“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou
“Don’t die with your music still inside. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul.” Wayne Dyer
You’ve always wanted to write the “next best seller,” yet you haven’t completed one manuscript. I know, I know. You’ve been busy with school, work, and family which has left little time to pursue what your family considers your “hobby.” If you still want to write the story that keeps disturbing your sleep, then it’s your passion, not your hobby. But when you sit at your computer, you freeze. Is it writer’s block or are you suffering from a fear of failure? Are you afraid of criticism or do you lack the self-confidence it takes to become a published writer?
Try getting past your fear of putting your words on paper with some of the following techniques that worked for me.
Talk to an older relative or neighbor about her childhood memories. Don’t concern yourself about what you’ll do with the information during the conversation. Just ask prepared questions, but listen carefully to the responses and to the way that person answers. This may lead to more questions. Take notes and ask permission to utilize a recorder prior to the interview. If at first the person is reluctant to talk, get her to relax by talking about the present. Maybe a conversational trigger will lead her to reveal more about her entry into this country, her life on a farm, or what it was like during the war. A memoir, mystery, or love story could be enhanced by some of the details you hear.
While caring for my elderly, sick father, I heard him talk about his mother’s compassion toward others during the depression. Delighted to hear his coherent voice, I coaxed him into telling me more. The stories he told me became a short memoir I wrote for his benefit. He enjoyed the story and encouraged me to write more. “My Grandmother, Little Mama” was published in On the Shores of Detroit: History through Prose and Poetry which became a component of the 2002 Midwest Poets & Writers Conference.
Enter writing contests. WritersWeekly.com has a quarterly 24-Hour Short Story Contest with an entry fee of only $5. At noon on a predetermined Saturday, contestants are given a few sentences that must be used in their story and told the maximum word count allowed. The sentences and word count vary from contest to contest. The story must be completed by noon the following day. On a whim, I entered the contest several times. I didn’t win the WritersWeekly contests. However, I tweaked one of the stories and entered it in other contests. That story won a first place cash prize in one contest and was published as an honorable mention in another one.
The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges writers to write 50,000 words during the thirty days of November. That’s a minimum of 1,667 words a day which should help you get into the habit of writing regularly. I’ve tried this twice, once successfully. I’m now working on the results of my second NaNoWriMo manuscript.
The Writer’s Digest has numerous contests several times a year as well as mini contests in their magazine. Writing prompts or story starters may help you write on a regular basis. Keep a notebook handy to jot down any ideas that come to mind. Starting small may work for you. When you’re ready for a bigger project, write one chapter at a time until you’ve finally written the story that has haunted you for some time. Now put away your fears and let your passion fly free. We’re waiting to read your story.