When we are afraid of mistakes, we gloss them over, ignore them, or stop trying to accomplish what we have set out to do.
Do you fear mistakes? Most of us have that tendency. Maybe not for every activity we take part in, but the things we struggle with most can quickly become things we fear trying.
When I was a child, I hid my grammar book behind the couch and celebrated no one being able to find it. I told Mom I didn’t know where it was and shrugged as I got further and further behind. But why did I do this?
Fear of mistakes stifles learning.
I found grammar very difficult. My own eyes were at war with me and though I could understand the basics of language and the structure of English, my mistakes were constant. I didn’t understand why I struggled do much. I felt stupid. So I gave up.
Oh, how I wish eight-year-old me could have dug deep and powered through. Because of my fear, I am far behind my peers in the writing world. It took me over 25 years to overcome the fear of letting others correct my mistakes, so I could learn to be the writer I have always wanted to be. How much farther along would I be if I had not hidden that grammar book?
“Sorry Mom! I should have listened to you.”
I can’t go back and change what I did. So now I look ahead and do my best to put fear behind me, facing every spelling error and out-of-place punctuation mark with determination. I appreciate kind correction, and editors who can see the little things I can’t.
I also have learned acceptance. I have trained my brain to see many of the mistakes I would have missed ten years ago, but my eyes are still not normal. They probably won’t ever be, and that’s okay. Because I have people on my side now, people I am no longer afraid of.
It’s challenging to wrap a whole beginning middle and ending into 3000 words or fewer, just as it’s challenging to write a 150,000 word novel. In fact, I am not sure if one is inherently easier than the other when done well. The latter takes planning and perseverance. The first, a lot of word skill. I see both as equally valuable.
It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus.
One thing short forms have going for them is time economy. I am a slow writer, and sometimes I take months to craft a short story draft. But I can do it. Whether I take a day, or a few months, I have tasted the flavor of finished work. For a writer, that is huge.
It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus. If you struggle to never finish a writing project. Try a short story on for size.
What is difficult to do in short forms is world build. Only that which moves the story forward can be present. Only enough detail as to not confuse the reader should be used. Focus, a sharp point to stay within the intended word count.
Short stories come in many forms. 10,000 words, 5,000 words, 3,000 words and anything in between. Under 1,000 is generally referred to as flash fiction. These brief flashes of creativity seem a natural fit to our modern busy lives. I see them becoming more and more important as our world spins faster and faster.
Then there is the micro-story, anything under 300 words. I particularly enjoy dribbles and drabbles, 100, and 50 word stories. You can read my latest contribution to the drabble world here.
To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill.
The shorter your word count, the less the story becomes about the words on a page or screen, and the more in becomes about what is not there. Reading in between the lines, writing with emotions that are not spelled out. It’s truly an art form.
To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill. It’s a skill worth honing for any writer as that word economy can be what lifts a full-length novel apart from all the other books on a shelf.
Short stories written about the same people, or place, can be used as building blocks to larger projects. Use them as bridges between your dreams and reality.
But we should never forget the power of the standalone short piece. Their honed narratives and pointed emotions can drive truth and learning into our busy hearts and minds.
When was the last time you read a short story? Did you enjoy it?
I love the adventure of writing. I love exploring and experiencing the world or emotions I write about. But when I finish that first draft, editing must always happen.
I hate seeing those nasty confidence crippling red marks. Let me tell you, for someone who is mildly dyslexic, it’s never just one red mark. More than likely, it is a sea of them I feel I could drown in. This has been my number one challenge in completing my work.
“I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important.”
So how do I face those red marks?
Slowly, methodically, and with help.
I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important. One word, one-line, one paragraph, one page. If I get ahead of myself, I give up.
I also pace myself. Sometimes we are unaware of the energy spent while creating something, and the drain it can have on our being. I fix one word, then remind myself to blink and breathe. After tackling the next sentence, I do the breathing over again, and maybe step away from the screen to get a drink.
I am a much slower writer than most people, but that’s okay. We all create in our own way and honestly, I’m not trying to be anyone else’s competition. (Unless I am writing for a contest, that is.) I dread those red marks, but there is also nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing them disappear from my work.
Trying is also something I do slowly. I often make mistakes while trying to fix things. Rarely is a second draft enough. More likely, a third, fourth, or even fifth draft happens before the piece is ready. The longer the project, the more drafts needed.
“So those red marks keep me humble and social.”
I rely heavily on grammar software as it’s difficult for me to see mistakes like the use if the wrong ‘to’ in a sentence. I don’t know if I could even attempt writing if it wasn’t for programs like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. But even after I reread things myself, and let the computer to its thing, I always need at least one other person to help. Software just can’t pickup all my mistakes.
So those red marks keep me humble and social. If my husband isn’t available to read through my work, I have to reach out and ask someone else. This is always awkward for me. Will they roles there eyes at my mistakes? Will they be able to see past the red to the heart of things? Can I trust them?
Most things in life are a give and a take relationship. We breathe in oxygen, and give out carbon-monoxide. That feeds the plant life around us that turns it back into the oxygen we breathe again.
Give and take is the foundation of life, and it’s no different for creativity and writing.
As a writer, I take things in from life around me. The people, the places, the nature, the communion of prayer. These things feed my spirit and enable me to spend energy on writing. I pour what I receive across the page as I try to give order to thoughts and paint pictures with words.
Next comes a really amazing part. Other people take in the things that I write. Maybe not many, but a few. Even one is enough to continue this relationship.
Is their reaction negative or positive? Either way, there is an exchange.
They read my words, they take them in. Is their reaction negative or positive? Either way, there is an exchange. Do they leave a ‘like’ or a comment? Do they simple ghost through the pages of my website? Even if they do not engage with me, they give a tinny bit, a marker that says, someone was there and read my work. It’s a spark of energy shared with a computer keyboard or phone screen.
This give from a reader can go even further if they use their finances to bless me and buy my book or artwork. That is a HUGE give. It tells me not only have they read my work, but they found it worthy enough to spend money.
The financial blessing enables me to give more of my writing to the world, and maybe even bless my family with a little extra for household necessities.
So the branches of give and take grow even wider.
There is a step further a reader can go, they can share my work. By leaving a review, they bless my heart with words of encouragement, or maybe correction. Either way, there is give there. They give not only to me the writer but also to others who might read their review and decide if my work is worth the time to read it. So the branches of give and take grow even wider.
It becomes a circle when the writer takes in enough again to create something new. A cycle, and that cycle is a beautiful thing.
My personal place is that cycle changes. Sometimes I am the writer, but I also experience being the reader. I take in what other people create and give back to them. Another connection, a community of creativity.
When was the last time you gave?
What did you create? When was the last time you engaged? Did a writer’s words stir your emotions so much you had to share them? When was the last time you bought a book or artwork? Did you even know you are a part of a web of creative energy?
I have always enjoyed learning about others, other cultures, other peoples, other places. The Edge of Humanity Magazine has been a great place to see glimpses of others, and their daily lives, through the photography, art, poetry, and articles they highlight. I particularly enjoy the art, and poetry.
Since it’s a magazine I have followed for quite a while, it thrilled me when they accepted my non-fiction piece ‘The Art Of Remembering’. They have added it to their Human Condition category, and I feel it’s found a great home there.
‘The Art Of Remembering’ was written in memory of my Grandfather. My fondest memories are of him working in his carpentry shop, making his own forms of Art. I encourage you to visit The Edge of Humanity’s Website, read my contribution, and also enjoy the huge library of humanity they share.
Mary Grace van der Kroef
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Why do people make up stories that aren’t true? Why do we play with reality in search of a fantastical story line? Is there any worth to this nonsense?
First, there is worth in Rainbow unicorns… THEY ARE PRETTY! But I digress…
Why do we enjoy stories we know are just not true, could never be true, and never will be true?
One answer is, it’s just fun.
A good fiction story, regardless of genre, grabs us and takes us for a ride. A ride we can’t get from anywhere else. It’s just plain fun to go places we never will be able to in real life.
Second, they stretch something within us, and open doors to learning subtly. We get to explore times, environments, and possibilities all from the comfort of our favorite reading corners. We can dig through the mire of human existence without getting our hands dirty and gain an understanding of different peoples without risking life and limb.
We can learn to have the courage of Frodo in the middle of his fantasy. (The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.) The power of love, curiosity, and empathy live in stories like ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Of course, a book is not the equal of realm life experience, but there is real value to be gained from the trip through its pages.
A third case can be made for fiction, stretching the human mind to find possibilities. What would it be like to walk on the moon? Humans dreamt of it and wrote about it before we accomplished it. Sharing those dreams in different ways, one of them being through science fiction stories, helped build a collective desire to make it happen.
Stories and their telling, holds power, even fiction.
What is your favorite fiction story, and what did you learn from it?
I must confess, I have been struggling. The state of the world and the fear I feel flowing in the wind are oppressing my spirit. I keep looking for words of hope to meditate on, just single words I let my mind mull over.
These poems were all born from that endeavor, but I find myself running low on ideas. If you have a word that sparks hope, or peace within you, would you share it with us in the comments?
I will do my best to write a short poem or reflection on each word you share with me.
Or maybe you have a word that weighs on your mind. Maybe it’s not oppressive, but you feel it’s important. Share it please.
I have been working on a small side project called Words of Weight. Once I have penned enough poems to fill a small chapbook, I plan to share it with you all for free. Your words are paramount to my finishing.
Mary Grace van der Kroef
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Several months I got to participate in an author interviewed with Kirsten McNeill. She is a fellow creator, author, editor, podcast host and creative coach. She has some really amazing new things in her future. But following her dreams has meant she needs to leave some old projects behind, so the platform our interview lives in is coming down.
Today, it gets a new home in the form of this post, and I really encourage you to check Kirsten and everything she is about out. She interviewed me about my upcoming chapbook, and now I will also share her creative endeavors with you.
A bit from Kirsten:
As a creative, I’m always coming up with new project ideas and searching for ways to express myself.
One of my latest ideas is to become a life purpose/creative life coach to encourage writers (and other creators) to embrace their journeys and live the life they want unapologetically.
I love helping others feel good about themselves and work to build a positive mindset in their daily activities. And many writer friends have said that I’m already leaning into the coaching world with my sunflower happiness!
My first step in becoming a life coach is taking a certification program. There’s one starting in October, and the last day to sign up for the early bird special is October 1st!
I’ve created a campaign goal on Buy Me A Coffee and it would mean the world to me if you helped me reach it!
Show your support by spreading the word, helping me raise funds, and letting me know what you think of the EXTRAS!
Learning from this program will expand my knowledge base to help others feel more confident and happy in their journeys.
Hello Mary Grace! Please introduce yourself and share 5 fun facts!
My favorite food is sushi.
Sushi pairs with nothing better than a Dr. Pepper. Yes, I am that weird.
I am a huge Anime fan. The classics like Hunter x Hunter are my favorite.
One of my favorite singers of all time is Kevin Max. Some people might recognize his name from the band DC Talk.
I have had my hair just about every color of the rainbow, except pink. Pink is not my favourite.
What inspired you to begin your writing journey?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a very avid reader. Back then, my favourite books were about Pippi Longstocking. I loved that a little girl like me could adventure and do ridiculous things. Stories give us freedom to dream like that. I used to make up my own stories about her.
As I aged, I found that writing gave me release from the confusing emotions that come with growing up. It felt so natural to me to use a pencil to dream and pour out my pain and fear and doubts.
I have only been aspiring to write for others the last few years. It’s only because of the encouragement I received from other writers and authors in my life that has given me the courage to ‘write out loud’.
What are your favourite genres and themes to write about?
I write a lot of poetry. It’s a wonderful way to process emotions and understand them. I enfold questions and truths about my own mental health, and faith into these poems. I love story telling. Poems are great ways to tell stories in vivid imagery. The short story in its many forms is also important to me. The ability to compress all I want to say into just a few words is something I am continuing to learn. I like to use short stories to explore how different perspectives can lead to a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves.
What are the challenges you face in writing?
Finding time would be one of the biggest challenges. I have been homeschooling two of my three children over the past year. Much of my life has revolved around childcare, so the moments I steal in the middle of the business to write are often interrupted. I also have a mild form of dyslexia. I have improved over my years of writing but rely on grammar software to see mistakes that my eyes and brain miss.
Tell us about the poetry collection you’re working on!
It will be a grouping of twenty-five of my best faith-based poems. These poems revolve around my prayers, my questions, even my battles with mental health and faith. My working title is ‘The Branch That I Am’. I hope to make this collection available between August and the end of November, of this year 2021. This is my first experience working with a professional editor, and I am enjoying the learning happening in my creative space.
What are the best parts of bringing topics of mental health and faith into your writing?
What a great question. Overall, I think it’s the chance I have to share Hope. When we are in the middle of darkness, it is so easy to lose sight of the hope that we have. I believe in a God that will sit with me in the middle of my pain and confusion. He isn’t far away, he is present. He is that hope.
The two are so intertwined in my life that I cannot separate them. If I didn’t have that hope, I wouldn’t still be alive. SO the best part of sharing my hope with the world as writing, is that maybe someone else will come to hold hope as well.
How do you balance your writing schedule with the other aspects of your life?
Not always very well. My kids always come first, but the crumbs on my carpet don’t get vacuumed up enough. I do try to take all my tasks for the day in bits and pieces spread out. Everything I write starts as a note on my phone. I write whole rough drafts there.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your writing journey?
It’s okay to write crap. Honestly, it’s so freeing to know that the first draft doesn’t have to be this glorious thing. It’s almost always really horrible. THAT IS OKAY.
What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to creativity?
It is individual. As humans, we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other. But our creativity is as distinct as our fingerprints. My writing or painting may have similar styles to someone else, but they are my own. My skills and message will grow at their own pace.
What’s the best advice you can give to fellow writers?
Never give up. When I was fourteen, I knew I was a going to be a writer. But I didn’t know I would be a poet, no idea it would take until I was in my 30’s to bloom and be ready to show the world my words. Don’t give up. If you put words on paper, or screen, you ARE a writer.
What do you do when you’re struggling to come up with ideas?
I really love short forms of writing. I use six word stories as an exercise when I feel blank inside. It starts as just looking at someone else’s art, a picture or painting, and trying to see the story hidden behind the obvious. I try to express it in just six words. If I can focus and pull those six words from my heart and mind, it usually jump starts something for me.
Can you share your favourite snippets from articles and poems on your website? What makes them special to you?
“I asked the Lord to keep me brave. Hold my chin above the wave.
Lend me strength to tread the line. Close my mouth to deadly brine.
Whether rescue comes for me, or in death, I am set free.
I asked the Lord to keep me brave, as I swim above the grave.”
These lines from my poem ‘He Keep’s Me,’ might seem dark to others. But to me, it’s a reminder that I am never alone. He always keeps me brave.
‘When Creativity Hurts’, is one of the first articles I wrote on creativity.
“I also ask myself, is it worth this hurt? I always came back to the answer, yes. Creativity is worth every tear. Why? Because it can help me heal, if I let it.
Will I let it? Will you let it? Or will we all let creativity work its cauterizing powers on our emotional and spiritual wounds?”
These are just a few lines from the article, but they show the heart of it. Creativity is such a gift from God. There have been years I lost hold of my creative spark in the middle of my battle with depression. I pray God gives me the strength to never let it go again.
What are your goals for the future in your writing career?
After this first chapbook, I have plans for several more centered around different themes. Family, Love, Nature, and Thoughts about life in general. I would like to see one published per year for the next four or five years. Whether I accomplish this will depend on that family work time balance. Further down the line, I have hopes for writing full-length novels and collections of short stories.
Any last thoughts to share about Mary Grace or your writing experiences?
I just feel so blessed in being given the opportunity to share my story. I’m humbled by the thought of my words reaching out in to the future and touching those I will never meet. I am praying for readers and fellow writers to come alongside me and help me learn, grow, and reach my goals. If anything, we have talked about resonates with a reader, I encourage them to reach out to me. Join my monthly newsletter and let’s do this thing called creativity together.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Mary Grace van der Kroef!
Encouragement is important to creativity. To hear constant criticism, or belittlement of our efforts, is deadly to most people’s dreams.
“Oh my! You are so talented.”
People love to hear this comment. But could it and the beliefs behind it be hurting, more than helping creativity?
I see potential danger lurking in the background.
Natural, or raw talent, is a beautiful thing. Each of us have it. Weather that talent has to do with speaking, writing, sculpting, painting, or listening to a friend. Perhaps it looks different for you, like understanding complex logical thought patterns.
Regardless, each human is gifted in something. But if we believe our ability to succeed rests solely on that natural ability, it will limit us.
What happens to a runner, who is fast from birth, but as soon as running hurts, they stop training? They will never stand on an international podium. It’s the same for creatives who refuse to do the hard work.
For a writer, hard work is research, editing, and lots of words that will never be in a book.
What is your talent? What is hard work and growth for you?
Can working at something you are not naturally talented at be worth it? Should you give up?
If you work hard, you will improve. Sure, maybe you won’t be world famous. But I am confident you will reach a higher level of ability if you persevere. Hard work trumps talent alone, every time.
“Your hard work is paying off.”
“Look at you grow!”
“I love your perspective.”
These three compliments are powerful and satisfying to my soul. They acknowledge things that have happened behind the senses while still praising.
Next time we give a compliment, let’s think about what it’s really communicating and ask ourselves, could we give more than a nod to talent?