel milk bottles, feeling like I just won the
1st prize teddy bear. Yes, the biggest one on the top
shelf, the one that looks twice my size.

At times the thoughts were firing so rapidly it forced me to
stop what I was doing and write what I could. Many times I
had to pull off the road and get it down.

Even today there are times when my writing doesn't make
sense but I know now that I can't get to the next point
until I get rid of this stuff first. Like many writers, we
all have a few boxes or stacks of these.

For everyone who feels a pull to write but hasn't. Let me
quote Nike, "just do it." Let all the inhibitions go, they
are nonsense until after all the editing. Let the commas
fall where they may. Write without any attachment to the
outcome. That comes later.

It took time for my writing to turn into a hundred thousand
dollar business. Even a year ago I wouldn't have thought it
possible and would have just laughed at the though. I am
happier than ever. No crying, just writing. No kicking the
shoes. No more doubt of my possibilities (okay, some but
very small). Be free, write and let it lead you wherever it
needs to go.

Nothing you or I write will ever be lost. Fight for your
writer’s life, it’s worth the battle. Especially don't let
anyone should all over you.

(c) Copyright Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.

Catherine Franz, writer, speaker, marketing master,
specializes in infoproduct development. More at: and Including articles
and ezines.

This article is reprinted with permission from

Thu Jul 12, 2007 9:55 am
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