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by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Taking Creative Risks
On July 16, 1995, the first article of my weekly newspaper column, "Stand Up and Be Counted," appeared in print. It is still going strong. Since then I have expanded my essay writing and now publish four different columns per week in print and on the Internet. You too can see your ideas in print, but you have to put them down on paper first!
Several people have asked me how I got started. It began with a gift. A friend gave me The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron, a book that describes the creative process and many of the ways we inhibit ourselves from taking creative risks. The message rang true for me. Self-doubt or excuses have often prevented me from acting on my creative ideas.
Over the years I thought about writing a children's book. The main character would be Granny Gumption, a salty old gal and a real problem-solver. No hand wringing or bellyaching for her. Granny and I spent a few chapters together, but the story fizzled.
After that, I started writing about some of the personal experiences that have shaped my opinions and values. In the privacy of my journals, these became the basis for "Stand Up and Be Counted" essays. The decision to show them to someone else was the hardest step for me, a step which Cameron's advice helped me take.
"Once we admit the need for help, the help arrives. The ego always wants to claim self-sufficiency. It would rather pose as a creative loner than ask for help. Ask anyway."
Asking for constructive but gentle criticism, I first approached my daughter, an excellent writer herself. I knew I could count on her to give honest reactions. Her thoughtful comments prompted some revisions, but most importantly, she genuinely liked my articles and we enjoyed the lively discussions they prompted.
My husband and son were my next in-house critics, helping me clarify sentences, improve word choices and clean up my grammar. Little did I know they were such great cliché detectors and comma killers. They shot down my folksy dot-strings and hyphens, too.
Feeling much bolder, I sent my first five essays to an editor at the Meriden Record-Journal, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. A week later, "Stand Up...." was accepted for publication. I was overjoyed. Taking risks can reap rewards. Since then, the column has appeared in two more newspapers and I have expanded into feature writing for several magazines and Internet sites. My inner naysayers were wrong; perhaps yours are wrong, too.
Writing may not be your secret passion. You might long to sing professionally, dabble in photography, create films or dance on stage. Maybe that unique invention of yours will sell, if you take the time to develop it and bring it to light. You are the only person who holds you back.
Be sure to log in to Beth's live chat November 16 in the Teachers.Net Meeting Room!
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