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Stop Overthinking and Just Write.

How A Vocal+ Membership Got Me Writing Again.

By Lena FolkertPublished 3 years ago Updated 2 years ago 11 min read
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Stop Overthinking and Just Write.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I've always wanted to be a writer. Okay, that's not entirely true. First, I wanted to be a professional singer. Next, was a professional basketball player. But, before the dust settled on my adolescence, I knew that I wanted to put pen to paper (or finger to key) and share my (then even more limited) thoughts, insights, and creative ideas with the world.

I have always been a storyteller. Even before I fully realized what storytelling could mean. I spent my childhood creating worlds for my mind to escape into. I devoured every book that I could find -- from Austen to Melville, Tolkien to Koontz, and Dahl to Adler -- nothing was out of bounds.

By Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

My mind craved characters and worlds outside of my own limited realm, and I soaked up the richness and fullness of those worlds like a sponge soaks up water. I absorbed them and made them my own.

When I was in high school, I finally began to actually write some of my own stories down, but the truth is that the greatest enemy to creativity, for me at least, was to be stressed and anxious to the point of being stifled. And I was stifled. Boy oh, boy, was I stifled!

I went through high school with nothing more than the mediocre work of the average angst-ridden teenager to show for my efforts. Not even I deemed these writings deserving of a full read. Then, in college everything suddenly shifted. I realized that all of those thoughts, stories, worlds, and characters inside of my head were finally ready to allow themselves to be let out of my mind and be put onto paper.

I would find the quiet corners of my university, away from the swarms of students and become fully immersed into my own little world as I furiously put pen to paper. Years of pent-up anxiety and stress pouring out onto the paper as my inner mind opened up to the possibility of its deep secrets and desires, its landscapes and realms being shared with the outer world.

I filled notebooks with new characters and places -- ones that I loved and wanted to free from their prison in my mind. All of them a part of me and of my past. All of them a composite of the people I had met and wanted to meet, of the places I had been and wanted to go.

By the end of my second semester, I had three novels in the making. Each full of characters with dense identities, thoughts, and motives all their own. I was convinced the world needed to meet these people, sure that they would be treasured and beloved.

I spent my nights, drinking tea or wine, surrounded by candlelight and the quiet world of the night that was so full of possibility, exploring my own mind for new friends and worlds.

It was working. It was rich and dense writing, full of tears, laughs, love, and hate. It was writing that even I enjoyed, and I really am my toughest critic, hating everything that I make.

But in my writing, I was confident, calm, content. Then, something unexpected and bitter happened, and those worlds and places and characters and adventures disappeared. For the first time in my life, I couldn't even imagine them in my own mind. I was stifled beyond stifling.

My notebooks and journals and documents were all lost. Destroyed, stolen, misplaced -- lost into the world where mismatched socks and favorite hair ties disappear to.

I lost three novel's worth of characters and adventures, and wherever those notebooks and outlines disappeared to, they took my creativity and motivation with them.

I know. I know. Back up your work... Always. And boy oh, boy... I wish I had.

But. I didn't. I still remember the characters, the backstories, the plots, the settings... Alas, I tried to recreate those wonderful stories and characters, but inspiration is a fickle beast, and it was over ten years before I penned a single word.

There was never a moment in time when I still didn't want to be a writer, or when I didn't have thoughts, musings, and insights that wanted to share. Still, for me, inspiration has always been my master. It might not be professional or logical, but I could not (and cannot) write if I wasn't inspired.

I could not find inspiration in the overworked, angry, anxious, discouraged place I had found myself... In other words, I couldn't write when life was happening. You can see the problem...

Then, Covid happened. I lost my job of ten years at Starbucks. By choice but not by choice, if you take my meaning.

I went all of 2020 in a funk of discouragement and quarantine with literally nothing to show for my days except wishing for escape and change, without the motivation to reach out and claim them.

It was two months ago that I saw the advertisement on Facebook for the Vocal writing challenge: "Hometown Feature."

I thought to myself, "Now this! This I can write about."

You see, I have the best hometown in the world, and I have spent twenty-three years unable to go home. So, there was and is no shortage of words for that place where I left my heart.

I sat down and put on a favorite song of inspiration, and I did it. I put pen to paper, or, rather, finger to key, and I wrote. Boy, did I write. And I could have kept on writing about the place that I love so much. When I was done, I was sure. Absolutely sure it would win. Seward, AK is the best place to be able to call your hometown, and I was so sure I would win.

I did not. Not even close. I was so discouraged. So disappointed. Angry. I'm sure you can relate. I stopped writing. I was stifled again.

My husband said, "wasn't the whole point to get you writing again? Who cares if you didn't win? Just keep writing."

I will tell you something that I don't often say. . . I was wrong, and he was right.

I tried to think of what to write next, but inspiration wasn't there. Then, there was the "Little black book" challenge on Vocal.

And inspiration struck again! I was full of ideas. I wrote three stories, one of which I did not submit in time to the challenge. But that's okay, because I was just so excited to write again. To create new characters, new worlds, new possibilities.

Of course, I still wanted to win. Seriously, though, who doesn't, right? And that $20k. I can't tell you how much I needed that money. I could almost taste it. I even felt like I deserved it with one of my stories, for sure.

The result? You guessed it. That one was a no-go as well. Discouragement struck again. Disappointment. Anger. But, this time, no stifling. No lack of inspiration. I read the winning story, skeptical and determined not to like it. Mine was better... I read it three times, hating it, picking it apart, and then I read it once more after telling myself to stop being so bitter and skeptical. I read the story as an outsider, and I saw the truth. That winning story was pure poetry.

There is always something we can learn from those who place ahead of us. Always a lesson to take that is greater than just resentment, and I did learn from that story. I also learned from myself, though. I learned that I had come a long way from my earlier years of writing, but I also learned that I had further to go in my writer's journey.

Still, I was feeling pretty good about myself and my writing. I am not normally one for self-promotion (despite what this article might suggest). Truthfully, as much as I want to share my created worlds and characters with the world, I find it difficult to put them out there. Because, in so many ways, they're me. And, I don't like putting myself out there.

I know. I know. That is how you make money writing. And it's definitely how you make money and a name for yourself on Vocal -- You have to put yourself out there!

I thought I was destined to go nowhere since there was no way I would ever be able to fully put myself out there. I almost gave up and cancelled my membership. I almost quit writing again. Then, I realized something very important. Something that changed my mind completely.

What was it that I realized?

I realized that it's been two months since I discovered Vocal. Two months since I first started creating again. Two months since I penned words for the first time in over a decade.

And in those two months, not including what you're reading (if anyone reads this at all) I have written and published three articles. One is the "Hometown" feature. (Below is the link)

One is a personal tale of what my daily battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder looks like.

And one... well, one for a challenge as well. The "Stray to Stay" challenge. This one was very difficult. I wrote about my beloved dog who I lost in November last year. (Below is the link)

I have also published a single poem, so far. Nothing all that special, but it hit me over the head; so, I penned it down to make it stop taking up creative space in my mind. (Below is the link)

Additionally, I have written SEVEN short stories over the past month and a half. I am astounded at myself. Not all of them are golden, but some of them are little gems that have characters that I will carry with me forever.

Three stories were for the "Little black book" challenge.

One was a coming-of-age adventure/travel story, that was more of an intro into what I truly hope to be able to expand into a full book. (You can read it by clicking HERE).

One was a story of a female bounty hunter that wrote itself in about an hour that might one day be a mini-series... Fingers crossed. (Below is the link).

The last one was completely different from my usual writing. A brief glimpse of a horror/murder story that I look forward to expanding and exploring. (Below is the link)

Finally, I discovered the new Vocal+ Feature challenge that really is responsible for inspiration striking. The "Dream Date" challenge, where I discovered that I have a penchant and, I think, a knack for romances. (Not something I would normally be proud of).

Within the last few weeks, I banged out FOUR all-new stories for this challenge. I wasn't submitting multiples to increase my chances in the challenge, per se.

I simply couldn't stop the inspiration from striking. YES! Finally! They all hit me over the head at once, and I typed them up as they came out.

My first one is my favorite. I love the characters and the story and really hope to explore and expand it further soon. A story of first loves that feels like a poem to me. (Below is the link).

Another coming-of-age story of a girl who finally escapes to Ireland only to find that her soul mate gets in the way of her soul searching. I mean, come one. Who can resist a love story with a free-spirited Irish man? (Below is the link).

And, the story that surprised me. A story of first dates and first meetings that is full of fluttering tummies and sweaty palms. (Below is the link).

Then, there is the story of the two best friends who made it a decade before finally discovering where friendship and love merge. This one actually made the "Top Stories" on Vocal!! However those are chosen/selected I do not know, but that made my day!! (Below is the link).

Now, of course, I would be purely delighted to place in one of these open or future challenges, but I realized that my hubby was right. That wasn't the point. Whether I suddenly get a massive influx of readings, or not... Win a challenge, or not...

The point all along was to get myself writing again. And, for that, I really do owe Vocal Media a debt of gratitude. Those challenges and the prompts have opened the floodgates, as it were, and I have been writing nonstop since.

***So, if you're only concerned about winning or are just having a hard time finding some inspiration, and you're wondering if there's merit in joining Vocal... My experience is...

Stop overthinking it. Stop waiting for the perfect circumstances or allowing supposed failures to stifle your creative juices.

Utilize the prompts of the challenges, explore the stories and articles of the other creators. And don't do like I started off doing and approach it with strictly that competitive mindset. There is something to learn from the winners and something to gain even in losing.

And, for me, I have to give credit where credit is due... So, to Vocal Media, for helping me overcome the writer's block of the last decade, I say...

advice
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About the Creator

Lena Folkert

Alaskan Grown Freelance Writer 🤍 Lover of Prose

Former Deckhand & Barista 🤍 Always a Pleaser & Eggshell-Walker

Lifelong Animal Lover & Whisperer 🤍 Ever the Student & Seeker

Traveler 🤍 Dreamer 🤍 Wanderer

Happily Lost 🤍 Luckily in Love

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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