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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Off the Page...
 
 

Challenge Makes for Great Writing
by Tama Westman

This time of year brings out the pencil scribblers and list makers in all of us, as we take stock of where we are and where we would like to be this time next year. New Year’s Resolutions are practically an international tradition. Rather than delude ourselves with impossible weight loss numbers and financial heights, as writers, we need to take time to tone our writing muscles with goals, yes, a plan, certainly, but more importantly, a new set of challenges.

President Jimmy Carter said recently that he always challenged himself. He wanted to attend training at Annapolis. Once he got that, he strove for top grades in his class. That goal reached, he determined he wanted to be assigned to service in a nuclear submarine, and the next challenge was local politics, then the governorship, eventually, the presidency of the United Statespretty tough challenges for a soft-spoken peanut farmer from Georgia.

What are you scared to write? What genre haven’t you tried? You may find within its parameters some of your best writing yet. Does your heart bleed regularly on paper? Or do you keep your writing nice and neat, black & white? In the column I write for my local newspaper, I dared myself to new risks and opened up my fears and failures to my reading audience. Worried that the editor would return the submissions with a “what were you thinking?” written in bright red all over it, I was surprised when he called to say, “Some of your best work yet, Westman.”

For nearly four years, column topics had ranged from cancer walkathons to women’s conferences and general points of interest to the community. However, when I wrote of my terror when, one evening my hand slipped while preparing vegetables and I found myself alone, hurt and bleeding, and suddenly realized I did not know any of my neighbors, people I had lived next to for seven years, a real get-to-know-you syndrome started in our small town.

I did not even expect the column written about my despair when my mother died to be published. However, almost two years later, I still hear from readers who were moved and comforted in their own grief because I shared my own.

When I let loose with an angry column on the audacity of developers who were destroying a centuries-old way of life here in Minnesota with their tedious changeover of farmland to suburban sprawl, I was rewarded with hoots and hollers from farmers, families and merchants alike.

It was my challenge in 2004 to put more of “me” into my writing. To take a risk and abort all efforts to be politically correct. It was terrifying, and cost me emotionally, but the rewards have been more than worthwhile.

As writers, we must challenge ourselves to reach across the chasms that terrify, to dig deep into our craft and find new capabilities, new talents, simply waiting to be developed. So do make out your list of goals, weight loss numbers and financial heights. Be sure to include in big, bold red marker, a set of challenges that will indeed carry you to new success in 2005.


Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary magazine, Haute Dish. Her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students, and teaches beginning and intermediate writers at conferences throughout the country. Married with two grown children, she keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Further samples of her writing can be viewed on her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com feel free to e-mail comments to tama@tamawestman.com


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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