Reflections about Writing and Performing – Writing 101

Carol A. Hand

I haven’t had much time to write today. It was car maintenance day, which means an interstate trip to the Toyota Service Center in Wisconsin. It’s really not as far as it sounds. But the low bridge over the St. Louis Bay that drains into Lake Superior and separates Minnesota and Wisconsin is closed due to construction.


Photo: Duluth, MN – Bong Bridge

It meant I had to use the high bridge – the one that often triggers my vertigo.


Photo: Duluth, MN – Blatnik Bridge

As I grip the steering wheel, I look straight ahead. Still, my knuckles turn white from the frantic grip, but even that doesn’t stop the wheels from wiggling on the steel grating of the bridge. At least it wasn’t raining, and the wind was calm.

Routine maintenance done, I’m just not inspired to complete today’s writing assignment.

“Search your stats for a post idea”

I do sometimes check to see which of my posts receive the most visits. I checked again today. It is somewhat surprising that the two posts that have continued to be viewed most often both deal with discrimination, but in very different ways. One describes my experiences teaching diversity classes in different contexts and includes a detailed description of one of the assignments that was particularly effective for encouraging self-awareness and raising awareness about privilege and prejudice (Context Matters when Teaching Diversity). The other is an analysis of an exchange on Facebook about Native American issues (Circle the Wagons – The Natives Are Restless). These two posts are far and above the most popular in terms of views, but not necessarily in terms of likes or comments.

If my purpose in blogging were merely to have my work viewed by a large silent audience, I might consider expanding on these posts, but the truth is that’s not why I write and blog. The post that best describes why I write, A Darkened Auditorium, was posted about the same time as “Circle the Wagons.” Although one of my favorites, it has received very few views over the years. A brief excerpt explains why I write …

“ … my career [as a singer] abruptly ended one evening as I was finishing my practice session in the auditorium. As I was kneeling to put my guitar into its case, a voice from the back of the darkened auditorium caused me to pause. “YOU DON’T SING FOR PEOPLE!” As I peered out at the row of seats, I could barely make out the darker shadow of someone seated in the very back of the room. The dark shadow rose and walked into the slightly lighter aisle. I could see the middle-aged white priest in his vestments. He repeated his words, “You don’t sing for people.” Then he turned and walked out without another word. It was the last time I ever sang on a stage. I diplomatically resigned from my weekend job, packed my guitar away, and didn’t open the case again for many years….

“This priest was a stranger. How did he know how to craft strategic word-weapons to wound a stranger so deeply? And why would anyone ever do so?

“I have never found the answers to those questions, but I did make the decision that night not to share the songs in my heart with strangers again with such naïve vulnerability. I don’t regret that decision. The priest’s unkind words didn’t silence the songs in my heart. The songs patiently bided their time, looking for other ways to emerge.

“Years later, I remember those words every time I teach a class or speak in public, and every time I post a new essay on a blog or send out a manuscript for editing and peer review. I ask myself “Is this true? Does it come from my heart or my ego?” As a singer, I both did and did not sing for people. I sang because there was a song in my heart that needed to be given voice, and I hoped for people and hearts that would listen and sing back their songs. It’s the same with writing. I write because there is a story that won’t let me rest until it is spoken. Once written, it only comes to life if others read it and join me in dialogue. Dialogue is like the voices of a choir adding harmony and counterpoint, depth and breadth, dissonance and resolution, to the stories that unite us in our shared humanity. Yet even if dialogue doesn’t come immediately, I know that I have contributed what I can to touch the hearts of others.”

I have done my best to write to prompts during the past few weeks. Yet, squeezing the stories that urgently needed to be written into daily prompts of someone else’s choosing was not always comfortable for me. It’s only been doable because I made a commitment to experiment with different ways of writing. I’ve done that to the best of my ability. The same tenacity that helped me as I crossed the bridge this morning sustained me through the challenge of writing to what sometimes felt like a darkened auditorium.

I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned in the process. There have been other rewards as well. I’ve met fascinating people and gifted artists and writers. I’ve also received incredibly helpful feedback that has already inspired me to continue working on the book that has been biding its time to emerge.

I’m truly grateful to all of my Writing 101 colleagues and all of the friends I’ve met in this virtual community who have helped me expand my knowledge and enriched my life by sharing knowledge, stories and dreams. Chi miigwetch [Ojibwe thank you] to you all.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

32 thoughts on “Reflections about Writing and Performing – Writing 101

    1. Honestly, I don’t know what it means now. But it was said with such vituperative, judgmental venom. (As only a priest can do.) But now it’s true. I don’t sing for people. I sing for my parakeets every night as I put them to sleep, and sometimes for my granddaughter, but not for others. Now, I write instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Carol, I’m not sure why that remark wounded you so deeply. You are a talented writer. I hope random and not well thought out criticism will not deter you from writing. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Bernadette. The need to bridge cultures has always made me particularly attuned to nuances and insinuations that I’m somehow responsible if others fail to understand a message. So I have learned to keep trying until I know I’ve done my best. I’m learning that sometimes ad hominem attacks are a cover for insecurity and jealousy, and it’s best not to take it personally. It’s best to just walk away. I didn’t know that when I was 19 and 20, the age when this event occurred. Still, I have only rarely sung in public since then, and never solo again on a stage.


  2. Love the story and an interesting one too! People come up with strange things that make them feel better at our expense! Your writing is always so nice to read and makes me think! I hope you always keep telling us interesting things! I can’t wait to see a book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought of you as I was editing the except from my story about singing, Lynz 🙂

      Speaking about books, I also want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your memoires. I wonder if you have ever considered putting them all together in a book? Your stories are so powerful and I love the way you write.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Carol! high praise coming from you! I had not thought about it, but now have given it some consideration. I am still legally married as well as very nervous, so in order to go that route it would need to be a sure thing, which of course it would not be! But I will keep writing here hoping it stays secure. Thanks for telling me that it motivates me to keep going!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. Words really do have a terrible power. When I was in kindergarten the family took a long trip and for the first time we were on one of those crazy huge busy interstate highways. The road went up, up, up. And for a second it looked like the road was going straight into the sky. I was terrified and absolutely certain we were going to die. haha. I still feel nervous when I have to travel on one of those roads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Words do have power! That old nursery rhyme about sticks and stones got it wrong. Bones heal, but sometimes hearts and souls are too deeply wounded.

      Thank you for sharing your feelings about uphill roads that seem to suddenly end at sky level. It is terrifying.


  4. Carol, I’m sorry you “lost your voice” all those years ago in song, but I truly believe “things happen for a reason.” Perhaps your “reason” was to “find your voice” in writing. I guess the true question here is, “Do you WANT to write for anyone but you?” I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but perhaps a question we all need to ask ourselves. For me, it’s both. I truly like to write for me, but I think I enjoy sharing my gift just as much. I have a quote in the front of my notebook that always made sense, “The writing is not about you, it is about what you can do for others.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another lovely yet so honest post from you Carol. I believe that you have really done your best during ur course because you are a natural writer.

    And your question: “Do you WANT to write for anyone but you?” I have learned that we should write not for viewers/readers. We should write for ourselves. 🙂 Why? Because losing readers or having low views will just make us sad if you write to be read. Yes, it is important for us to be read, but that should not be our main goal. So I think we should write want we want to write and we should write for ourselves, first. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments, Rosema ❤

      I agree with your insights about writing the story that's ours to tell regardless of whether it's read or understood by others. All we can do is our best…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is such a shame that you let one persons cryptic words steal your voice and your song. It is a shame that his words wounded you so deeply. I am glad you found your voice, but I hope you find your song again and share it with others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kindness, Honey. I much prefer writing these days, and I do still get to sing every evening for my parakeets. They actually cock their heads to one side, gently fluff their wings, and sometimes sing with me – the perfect audience 🙂 Their appreciation is a great way to end my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I imagine, Carol, that we write for many audiences, including ourselves. Maybe it’s just the nature of our minds/brains. I suspect it is the same for music as for literature. Those voices, internal and external, that seek to silence us, know that writing is ultimately a social activity, a process that goes best when it is welcomed. I’m glad you give voice to your thoughts,and we, the listeners, benefit. I’m happy you have not been silenced.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My posts I feel most strongly about never get as many hits as others I care less about.

    Go figure. I have never been on the same wave length! Thus Outsider.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoy reading your work because your perspective is unique, thought-provoking, honest and passionate. (Football, reality shows, and Donald Trump’s performances are all popular 🙂 – things to avoid at all costs from my perspective)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much. This means a great deal to me, especially coming from a true writer like yourself. Sometimes I’m too passionate. Sometimes I go nuts;-)

        Yes, All of these three things should be avoided, and I do completely avoid two of them, since I cannot stand “reality” shows or Trump. Pro football I deserted years ago. But I still find myself a little attached to college football, although I haven’t watched an entire game for years. But in another year or so, after the corporations have stripped away every last bit of amateurism from the sport, I will have no choice but to depart. It is almost this bad now!

        Truthfully, I spend most of my day attempting to compose music and blogging.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. First off, that man’s cutting comment doesn’t make any sense, and for him to have walked off without any helpful explanation was plain rude. I wish you could have let that slide off your heart “like water off the back of a duck.” But of course, comments like that are flung out at sensitive people, and cause serious wounds. Know that your writing is deep, full of insights, wisdom, and honesty; your ability to bring heart issues, and make people think about them is a gift. I for one am glad you are using that gift for good in this world. As for readers and comments, I figure that one shouldn’t get too hung up on numbers. People have a hard time keeping up with everything in life these days. I’m glad to see in stats if there are visits, thrilled if anyone comments, but I know for myself I can’t read or comment on everything I would like – I’d never get anything else done! Writing is a gift – share it as you have time and ideas. Reading is a gift – receive it gladly when it is freely given. Commenting is a difficult issue, because one doesn’t always have time to formulate a thoughtful

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comments are always such a delight, Hildegard. I so appreciate the way you share your thoughts, insights, and experiences on many of the ideas I discuss. Please know that I value what you have to say, even if it takes me time to reply ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. …haha or you accidentally hit some button that posts your comment before you finished… as I was saying: formulate a thoughtful comment, then go back and try to edit or shorten it. 🙂 Just keep writing what’s in your heart that you need to get out! Trust me, you’re making us think and see things in a new way! Sometimes we just need more time to think about these deep issues. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In the last decade or so, I have learned to dismiss my obsessive feelings of self-doubt as digestive problems. More often than not they vanish as quickly as they come.

    In the Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells the first spirit that haunts him “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

    This is more profound than most people realize.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Funny, Stuart 🙂 I don’t know if that would work for me – I still have old tapes that play from years of childhood abuse, and more than 3 decades with a narcissistic partner who criticized everything I did, even how I buttered toast!


  12. Carol, you’ve succeeded well in creating dialogue by your writing – a goal I’ve always wanted to achieve, but am still working on it. Your honesty in sharing vulnerability, painful experiences, knowledge, and cultural education makes you stand out as a person and as a writer. Above all your compassion and kindness is what endears you to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

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