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November 8, 2019

What’s holding a writer back? An excerpt from Nancy J. Wilkie’s Seven Sides of Self

The following is an excerpt from Nancy J. Wilkie’s authorial debut, Seven Sides of Self. As a musician, artist, writer, and former scientist, Wilkie’s first collection of short stories is designed to stimulate the intellect and engage the imagination. The book explores seven aspects of an individual — the storyteller, the skeptic, the survivor, the saint (or the sinner), the scholar, the seeker, and the savior.

Through the lives of the central characters, Nancy examines themes of battling strong emotions, the lengths we might go to for self-preservation and self-sacrifice, the inability to accept things as different, and taking responsibility for what we create. Each story seeks to contribute something to our ability to better understand ourselves, the world around us, and the conflicts we all face. Original and thought-provoking, these stories will delight any fan of science-fiction and fantasy.

For more information about the book, you can find it on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Seven-Sides-Self-Nancy-Wilkie/dp/1631526340 and on Goodreads at goodreads.com/book/show/47962437-seven-sides-of-self.

 

AN EXCERPT FROM SEVEN SIDES OF SELF

“There once was a man who wanted to write. He wasn’t quite sure why he wanted to write. He wasn’t even sure about what to write. He only knew he felt a strong urge to write and that was all there was to it. He had always envied the great wordsmiths, their seemingly boundless pools of creativity, and the ease with which their words flowed across vast numbers of pages. He was fascinated by the ability of his favorite authors to paint grand vistas and draw people into imaginary journeys with just the right sequence of words. 

He surprised himself during his first years of college by actually putting some of his thoughts onto paper. In his spare time, he managed to collect a notebook full of poetry and even wrote a short story. His early attempts at writing pleased him. Then graduation came along and a full-time job filled up his life. Just as many aspiring professionals often do, he focused on his career and put everything else on the back burner. So—despite his deep yearning to write—he devoted little time to writing in the years following college. 

The older he got, the harder it seemed for him to sit down and write something. But he did still think about writing. When he turned thirty-five years old, he began to worry maybe he was too old and it was too late to start putting pen to paper. When he looked back at what he wrote fifteen years earlier, he feared what others might think of his creations. He feared his ideas would not be good enough and that no publisher would actually pay him for his work. He became convinced his efforts would never gain the respect and the admiration of others. More than anything, though, he dreaded discovering he had no true talent for writing. 

“What if people think what I write is total gobbledy-gook?” he would muse. His father’s age-old warnings would always break into his consciousness at this point in the man’s internal struggle. “You can never make a living at writing! You need a respectable profession! You will have a family to feed!” Then the imposing voice of his mother would follow. “Stop daydreaming! You should be outside playing with the other boys instead of sitting in here and thinking about writing books!” 

The need to resolve the creative yearnings of his heart with the voices inside his responsible and professional mind eventually came to a climax. The words “desire, ask, believe, and receive” jumped off the pages of a self-help book he read and filled his entire being with promise. He mulled over this sequence of words and their significance. Clearly, he had the desire. Maybe he had just never asked. But ask who? GOD

And what about faith? Did he believe somewhere out in the Universe a Supreme Deity would provide the words if he just asked? More importantly, could he learn to resist the urge to judge himself and his creations too harshly if he did ask and did receive? 

When he finally started to think seriously about what he could do to attain his long-dormant dream, he decided he would need to conquer his internal doomsayer. To silence this overbearing critic, he must overcome the self-doubt and start to think of himself as someone who could write and write well. To reinforce this idea, he decided that every morning when he awoke and every evening before he went to bed he would repeat to himself these words: “I am a writer. I am a good writer. The words I write are gifts given to me by the Creator. My role is to write the words, not to judge them.”

At first, this exercise proved to be a very difficult thing to do. Something way down inside of him could not accept this mantra. With each passing day, the struggle to embrace the message lessened bit by bit. Maybe the “someone inside” not wanting me to write is slowly giving up some of his claim over me, he thought. I need to rid myself of this shadow’s hold on my dream. He also took a look at the many “someones outside”— those in his professional life and in his personal life. Did these people understand his need to be creative? Would they support his efforts to be creative? Or would they express unhappiness when they realized his writing took time and energy away from them? 

This caused the man to consider another barrier to his goal—time. He came to the realization that unless he made a significant change in his lifestyle, there would never be time to write. He knew his job kept him very busy, and when not at work, household chores ate up his few free hours at night and on the weekends. So he made a commitment to himself to schedule time to write. The more he contemplated what it would require to reach his goal, the more he realized the size of the commitment he must make. When he first started to change his routine, he felt as though he must accomplish his dream in one giant step. As the months went by, he found taking a series of small steps to be more realistic, and he felt a sense of satisfaction with each baby step he took. 

He next considered what other steps he might take to enhance his creative abilities. He decided he should surround himself with an environment that would stimulate his imagination. He resolved to build himself an office. No—better yet—a studio. And instead of the stark, barren walls in his extra bedroom, he would decorate his studio with posters and pottery. He would fill the room with comfortable furniture and a warm-colored rug. He would install stereo speakers so the retreat would reverberate with his favorite music. He could hardly wait! 

Every spare hour during the next winter, the man spent planning, purchasing, building, and painting. At the end of each weekend, he would sit in his new room and relish each new accomplishment. He would imagine what the room would be like when finished. Before he knew it, the finishing touches to his new space were done. 

“Today I will write!” he declared one sunny spring afternoon. “My new studio is complete, all of my errands are done, and all of the bills are paid. I no longer have any excuse not to finally start writing.” He selected his favorite music and turned on his stereo. He felt the call of his idle typewriter and sat down in front of it. 

“What shall I write about?” the man asked himself. He took several deep breaths. He let his mind wander. The minutes ticked by. After a while, he quietly remarked, “I’ve sat here for an hour and I don’t know what to write about. In all of the years of wanting to write, I have only ever had glimpses of stories in my imagination. Now, I can’t seem to capture anything on paper.” 

Another hour came and went and still the man had no inspiration. He felt as though he was a lumberjack who had finally sharpened his axe, ventured out into the forest, and arrived to find all of the trees chopped down with only stumps remaining. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow, he thought with a sigh.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nancy J. Wilkie worked for over 30 years in both the biotechnology industry and as a part of the federal government’s biodefense effort. She served as a project manager, providing oversight for the development of many new products. Now retired, she composes original music, plays a variety of instruments, and records many of her compositions. Seven Sides of Self is her first fiction publication. She is currently working on more short stories, a novella, and a science-fiction novel. Nancy resides in Brookeville, Maryland. More about Nancy and her work can be found at www.mindsights.net.

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