Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Passions’

Why being a writer is impractical (but, maybe, worth it)

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on August 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

I have spent thousands of hours working on the writing craft, studying writing, attending writing workshops and reading books about writing.

My ROI is $100, or the equivalent of a nano-penny for every hour spent on the craft.

The non-financial returns are why I got into writing, plus this compulsion I have to write, breathe, eat and go running. The returns are the benefits that come from developing any skill, such as knowing how to do something outside of the day job and getting a sense of accomplishment from learning, doing, practicing and then knowing a skill, hobby or craft.

With the writing craft, I’ve become more detail-oriented by thinking about ways to describe my environment and have expanded my understanding of psychology, sociology and history by applying what I’ve learned, observed and gathered to develop character identities.

I key in on conversations in real life that I can use in dialog, making me more observant and a better listener.

I hear about or observe someone’s personality traits, so that I feel this character come alive and I mix what is real with my imagination.

And I hear story snippets that I just have to use (basically steal) when I come up with plot and scene outlines.

In other words, being a writer makes me more present to living, so that I am on high alert in case anything is worth putting into words. Being more cognizant about my environment is my ROI. I continually download, take in, live and observe life so that I have something to write about, because for me, writing is being, living and loving. It’s a passion.

Plain and simple.

The Fearful Writer

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 8, 2013 at 11:00 am

The general question is: Without fear can there be passion?

Or, more specifically: Can a writer write from the heart, soul or whatever that magical place that allows words to come forth without some insecurity?

These questions touch on the notion that love borders hate, so that a (passionate) love affair can turn into an acrimonious breakup, one that may or may not induce fear.

For a writer, or at least for this one, passion carries a bit of fear, because the moment I am perfectly confident in my abilities, I get bored. Ironically, I become scared that I have quit growing as a writer.

This imperfect confidence is tarnished by a larger fear: not of rejection specifically but of being rejected from now to my grave.

I question my purpose, given that I am in love with writing, want to write, need to write and do write, when I have yet to publish, at least significantly. I question why I have been given what I consider the gift of writing when my words echo without a listener.

My answer simply may be I have to wait and live and experience and write and be for awhile longer until I figure out why I do write. Or maybe I don’t need to figure out anything because the need is just there, like my need to eat, breathe and sleep.

It is all a bit philosophical, a conundrum of being and identity.

I have had several “non-writers” who want to write tell me, “I have a great idea for a story, but I don’t know how to write.” Or … “how to get started.” Or … “what to write about.”

Writers or so-called, self-labeled non-writers need to realize that they do not need to be perfectly confident in their abilities to write. They need to start with one word on the page. Add another word. And another … Like knitting, or painting, one stitch or one brush struck, mistakes will be made, but so there will be discoveries.

Fear of doing the writing keeps you from moving forward and believing that something great can happen. The great can be believing in yourself as a writer, other people thinking of you as a writer and then the public and the NYT bestseller list stating that You. Are. A. Writer.

What is the strength of your passion to want to write and be a writer? How long before you give up? And if you do, what do you give up? If you are restless elsewhere in your life, could it be because you are not doing this thing you love? Do you begin to hate that other thing because it becomes not-you, keeping you from your love affair with words, or stories or characters?

When you do something you love, despite your fears and insecurities, it shows. Others will respect you for it because your energy becomes positive and affirming, not draining and the stuff of lover disputes.

Doing what you love is a test that requires faith. It is a belief in your work and in yourself.

See Zoey the Dachshund’s perspective on being a dog at

A Writer’s Santa Wish List

In Frustration, Passions, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on December 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

I’m long past the time of believing in Santa Claus, but like a few adults, I wish I could believe in the Christmas wish list.


Faith carries the writer through the frustrations of sitting on piles of completed but unpublished manuscripts.

And faith is what is required for believing in the North Pole resident who delivers wishes in exchange for milk and cookies.

If I were to mail off my wish list for writers, it would contain some essentials, including:

* A room of one’s own, or a place to write that is comfortable but also fosters excitement and imagination.

* Time to write in that place.

* Some sort of financial backing that allows for that writing (juggling a full-time job with writing doesn’t open up the space for creativity but limits it to certain hours, likely when the writer is tired, at least for me).

Beyond the essentials of who, what and where, there is the how of being a writer.

A writer, I believe, needs to constantly observe and participate in life, both through being there and a part of things and reading about it.

This gives the writer something to write about, at least from external influences, added to the given internal dialogue, reflections and thoughts.

Studying through reading writers’ magazines, taking classes and attending conferences also adds to what a writer knows about the process.

But what is absolutely essential is that snap-and-pull attraction toward words without which there wouldn’t be anything to who you are. Words and how they sound and feel in the mouth and the ear are the foundation of the passion, at least for me.

The salt is the way I am lifted out of myself into the beauty of letting my fingers trill over a keyboard as I create out of the rhythm of my breath.

Dear Santa,

Please do not let my frustration break my heart.
I guess that is my only real wish.