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The Deep End: Guest Post by Amy Palko

“The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.” Agnes De Mille

As you stand at the edge of the pool, your toes curled over the smooth tiles that border the bright blue ripples, the goosebumps appearing along your arms and legs, you begin to wonder whether you should jump at all. Perhaps you should back away; leave the leaping for another day, for another life, for a time when the deep end seems to welcome rather than intimidate…

This is how I feel whenever I sit down to write, but the feeling becomes infinitely more acute once I’ve decided to consciously rail against my boundaries, to break out of my comfort zone, to make that leap.

I want to take this opportunity to tell you about one such leap that I made recently, but before I do, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my writing background. I’ve been a student of English Literature on and off for the last 12 years, and I am now coming to the end of my doctorate. I am very accustomed to writing in an academic manner. That’s my comfort zone. I’m good at it, and I can communicate freely with other academics using this strict, formal style. However, this style does not translate well to creative endeavour. It stifles, it represses, it regulates, but it does not liberate.

Last year I decided that I would attempt to free up my writing and so I started my blog. I didn’t have any plans for what to write about, all I knew was that I wanted to write in a different way than I was used to. I won’t pretend it was easy, because it wasn’t! I just kept writing whatever came to me when I sat down at the desk, and gradually the words began to flow. For the first time in years, I was writing for creative enjoyment and, more than that, I was discovering that I was capable.

Perhaps even more astonishing than that, was that others seem to genuinely enjoy my words! The sense of validation that I have found from beginning my blog has been immense, and has completely taken me by surprise. Wonderful people visit my blog on a regular basis to see what I have posted that day, and they leave such encouraging comments, that I’m both humbled by their appreciation, and inspired to do better.

If I could give you one piece of advice for your own writing, it would be to start getting the words down. Smooth down your paper, uncap your pen, take a big breath and dive in. The words don’t need to be perfect and they don’t need to be polished; they just need to be free. Remember that everyone struggles to produce beautifully turned out prose. Forgive yourself for the times when it doesn’t come together and rejoice in the times that it does.

Come on in – The water’s lovely!


Let me introduce you to Amy.

Amy is a home educating mother of 3, who is on the brink of completing her Phd thesis on the work and career of Stephen King at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She blogs at her personal blog, Lives Less Ordinary, her academic blog, Textual Tangents and she blogs for both the International Journal of the Book and the University of Stirling’s Gothic Imagination blog, for which she also acts as a consultant.

She is passionate about blogging as a way of embracing positivity, and strives to write with both compassion and creativity.

Well that’s the formal introduction to Amy. She’s also an extremely friendly and positive member of the Twitter community, which is how I got to know her, a fantastic photographer - you really want to check out some of her pictures at Less Ordinary - and, luckily for me, a Scottish blogger! Which meant we had a rare treat a few weeks ago meeting up for lunch and conversation about all things blogging. I’m really delighted that Amy picked up the challenge to take a leap and write for us here.

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Comments

  1. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Amy, I just wanted to say thanks again for writing for us here, I really appreciate it, and treasure your words.

    I loved this sentence in particular:

    “The words don’t need to be perfect and they don’t need to be polished; they just need to be free”

    I love the idea of helping to set words free - perhaps that’s my mission!

    Joanna

  2. CatherineL says:

    Hi Amy - I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.

    I felt the same as you when I was doing a lot of academic writing. It was a struggle to write anything else.

  3. Deb @ Three Weddings says:

    Amy, I had to smile when I read that your comfort zone is as an academic writer. I’m at the other end of the spectrem and when I worked as an auditor for 5 years, it really hampered my ability to write effective audits. My bosses kept trying to squash my creative style out of me! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog and getting to know you better!

  4. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    It’s interesting how many of us are learning how to throw off the constraints of other forms. I’m still learning how to edit out civil service - speak from my writing!

    Joanna

  5. amypalko says:

    Wow, what lovely comments!

    Firstly, Joanna, thank you so much for having me over. The experience of writing a guest post for you has been immensely valuable. And I think helping others to set their words free is exactly your mission - it’s one of the reasons why I so enjoy your blog!

    It is a bit of a struggle, isn’t it, Catherine? Definitely worth persisting with though.

    It seems to me, Deb, that different types of writing require different frames of mind, and it can be very difficult to switch from one to the other. Although, I have to admit to rather liking the idea of creatively written audits :-)

  6. Jim Murdoch says:

    I think, Amy, really your advice comes in the penultimate paragraph and that is not to be surprised that you could write something other people could enjoy. I’ve been writing for thirty-five years and I never stop being delighted by the fact my rattling away on a keyboard like this can actually affect people in a positive way. And, if I’m honest, it’s never stopped surprising me either.

  7. Robert Hruzek says:

    Amy, it’s great to see you in the waters of the Confident Writing pool! What an apt metaphor, too - diving into unknown waters…

    Joanna, that was a great sentence to focus on (I would have zeroed in on the same one!) The only thing I’d add is pretty much everything else you’ve been writing about: clarity, authenticity, voice, etc.

    Once these things can be felt in your writing - never let them go!

  8. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    @ Jim It’s a conundrum this one isn’t it - that we need to write for ourselves, to write our own truth - and yet it’s often precisely at those times we also make the strongest connection with others.

    @ Robert Finding your voice is such a powerful thing - not always easy, sometimes elusive, and sometimes it slips away like a bar of soap when we grip too hard - but like you when you have it, find it, hear it, feel it - it’s a wondrous thing

    Joanna

  9. Damien Riley says:

    Wow. Some great thoughts on diving into writing. Blogs should be as organized and disciplined as you want them to be. I really like yours. This one looks interesting too. I’ve added it to my feeds. That’s the great network win/win quality of guest blogging!

  10. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Damien,

    You’re so right about the win/win effect. Your comment took me in a hop, skip and a jump over to your guest post on Schultz and Goals at Dad Balance.

    I really enjoyed it, and there are lots of lessons for writers wrapped in it too.

    Here’s the link for those of you who’re curious

    http://emomsathome.com/dad-balance/charles-schultz-catoons-and-goals/

    Joanna

  11. amypalko says:

    It’s a lovely realisation, isn’t it, Jim? But like you say, one which constantly suprises. And yes, like Joanna, I also think that the times when we most strongly connect with others is when we write what is true to ourselves first and foremost.

    Glad you liked the post, Robert. It was a lot of fun to write once I finally started. Interestingly, it was only when I allowed my voice to truly come out in my writing did the words begin to flow. Finding one’s own voice is absolutely essential, isn’t it?

    Damien, thanks for hopping over to read and leave a comment. I knew you’d like what you’d find if you stayed for a look around. Also, I’m glad it’s facilitated a connection between you and Joanna, and I can most definitely vouch for the win/win effect :-)

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