How I Write: Plant Seeds. Make ’em Think.

Posted June 2, 2014 by jimhigley

Paul Saini Photography

I’m an accidental writer. I didn’t get into this business by design. I simply began by writing a collection of letters to my kids one summer when I was dealing with a cancer diagnosis. And then I started listening to the Universe.   

The short story is I beat cancer, quit my job, stayed at home to raise my kids and – when I wanted to reinvent myself – I started telling people I was a writer. And somehow that collection of letters became a book, Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew.

One of the first people I met in this writing journey was Jen Singer of MommaSaid. When I initially met Jen I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, someone else is writing about parenting!” Little did I know how big this world was!

More importantly, little did I know what a treasured friend she’d become – as have so many other writers I’ve had the joy of meeting along the way. 

Jen is the one who “tagged” me to be in this fun Writers’ “Blog Hop” – where I’m asked to answer a few questions about writing and then “tag” four more people to share their stories. I like games. And I like writing. So this was custom-made for me.

So before I share a few of my thoughts on writing, I’m honored to introduce you to this awesome group of dad writers (tag, you’re it guys!): Carter Gaddis, Mike Heenan, Doug French, and Seth Taylor. 

1. What am I writing?

I’m supposed to be focusing on my second manuscript – a fathering book loosely based on a story I had published in Huffington Post a few months ago. Funny enough, it was that exact same story that landed me my literary agent – a high-profile been-around-a-long-time-guy who simply had been reading my stories, liked my voice, and reached out to me with a personal note to say, “Hey, let’s work together!”

Anyway, my new book (which is really a big, ole outline with a slew of notes right now) has gone through numerous refinements in my head and on paper. In its initial version, I fear it would have rivaled Encyclopedia Britannica. But thanks to the guidance of my agent, it’s tapered down to something a little more manageable.

I’ve also recently been asked to be represented by a national speakers bureau and am working with my my speaking agent to develop a collection of keynote addresses centered around my cancer journey, my parenting journey or both. That’s a new type of writing for me – and I am especially enjoying the ability to integrate an abundance of graphics and photos into my finished product.

I’m a featured parenting contributor with Thought Catalog – where I write two stories a week. I also contribute to Men’s Health magazine, Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune (look for my first story there on Father’s Day!). Next week, I’ll be introduced as part of a small team of dad writers who will be permanent contributors for one of the country’s largest parenting sites. Stay tuned!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I limit my subject matter to parenting (80%) and cancer (20%).

The common thread with all of my writing is a desire to take people on my own journey in hopes of helping them open their eyes to the life lessons they have been given. And are able to give. Being a dad and a cancer survivor has taught me that life is sprinkled with a great deal of the color grey. So you’ll rarely find me shoving my personal opinions down people’s throats.

I like to plant seeds.

To me, my most successful stories help people reflect, laugh, shed a necessary tear at times, and apply what I’m writing about to their own life.  If I can pull that off, I’m satisfied.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I loved memoirs as a child. It didn’t matter who it was – I simply devoured people’s personal accounts of their life journey. And my mother, who died when I was quite young, was a brilliant letter writer. Those early childhood experiences ingrained the value of the written word – and personal stories -into my DNA.

I’ve never taken a writing class – outside of high school. And I know that I’m technically a writing mess. But I’ve opted to retain my natural voice and simply share stories about the moments of my life that impact.

I’ve learned that many of those stories touch others as well.

And I like that.

I don’t consider myself an expert on any subject. I consider myself an ordinary guy who has had a rich spectrum of life experiences. My goal is to sound like your next door neighbor, an older brother, or a trusted uncle. Just a guy who cares.

4. How does my writing process work?

I usually have a number of pieces in the pipeline at any one time. And I pride myself on meeting schedules. So I’ve learned to get anything – and I mean anything – on paper when I’m writing on deadline. The earlier the better. I’m a very visual person so when I see the words or concepts, I can start to massage a story.

I’m alone during the day (which is different than being a loner, thank you!) so I think a lot. I noodle on things. I get some of my most inspiring story ideas when I’m running, walking or driving (with driving being in the number one slot). I dictate ideas, opening sentences, concepts or themes on my iPhone with regularity and then go back, listen to my chatter, and write down the nuggets that still inspire me.

I read everything I write out loud as part of my circular editing process.  All the time. I am constantly amazed at how different my own words sound when I speak them. If I’m working on a story late at night, I love to set it aside and read it out loud again in the morning when drinking a cup of coffee. That is the golden time of my day to edit and critically think about my writing.

Every word matters. Every letter matters.

I love the simplicity of our craft. As someone once told me, “Our tool box is comprised of 26 letters. That’s it. With them, we’re entrusted to inspire, motivate, brighten and change the lives of others.”

What a wonderful assignment the Universe has given us.

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Thanks for reading. Now allow me to introduce my blog-hop buddies:

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CARTER GADDIS is a journalist and writer who spent 24 years covering sports for newspapers and websites. He publishes a personal blog, DadScribe, which earned him recognition as a Spotlight Blogger at Dad 2.0 Summit in 2013. Carter is a BBWAA Hall of Fame voter, and his work on sports and parenting topics has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Parenting Magazine, Huffington Post, the Good Men Project and other print and online publications.

 

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MIKE HEENAN is an author, poet, and Stay-At-Home-Dad blogger who refuses to stay at home. Mike’s myriad misadventures around the San Francisco Bay Area, with his two young daughters, are chronicled on his blog AtHomeDadMatters. His stories about ethnic identity, misogyny in music and his family’s experience with emergency c-section have appeared in The Huffington Post, KGO Radio, Fox News Channel and a book of collective fathering stories called “Dad’s Behaving Dadly.

 

black2DOUG FRENCH is co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit and its parent company, XY Media Group, an interactive agency connecting brands with modern fathers. He is a writer and speaker who began his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad, in June 2003. He has been profiled in or written for The New York Times, Slate, The Huffington PostBabble, NPR, and Parents magazine, and his writing has appeared in several parent-centric websites and blogging anthologies. In July 2010, he co-created When the Flames Go Up, a blog about co-parenting after divorce, with his ex-wife. She and he and their two sons live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

1798375_10204107064465129_3427883877944011667_nSETH TAYLOR is a writer, English teacher, and father to a precocious 12-year-old daughter who is much, much smarter than him. He writes a lot about being a Dad, a teacher, and a gay guy. Seth’s writing has appeared on Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, and the Disney-owned parenting site Babble, as well as in several fshort iction collections. He was a BlogHer Voice of the Year in 2012 and 2013. Visit him at The Didactic Pirate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lana

    I am very much pleased to come across this post and would definitely be reading more of your post. I just recently got diagnosed with breast cancer (so recently like last Friday!) and am not specifically looking for writers or cancer survivors sharing their stories but I somehow ended up to here. Looking forward to connecting with you and just sharing in the presence that you bring online.