Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

It’s always interesting to see which posts struck chords with people over the year. Surprisingly, the most popular posts were evenly split between writing and life. Enjoy!

10. The Monkees Came To My Town

9. A Mile in My Daughter’s Ears

8. Connecting the Dots: Meeting My Grandfather

7. The Internal Saboteur

6. The End of an Era: When Writing Mentors Move On

5. A Writer’s Thick Skin: Do We Need One?

4. Old Fashioned: Writing With Pen and Paper

3. My Biggest Takeaway: 2013 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

 The top 2 posts are no surprise. The tragedy of my friend Kate Leong’s unexpectedly losing her 5 1/2 son, and the miracle response that followed his death still breaks my heart–while moving me to tears of joy at the strength and kindness of the human spirit.

2. The Gavin Effect: A Tsunami of Kindness

1. The World Lost a Superhero: Farewell, Gavin

 Happy 2014, everyone!

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Breakthrough: Touching the Darkness Within

I had wondered, in a post last year, if perhaps my writing wasn’t as strong as it could be because I wasn’t reaching deep enough inside of myself. I wasn’t accessing the scary parts, the parts that trigger deep emotion. That perhaps I feared touching those raw, scary, dark parts of my psyche.

One of my “stretch” resolutions this year was to reach deeper—deeper into my characters and deeper into myself. And to try not to be afraid to do it. To see if I could touch the darkness within and emerge whole.

I didn’t realize when I made that resolution that I would be facing it so early in the year. I have a short story I’m working on, and I knew it would hit some vulnerable, raw parts of me. But I thought it was a good story, and one that needed telling, so I decided to write it anyway.

On Monday, I started the first draft. I wrote quickly at first, but as I got closer and closer to the heart of the matter, to the tender area, suddenly my internal saboteur popped up.

I NEEDED to check my email. Then Facebook. And I absolutely HAD to figure out how to program Outlook to alert me at a certain time (I failed to do that, by the way). When I next looked at the clock, I only had a couple of minutes left before I had to pack up. I decided to play Solitaire until I “ran out of time.” I knew exactly what was happening, but on Monday (following a long night up with a sick Toddler) I lacked the energy and focus to beat the saboteur down.

I’d danced on the fringe of my resolution, but I hadn’t faced it.

Tuesday I had to wait for the library to open, so I sat in my car and opened my story document. This time, I gritted my teeth and took the plunge. The words poured out—and so did the tears. Sitting in my car crying over my laptop, I was very glad I was not working in a public place like a coffeehouse!

Red-eyed but happy, I entered the library. I had faced the darkness and won!

So, is what I wrote any good? Will it make others feel as I felt? I don’t know yet. I’m going to let it sit until next Monday and revisit it. I know it needs some work. Then I’ll have some readers look at it.

All I know is that it came from someplace deep inside me, and I hope it touches someplace deep inside those who read it.

When was your first breakthrough when you wrote something that truly moved readers emotionally? How did it feel?


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The Internal Saboteur

We all know about the “internal critic” or “internal editor.” You know, the one who keeps telling us things like, “That comma doesn’t go there.” or “That’s the worst sentence ever written.” or “No one’s going to want to read the trash you’re writing.” And there are many blog posts out there dealing with how to turn him off or shut him down.

But what about your “internal saboteur”?

What? You’ve never heard of that one? Then pay attention, because he might be why you’re not moving forward as fast as you’d like.

The internal saboteur is not loud like the internal editor. Like most saboteurs, he prefers to work quietly and unnoticed. Subtle. Insidious.

The internal saboteur is why you stop working on a manuscript when you’re getting close to the end. He’s why you put off sending out those query letters. He’s why cleaning the bathroom suddenly seems more appealing than doing the final polish on your short story.

In short, he is every reason you procrastinate when you could actually be accomplishing something.

The internal saboteur is fear made manifest—but not fear of failure. He is fear of success.

That’s right, fear of SUCCESS.

Why would you be afraid of success? Because success means change, and change is very hard for a lot of people. Success in writing can mean a huge amount of change in a short amount of time, too, robbing us of the ability to ease into our new world slowly. The internal saboteur doesn’t want to deal with the change.

How to I know about the internal saboteur? I live with him every day. It’s no secret I wrestle with an anxiety disorder. This means everyday things can be incredibly difficult for me—just talking on the phone can break me out in sweat. My fear rises up every time I try to step out of my sheltered routine—to see a movie or go out to eat or see a concert or visit a friend. Simple things. Yet my fear will grab me, try to convince me that I am too ill or too tired to go out and do these things. That I don’t really want to. That it would be harmful to go. I must fight the physical symptoms of this fear and push ahead anyway. Live my life in spite of my internal saboteur.

Since he is so prevalent in my daily life, it comes as no surprise that my internal saboteur is hard at work in my writing life as well. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with me writing, per se (he leaves that to the inner critic). But once I have a piece written, he fights hard to make sure I never do anything productive with it. It becomes too great a chore to finish revising those last few chapters. I’m too tired to research agents to query, and I definitely need to nap instead of researching markets for the short story I wrote. I procrastinate, playing Solitaire over and over, finding other chores to do, or simply escaping into the rabbit-hole of genealogy research.

I know my internal saboteur when I see him. Sometimes it takes a few days, but I know the signs. And when I finally recognize him for what he is, I have to rally myself, kick him to the curb, and get on with the things I need to do to further my career.

One of my goals in 2013 is to recognize him earlier, to loosen his grip on my career. I spend my whole life beating him off with a stick so I can enjoy my life—I refuse to let him steal my writing career from me.

Take a look at what’s holding you back in your writing career. Are the obstacles real—or are they the constructs of your internal saboteur? Is it the OBJECTS that are insurmountable—or the FEAR?

Don’t let fear of success hold you back.

No matter what your internal saboteur says, you deserve success just as much as everyone else. Go and grab it.

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