The first draft

Last time on Work in progress: I finally found a way to wedge my butt in the chair!

I wrote through, just like Nino said.

In the years previous, I’d tried a number of different tactics: outlining, character sketches, plotlines for the major characters, world building, timeline, research.  None of it got me writing … like writing.

I’d always heard that if you want to write, then write.  I’d even said it to students.  It’s true, but you have to be ready to see the truth, to accept it fully, and live it.  After years of struggling with my inner critic, informed as it was with all of my weaknesses and doubts, all my past experiences … I finally got it.  I finally wrote.

I’d never gotten past the first hundred pages before.  They were written and rewritten many times, but I’d never gotten past them.  This time, I tried a new strategy: ctrl-g 🙂  I’d note the page I stopped on, and went right to it the next day.  Starting from the beginning every day merely trapped me in an endless loop of editing.  Another authorial truism: the work is never finished, only abandoned.  The first draft isn’t the time to tweak and fine-tune, it’s the time to get the words out.

By September of 2008, I’d written my way to 1000 pages.  It was scary, and exhilarating.  Then it was called Initiate of Wind.  As a reward, I treated myself to a writing workshop with Sue Harrison at the W.O.W Retreat in Bruce Mines.  Loved it, loved it, loved it!  Watch Authorial name dropping for my post on the lovely Sue 🙂

I’d started out writing the novel as I’d intended, changing point of view in sections, cycling between the major characters.  Then, some of the plot points started to change as I wrote.  New sections wanted to be included.  New characters.  Toward the end, I was working on fumes and dropped all the fancy stuff.  The last three chapters were written in the same p.o.v.  I just got the words out.  All of them, good or bad, were out.

That year, I went as "The Sander" for Hallowe'en

My refractory period was the renovation of my office.  Five weeks of nothing but physical work: demolition, insulation, vapor barrier, mudding, sanding, painting, floor refinishing, and furnishing.

At the end of it, I had a room of my own.  An office.  A place to write.  I think that helped me to keep at the writing too, but by then, I’d been writing every day for two years, so I guess the office was a kind of reward too.

A room with a view, no less

Then it was back to real life, back to work, and back to writing.

What I learned: Write.  The first draft is no place for revision.  Write.  Commit to your relationship with your creativity, and you will go back to it, every day.  Write.  Just write.

Have you completed the first draft of a novel?  What did it teach you and how did you feel?  What did you do to reward yourself/celebrate?

Two approaches to novel structure I recommend you check out!

I’m no expert with regard to writing a novel.  Admittedly, I’m still revising my first one, and while I’ve had some modest success with my poetry and short stories, I’m a complete n00b when it comes to the mechanics of the novel.  I’m learning as I go and I’ll share these bumbling lessons in my Work in Progress category, but for this week’s Alchemy Ink, I thought I’d do a little curating.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across two of approaches that attracted me and that I intend to follow through to their blogging conclusions.

Why did I gravitate to these two writing bloggers?

The short answer is that I’m floundering.  I’m working with a peer group in Author Salon and part of that entails the presentation of my project in a formatted profile.  I’ve never queried an agent before, never participated in a pitch slam, or in a workshop that focuses on developing a pitch, hook, synopsis, or any of the other components of the profile.

In recent weeks, both the critiques of my peers and the advice of AS staff have brought several things to my attention:

  • My synopsis misses the mark.  The synopsis we’re asked to produce for the AS profile must be between 200 and 300 words and so is what’s been described to me as the short synopsis.  This is something that might fit into a query letter and could be analogous to the blurb on the back of a book.  The specific form still escapes me at the moment.
  • My hook line doesn’t ‘hook.’
  • My conflict statement isn’t well-defined.  My plot is very complicated and I can’t seem to distil everything into a concise, yet clear statement that addresses internal, interpersonal, and plot level conflicts.
  • I didn’t have a series title, and the title of the novel didn’t resonate with most of my readers.  This is still in flux.  I’ve chosen a series title and changed the working title of the novel, but there were reasons that I chose the original.  I won’t go into those here, but at least one peer thinks the original was better.
  • My original novel was far too long.  I’ve had to cut it in half and that’s changed a whole whack of things.  When initially confronted with this, I was defensive, and unwilling to move, but after my initial panic, I recognized that I didn’t have to take the scorched earth policy and destroy what was a 295,000 word opus.  So I’ve chosen to break the novel up, using the mid-point as the new climax and am editing down from there to a neat 110,000 words.
  • My climax and denouement are not well defined.  This owes to the above re-envisioning of my novel.  Reworking a mid-point to a climax has brought with it its own challenges.

Other issues have become apparent to me in the process:

  • My protagonist’s story arc is not dynamic in its early stages.  There’s a lot of internal conflict, and some interpersonal, but not much that relates overtly to the plot.  It all relates to the larger story arc, but that doesn’t become apparent until later on in the novel.
  • There’s a lot of disembodiment going on.  This is a tough one.  I can fix the POV issues that contribute to some of this, but dream/out of body experiences and shamanic journeying are central to the story.  I’ll have to let this incubate for a while and write through some of the possibilities.

I’m going to need some help working through all of this.

So what are the two approaches already?

Karen Woodward and the Starburst method

I caught on to Woodward with Part 3 and backtracked through her blog posts from there.  There are ten parts/steps to the process, so I’m going to be following Woodward through them from here on out.

Part 1 entails creating a one sentence description of your story.  This equates to what, in screenwriting circles, is called a log line, or what AS is calling the hook line.  That alone made my Writerly Goodness ears perk up (Didn’t know my authorial alter ego was a dog?  Take a look at the site mascot 😛 ).

Part 2 takes that one sentence and creates from it a five sentence paragraph.  This might make a zippy short synopsis.  Woodward discusses the three act structure here as well, another takeaway from the screenwriting world that has been successfully applied to novel writing.

Part 3 expands each sentence into its own paragraph.  By now, I think I have a decent idea of where the Starburst method is heading, but I’m still curious enough to follow through with it and see where it leads me.

K.M. Weiland and the Secrets of Story Structure

Late to the party with Weiland as well, I didn’t pick up on her series until part three, and was reminded of it this week when Porter Anderson reposted a link to part five in this week’s edition of Jane Friedman’s Writing on the Ether.

Why I like Weiland’s approach

What struck me immediately was that Weiland’s secrets are both organic in nature, having emerged from her own process and experience, and very clear.  Ideas and insight started to pop as soon as I read her first post.

Part 1 answers the question: Why should authors care?  It made complete sense to me.

Part 2 deals with the hook in its story structure form as opposed to the hook line that AS wants.   Still, the way Weiland describes the hook offers insight into what (perhaps) should and shouldn’t be present in a hook line.  It’s the question that the protagonist, and therefore the reader, needs to answer.  For the writer, it propels the plot; for the protagonist, it sets her feet on the hero’s journey; and for the reader, it keeps him or her reading until the question is answered.

Part 3 covers the first act.  How do you introduce your characters, the setting, and the plot stakes?

Part 4 defines and illustrates the first plot point.  What is the first major plot point and how does it differ from the inciting incident and the key event?

Part 5 goes into more detail with regard to the inciting incident and the key event.  At each stage, Weiland uses the same set of examples to illustrate what she’s talking about and solidifies the takeaways in point form at the end of her posts.  Excellent blogging form 🙂

These last three together are important factors to consider in writing the first part of your novel, what AS calls your “First 50 Pages,” but admits could be as many as 100 pages.  This is also part of what’s critiqued  in the AS process and something I may have to rewrite substantially.

I’ll summarize by reiterating my invitation to check out both of these blogs.

Have you come across any excellent online resources regarding novel or story structure?  Please share!

Laurentian University Convocation 2007

June 2, 2007.

A friend of mine and fellow writer, Kim Fahner, much involved with the Laurentian University Alumni Association was scheduled to give the Alumni welcome address at the June 2 ceremony.  She was unable to fulfill the commitment and suggested me as a replacement.

Though the occasion required me to read a bilingual speech, I believe that I did so competently, thanks to the gracious assistance of another friend, Sue Brunet 🙂

The true opportunity arising from this event was the chance to meet Robert J. Sawyer who was the key speaker and honourary doctorate recipient that day.

While I must admit I was incredibly shy and probably came off as a bit of a doofus, I was very pleased to meet Mr. Sawyer and his address regarding the future and his vision of it was excellent.

Breaking open the mind …

A word about my day job

My day job is as a corporate trainer: I teach staff in my business to do their jobs.  In the last year or so, I’ve become much more aware of the industry I’m in, and the oh-so-interesting social, psychological, and economic impact I can have simply by going to work every day and doing my job.

The title of his blog category, breaking open the mind, is a nod to Daniel Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head:  A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Shamanism, and though no mind-altering substances—unless you count knowledge—were used, that’s exactly what it feels like.  I’m back in university, and my mind is being blown.

I worked for a year as a trainer in my department before I really understood what I was doing and what I could be doing in comparison.  Yes, I’d been introduced to participant centered training delivery, but that was in-class, and the world of training seemed to be so much bigger than that.  Online asynchronous, synchronous, and blended methodologies were becoming predominant in the industry outside my workplace, and I had a feeling that we should be moving in that direction.  There was no evidence that we were though, and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me.  I hadn’t developed as a trainer sufficiently to be able to articulate this feeling; I didn’t even know what the terms asynchronous, synchronous, and blended referred to; and without being able to express my feeling, I couldn’t consciously process the information.

That will give you some insight into how my mind works.  Shamanism and corporate training:  in the world of the learning mutt, they mesh 🙂

Business writing

Last week I spent a few days in a business writing course, first as a student, to learn the content, then as a trainer, to work on the implementation of the training for my department.

It was a great refresher, and I did learn a few things.

My main takeaway: I’m a grammar Nazi, and proud of it!  I’m not ashamed to admit that I can detect verb or pronoun agreement issues at 50 paces.  I can generally advise which word should be used (e.g. advise, or advice) and will visibly twitch when someone says ‘irregardless,’ or speaks about how a new policy impacts staff.  It has an impact on staff, unless it’s the equivalent a meteor hurtling toward the earth!

Recently, a few blog postings on grammar have come my way:

In fairness, I should also post this response:

Yes, I believe that English is a living language, and as such, is in flux, as are its ‘rules.’  Common usage does eventually get entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.  In fact, I think that irregardless has been entered in some dictionaries already thanks to its rampant misuse.

I’ll remind everyone that we aren’t living in the days before a dictionary of any kind existed.  We now have excellent tools like spell and grammar check to alert us to potential issues.  I recommend that every writer in any professional context use them.  In order to use these tools though, a familiarity with the basics of good grammar is necessary.  How else will you know what to ignore and what to change?

If for no other reason, a writer should use proper language and punctuation because it might rankle with a manager, prospective employer, agent, or editor and scuttle any chance of advancement or publication.

In training design, good grammar is imperative.  You have to model what you want your participants to emulate in practice.  Professionalism shouldn’t be a swear word in the workplace.

Having said all that, I must offer this apology:  I am not perfect.  I make spelling and grammar errors, but I correct them when possible, and try to learn from them what I can.  Such is the life of a learning mutt  🙂

Some grammar resources (for those who wish to improve):

Also, for a fun book about grammar check out Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

So do you know your shit, or just know you’re shit?  Do you hate me now that you know I’m a grammar Nazi?  No Writerly Goodness for you!

Have you ever heard of “Pencil Box”?

I was seven years old, in grade three, and my parents got me my first puppy.  I named her Friskey.  My first piece of creative writing was about my dog.  It was unsolicited, but I was allowed, no encouraged, to read it to the class.

You may have the distinct impression from some of my earlier posts, that I’m not fond of school or teachers.  Some of the greatest creative difficulties and nartiest guardians at the gates I’ve faced have been thanks, in part, to various schools and teachers, but teachers have also been some of the greatest guides and mentors in my creative life as well.

Some of my best friends are teachers or professors and I know that they struggle to be among the best in their field.  Though I’m a corporate trainer, I’m a teacher too, and so I will not paint all teachers with the same brush.  Just like people, there are good teachers and bad ones.

The influence of great teachers:

We all have at least one teacher in our past that was important to our development as a person, if not as a writer.  I’ve been lucky enough to have several.

The first great teacher in my life was Mrs. Debbie Arnold.  She was the one who encouraged my early creative efforts in grade three.  She also advised my parents to enroll me in voice lessons as the result of my enthusiastic performance in her music class.

Though professional voice lessons were too expensive, I auditioned for and was accepted into the church choir.  I was also enrolled in an after school piano class.  We didn’t have a piano though, and that caused a few difficulties.  I wasn’t keen on the instructor either, and dropped out before long.

Then there was Siobhan Riddell.  She was an amazing artist even then, though I don’t

This book cover was one of Siobhan’s pieces.

think she was in high school yet.  She and a group of her classmates had made story books and they came into our class to show us.  Hers was a fairy tale and I loved it.

Siobhan’s story was my call to adventure.  In the wake of that revelation, I started drawing characters, super heroines and the like, but what are characters without stories?  So I started writing little stories to go along with them.

I’d been watching CBC’s “Pencil Box” every Saturday.  They featured stories submitted by their young viewers which they dramatized on air.  It was awesome.  That was my first literary submission.  I must confess that while I still have the letter acknowledging the receipt of my story, I never did find out whether it was produced.  My great aunt Florence swore she saw it, but “Pencil Box” went out of production that year and I never did.

Years later in university, I made an enquiry with the CBC, but short of my going down to their archives and finding the dear little thing myself, the costs of paying someone to search for it were prohibitive.  I’ve never gotten back to it.  I don’t even know if those particular archives still exist.

Who was your first great teacher and what influence did he or she have in your life?  Who or what was our first inspiration?  Your first creative effort?  Your first submission?  How did that turn out for you and where did that experience lead you?

What got me going again

Last time on work-in-progress:

In an environment rich in creativity and ideas, I started to write my first novel.  When I left that environment, I abandoned the project … sort of.

The thing is that those two spiral-bound notebooks full of my scribbling, typewritten pages full of corrector tape, and the few scattered dot matrix print-outs, never really left me. The novel was called Rain then, after the main character.  As the title might tell you, my idea started with my protagonist.  The story was hers, and all about her journey.  All the other characters grew out of her story.

Over the next years, I tried refining my opening paragraphs.  I worked on a prologue, and a couple of pivotal scenes.  I wanted scope, breadth, space.  I felt I had to develop my world and my characters kind of got lost in the shuffle.

I enrolled in a creative writing course by correspondence and received my first computer as a part of that deal.  In between writing assignments, I worked at my novel again.  It was in fits and starts though, no dedicated time.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with the story and where I wanted it to go.  The name changed to Rayne.  Could that count as progress?

After some soul searching about what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to complete the bachelor’s degree I started at the University of Guelph.  I chose Laurentian University in Sudbury, and felt that focusing on an English degree would be my best bet.  My ambition was to become the best writer I could be.  I’d turn the academic world to my purpose.

My writing improved substantially during my years at LU and workshops like Susanna Kearsley‘s gave me a boost.  So too, did my slew of writing successes: a contest win; a short story written for the premiere issue of Parsec Magazine; a regular column in Llambda (LU’s student newspaper); an article in Slin Roller Magazine.  It never translated into my opus though.

I made another fateful (and ultimately foolish) decision to pursue my education by completing a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing at the University of Windsor.  Though I trotted out my novel (and other novel ideas) there, because my chosen genre was fantasy, my work was disparaged.  After leaving discouraged, and returning to complete my degree with a thesis composed of vaguely literary short stories framed by the shamanic journey, I felt defeated rather than victorious, and couldn’t look at my novel for a long time.

After Windsor, I had some modest success in other creative endeavors: poetry and short stories.  Every once in a while, though, I’d have to pull out the old notes.  Once I got my lap top computer, things took off a little more.

By the time I’d joined the Sudbury Writers’ Guild in 2004, and attended Rosemary Aubert‘s workshop in 2005, I’d closed in on the fifty-page mark (oft-revised and agonized over).  I still wasn’t writing every day though.  I just couldn’t get my butt wedged firmly enough in the chair.  There was always something else that needed to be done first.

Then came Nino Ricci.  One of the SWG had met him and managed to arrange for him to come to Sudbury.  It was to be a weekend of workshopping our stories/novels/poetry.  In the course of the workshop, Nino talked about his own development as a writer, his years at York University, and his own challenges with his thesis advisor.  From that weekend, I learned that perseverance and passion win out.  I also knew that I had a long way to go on my novel, but the only way I could get there would be to write it.


Writing (Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes)

Another thing Nino said that settled in was that his first drafts, at least at that time, were written to get his ideas out.  Sometimes the next draft was completely different.  Sometimes, he didn’t even refer to the first.  I’d heard the message many times over the years that first drafts didn’t have to be perfect, or even particularly well-written.  First drafts have to be written, though.  I finally understood.

I started writing every day and was amazed at how easy it was.  I made a commitment, a decision.  I was finally taking control of my creative life.  The initial goal was simply to write.  Once my practice was consistent and the habit ingrained, I aimed for a page a day, then two.

I emailed Nino after the workshop to thank him for the opportunity and to let him know the influence he’d had on my creative life.  Always gracious, Nino wrote back with some kind words of his own.

Even though I had a full time job by this time, I kept at it, and two years later, I’d finished my first draft.

How did you start writing your novel?  Was it a focused effort, or did you struggle?  Did mentors appear to guide you, or were you confronted by guardians at the gates?

Why spoilers are good for writers

River Song (Doctor Who)

River Song (Doctor Who) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~~River Song, Doctor Who

So I was driving back from Ottawa last fall, listening to DNTO, on which there was a brief feature about spoilers.

The issue was people who skipped to the end of the novel they were reading.  Clare Lawlor was firmly of the opinion that reading the end of a book before you got there was a bad thing.  A study showed, however, that people generally enjoy a book more if they know the ending …

I immediately thought how I’ve never been bothered by knowing the end, whether of a

Cover of "The Sixth Sense (Collector's Ed...

Cover via Amazon

book, in a movie, or anything else.  I regularly read the ending of a book.  When someone innocently disclosed the twist at the end of the Sixth Sense, I still went to see the movie, and I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

I wondered why that was, and the answer slowly surfaced: even if I know the ending, I still enjoy reading the book because I like to find out how the story goes.  I’ve been doing it for years.

When I travel, I have my starting point and destination in mind.  Knowing where I’m going allows me to enjoy the journey.  The same goes for a book.  If I know where the author is headed, then I can get into the mechanics of the novel more.  As a writer, that’s where my enjoyment in reading comes from: finding out how the writer got from point A to point B.

So here’s my tip for writers: read the ending, if you can bear to, and then read the book.  As a writer, you’ll start seeing where the author has planted clues to the ending, how the plot has been structured, and how the protagonist goes from beginning to end.  It will save you some time if your habit is to read once for enjoyment, and then to reread for analysis.

You may balk at the thought, but trust me, spoilers are great for writers.

If you do give it a try, please let me know how it goes.  Are spoilers good or bad for you?

Nino Ricci

October 21-22, 2006.

Through long-standing member Rosanna Batigelli, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild was able to arrange a workshop with Nino Ricci.

The first day of the workshop was devoted to the author sharing the insights into the writing life that he learned through his experiences.

One of the most helpful stories shared (for me) concerned Nino’s struggles through graduate school.  I was still grappling with a pretty powerful “guardian at the gate” of my own and his tale gave me hope and inspiration.  Not to be overly dramatic, but it spoke to my writer’s soul.

While working on his graduate degree at York University, Nino’s advisor was none other than W.O. Mitchell.  He’d given Nino some negative feedback, but Nino, though discouraged, determined to find his own way through the novel.

We all have our gatekeepers to circumvent, and if a Governor-General’s Award winner could be successful despite his, then it gave me hope that I might be able to as well.

On the second day, we workshopped our poetry, short stories, and novel excerpts.  I received some excellent feedback and to this day, I credit the workshop with inspiring my own rededication to the writing life.  You may remember last week, I mentioned that I’d been writing agnostic for years …

After this workshop, I dedicated myself to daily writing practice in a way I frankly never had before.  Despite work and other life challenges, I had my first draft finished just under two years later.  It may not seem like a monumental accomplishment, but it was the first full draft of a novel I’d ever written.  It taught me a lot, and I have Nino Ricci to thank for it, at least in part.

Monkey around already!

Today, I attended a Webinar sponsored by and presented by G. Michael Maddock.

In business, there are often synergystic pairings: Walt and Roy Disney; Wilbur and Orvil Wright.  One is the creative genius and the other is the business mastermind.  Maddock calls them the idea monkey, and the ringleader respectively.

At work, I identify with the idea monkey but I also have the focus and vision of a ringleader (I think).  I had to ask the question: can one person be both?

The answer: yes.  If the entrepreneur is in business for herself, she has to be both.  I think because of my writing, which is essentially self-employment, I’ve learned to be self directed as well as creative.

Other interesting learning bits:

Dr. Edward Hallowell, whose research influenced Maddock.  His primary area of research is ADD/ADHD and some of his research has identified similarities between highly creative or innovative people and those diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

This was an interesting piece, especially given my recent postings on creativity and adversity in My history as a so-called author (A born storyteller … and Three blind mice).

The insight equation: I [statement of fact] because [reason] but [tension].  Example: I want to pay via credit card online because it’s convenient, but I’m afraid of fraud.  (Paypal’s insight).  The critical piece is the but + t (for tension).  So when thinking about a problem to solve with innovation, look for the sexiest butt 🙂

Expertise gets in your way.  Think outside the box?  You can’t read the label if you’re stuck inside the jar.

Finally, intelligence is painful.  You have to learn from your own mistakes.  Wisdom is better.  You get to learn from the mistakes of others.

It’s quite a bit to digest, but like most of the things I learn through my day job, it has implications not only for my work as a trainer and course designer, but also for my creative life.

What have you learned lately that seems to tie into your life in diverse and interesting ways?  Are you an idea monkey, or a ringleader?  If you’re a ringleader, do you like to monkey around?

A born storyteller …

Storyteller is just another name for liar.

In grade one, I think all my classmates (and teachers) thought of me as a silly giggler, a liar, and cat-lady-in-training.

I didn’t even know how to write properly yet, so I exercised my creativity by telling my classmates in “show and tell” about the latest stray cat that I picked up on the way home.  They’d always run away after a few days and so I could show the class a different picture from the cat book I’d checked out of the library and tell them that my latest find looked just like that.

Daydreaming was also a preoccupation.  Because my dad had epilepsy, it was thought that I might too and that my habit of totally “zoning out” was actually petit mal seizures.  Later in life, I was formally tested for epilepsy and there was absolutely no sign of it.  I’d just delve so deeply into my fantasy world that there was nothing could tear me away.

If I was born 20 years later, I’d probably have been diagnosed as ADHD and drugged into submission.  As it was, I was “spoken to” and ignored.  I was deemed enthusiastic but disruptive by different teachers for different reasons.

Can you see the mischievious? Just call me “wee devil” 🙂

Really, I was painfully shy, and the giggling was a way of deflecting uncomfortable situations, which meant pretty much everything.  To this day, I still laugh when I offer a thought or suggestion to my colleagues or manager at work.  If it’s too radical, my suggestion can always be dismissed as a joke, right?

The daydreaming-at-inappropriate-times thing stayed with me until my mid-twenties, and then I started to get clever about it.  I’d restrict my mental ramblings to my “alone time” so no one would be put off by my apparent disinterest in whatever it was they were saying.  Now I cultivate solitariness.  As I writer, I have reason to, but as a creative soul, I simply can’t do without.

As for the telling of stories, I’ve always wondered what might have happened if someone had recognized what it was I was trying to express and encouraged me to turn those imaginary powers to something else.  If I’d started writing my dreams and stories down earlier, where might I be today?

Ultimately what-ifs and might-have-beens are only intellectual exercises.  None of us have do-overs.

A few months ago, one of the writers I consider to be a mentor, Barbara Kyle, presented this TED talk (via Volconvo) to her creative network:

It is 20 minutes well-spent, trust me.  Sir Ken is incredibly funny, but his message is dead serious.  Currently, it is not the business of schools to nurture creativity, but to create useful/functional members of society.  I rather agree with Sir Ken, that only by nurturing the creativity of our children will schools produce truly valuable members of the human community.

I’ve also been disturbed by the resurfacing of the ADHD debate.  Are children being over diagnosed/incorrectly diagnosed?  This debate has been around for decades and it still hasn’t been resolved.

Some food for thought:

Were you a creative child smothered by a school system that didn’t recognize what your “acting out” meant?  How did you come to understand your creativity and who helped you through that sometimes agonized and agonizing process?  Did you ever feel less valued or less intelligent because you were more creative than academic?