Shelley Widhalm

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Shy Label

In Challenge delay, Shelley Widhalm, Shyness on October 30, 2011 at 7:00 am

The word SHY used to be a label I branded into my identity. I considered myself too shy to do certain things, like network at a party or approach an interesting person (in a safe location like a coffee shop) to start a conversation.

I initiated a shyness challenge earlier this year to take specific steps to overcome my shyness, but for the past two or three months, I haven’t created a challenge for the week.

That’s probably because I don’t think of myself as shy anymore.

However, this past week I realized I have become comfortable in my routines and tend to choose being alone over trying too hard to be sociable if it requires work on my part. I weigh the costs and think, nah. Why, I don’t know.

I do know that I’m an introvert with some extroverted tendencies, like wanting to be around people on a daily basis and to connect with them through talking and doing things together. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t need that alone time but always wanted to go out and, even if I was the quiet one, to be in the presence of others.

In the past 20-plus years, I lived in 10 cities at 12 different addresses and had to start over with each move. I withdrew as I encountered difficulties with making and finding friends. I had to figure out things to do alone because I let shyness keep me from trying too hard, the reason different – actual shyness instead of liking my alone comfort.

With my last move two months before I started the challenge, I wanted “to fix” myself and get rid of the word I used to describe myself, one that, I’ve since noticed, no one else uses.

I don’t have social anxiety or fear of new and awkward situations.

I would say my challenge for next week is to approach someone I haven’t met yet to get myself out of my comfortable routine of letting things happen. I’m not being active but reactive, comfortable in my state of not thinking of myself as shy.

Advertisements

Trying to Be Me

In Artists, Fitting in, Passions, Shelley Widhalm, Shyness on October 23, 2011 at 7:00 am

Be You is the moniker for the Innovation Lab, an alternative program in Loveland, Colorado, that educates public school students by allowing them to identify, explore and follow their passions as opposed to prescribing their learning according to subject matter and state standards.

Earlier this month, I visited the Be You house, a 1910 Victorian home redesigned to fit the program with study, meeting and exploration spaces. I sat in the detox room, which is the starting point for students to let go of what is clogging their inner self, so that they can begin to be who they are.

Artists have to have some connection to their Be You-ness. Before creating something, colors, motions, sound and touch have to break the barrier of the skin and be internalized.

As a poet and writer, I try to be attuned to the sound of leafs skidding against pavement and how geese sweep from disorganization into a V of flight. I try to gather words through my observations, as well as eavesdropping on conversations that I happen upon, so that when I do write, I have an arsenal to work from that gives me things to think about and reflect upon.

This constant gathering of sense impressions is part of who I am, but is it the Be You-ness a few students are finding in the Third Street Victorian house? My art that is within comes out when I express my observations, thoughts, ideas and inner core into words after I learn, grow and do.

But I can’t do it alone. I can’t learn about other people by remaining entirely internally focused.

I need to look outward. When I do, I find that I lose some connection to my innerness. When I try fitting in, mainly with friends and the corporate culture so that I can earn a paycheck, am I fulfilling my Be You mission? If I ignore my artist self to earn a living, I notice my Be You gets ignored or pushed aside.

So, what is this question that we all have – be yourself or be what you need to be to survive, whether it’s for a moment or a year? Can we know who that Be You self is but be afraid or unsure how to get there?

The Be You realness has to, I think, offer up a balance between the internal and the external, so that both can mutually benefit without harming either one.

The Journalism-Poetry Connection

In Communication secrets, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on October 16, 2011 at 7:00 am

I don’t know how it happened but I use poetry when I write journalism and journalism when I write fiction.

Writing in two different disciplines provides a fertile ground for fresh writing, as well as a keener eye for editing.

I write a news or feature article following the upside down triangle formula I learned in the four journalism classes I took – put the most important information on top with a tie-in quote to conclude the article.

At first, I felt stiff and awkward writing within confines. But after a few years, I saw that I used material from my notes and my observations to weave in descriptions, quotes and the four W’s and H to tell what happened or to give both sides of a story.

I had stopped writing word after word, like a reader who learns how to read whole sentences and paragraphs in a glance. I began to hear my poetic voice call through the outer ridges of the formula, compelling me to listen.

Now, I write with my ear, trying to knead in rhythm into my use of language. I want what I write to have musicality alongside the message.

Writing fictional stories and novels influenced me to play with storytelling in my journalism – I try to describe settings and atmosphere, as well as provide a sense of plot in how I tell the story.

On the other side of the fulcrum, my journalism influences my fiction. I want to be tight and concise in my writing, whether it’s a poem or a story. I want to be accurate, so I do research to find the exact word or description I want to use. I’ve learned how to write fast (think deadline pressure), not giving credence to my critical editor’s voice until later.

With both disciplines, I’ve learned to notice and observe, to go deeper with my questions and curiosities, to listen not just to words but to the noise of life and to both play with and take seriously my love affair with words.

Writing the Way to Forgiveness

In Novel editing, Writing on October 2, 2011 at 7:00 am

With or without writing, I probably would have reached the same final emotion when I finished my novel: forgiveness.

This feeling arrived as if instant messaging me the day I completed my sixth edit. On that Sunday morning two weeks ago, I saw that I was finally done with “One April Day”– I had conducted enough repair work on the manuscript that I felt ready to start looking for an agent.

As I wrote, I didn’t expect to forgive, but the feeling came anyway. I wrote a fictionalized account of what had happened to me out of anger and curiosity – I wanted to tell the story of my layoff from a newspaper, a falling out with friends and my search for meaning in the upheaval.

I knew I needed to forgive, not for the sake of those who I should have let go, but for my own placidity. When this unsought for feeling hit me, I saw that the repair work had been on me.

I’m not sure how, but writing the story started my process of self-exploration. When I edited and reread the story, I found nuances both in my words and what I was trying to say. My loss entered the paper, like water needing to be wiped away, and became no longer mine.

The loss became a memory, something to stop holding onto after analyzing it from the angles of art and thought.

With that release, I didn’t have to drag along the past, like tin cans attached to a tailpipe. I could start the day and the next with a completed manuscript and a sewed up heart without the entanglements of what-ifs or I-should-have’s.