Weekly Writing Challenge #31 – The Moon

Prompt – Write a scene that includes the number 100.

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Slowly I woke up. It was dark except for the glow of my smart phone. I realized that my phone had been buzzing constantly. Normally I kept my phone on silent while I slept. I leapt out of bed and rushed to where my phone had been left on the charger overnight. I had gotten text messages and they kept on coming.

The phone said it was 3 am. Who would be texting me over and over at this time of night? It could be my pal George. Maybe he was drunk yet again. I wouldn’t put it past him to pull a prank like this. I imagine he was texting and giggling the whole time. Time to put a stop to this nonsense. I needed my sleep as I had to go to work in a few hours.

I picked up the phone and unlocked it and saw that I had 100 text messages. Holy cow! George must be on an epic drinking spree. I opened up my phone to check out the messages. The first one said simply, “Do not look at the moon.” That’s pretty random, even for George. The second one had the same message and so did the third. I kept on scrolling and every single one said the exact same thing.

“Do not look at the moon.”

Probably because it was 3 am, it took me a while to realize that each message came from a different number. In fact, George had not texted me at all. I walked out to the living room and glanced toward the front windows. There was a glow, a red glow coming through. I started toward the windows to check it out, but paused after a few steps. Looking down at my phone at all the messages started to creep me out.

Fully awake now, I opened up a browser to see if there was any news about the moon. I kept getting a 404 screen. Web page not found. Peering at the upper right corner of my phone, I saw that I had wi-fi connectivity. Maybe someone hacked my wi-fi? I turned off the wi-fi and checked that I had five bars. Excellent cell tower connection, but I still kept getting the 404 error.

What the heck is going on?

I grabbed my remote and turned on the TV. As I had cut the cord to cable years ago, I switched the input to TV antenna. Nothing but a blank screen with the words, “No input detected.” I checked that my HD antenna had power and the connection to the TV was secure. Still nothing.

I let out a little scream of surprise as my phone started buzzing in my hand. Text message after text message appeared. This time they all said, “It’s a beautiful night, you should go look at the moon.”

Maybe I’m dreaming? A nightmare of some sorts.

I pinched myself and it definitely hurt. I had read that you couldn’t feel the actual pain if you dreamed that you were pinching yourself. I don’t know if that was true or not, but I couldn’t do a search on the internet to find out.

Should I heed the original messages? Or should I go outside and look at the moon?

I did something I swore I would never do. I called George at 3 am. His phone went directly to voice mail. Not surprising as he was prone to letting his battery run all the way down until his phone shut off.

If this was a prank, it was epic. Frozen with indecision, I couldn’t decide what to do. I found my fingers dialing 911. If this was a prank, it seemed ominous and dangerous. The phone rang and rang. I glanced toward the front windows again. It seemed that it was getting brighter than it had been.

I pride myself on being a strong man. Not one to let fear rule my life. For the first time since I was a kid, I felt like running back to bed and crawling under the covers. Hiding and shaking in fright.

I gave a quick shake of my head to dismiss my fears. I’m being silly I thought. Time to put this mystery to rest. I strode toward the door constantly reassuring myself that I am not afraid. I’m determined to see what the fuss is about.

I grasped the door knob and found myself frozen in fright once again. Am I doing the right thing? Maybe I should run back to bed and hide there until morning. No, I couldn’t face myself if I let fear rule my life. I closed my eyes tightly and turned the door knob. Then pulled the door open and took two steps outside. I felt a sense of my former pride and ego coming back. Slowly I opened my right eye slightly to look at the moon. It was blurry, but I could see that it was huge. Definitely a harvest moon.

Clenching my eyes shut, I felt the overpowering fear rush over me. I took a step back. Then I remember what my father had always told me when I was young. “You have to face your fears. Fear is not real.”

Nodding my head as if in agreement with my father, I knew that I had to open my eyes and look at the moon. I took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds and then let it out.

My eyes opened wide and I looked at the moon.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc


Weekly Progress Report #39

This has been an editing week. I’m really liking ProWritingAid as it points out more things I wouldn’t have even thought to look at. For instance, I have several paragraphs where I start every sentence with “I”. Currently rewriting those paragraphs to make the flow better and not sound repetitive. I’m currently at three (3!) passive sentences, down from originally 56. I’m struggling to rewrite the last three, but I’ll get there.

Speaking of struggling, this weekend is the half-way point of my Weekly Writing Challenge. To me, this one should be special. Stupendous, marvelous and, above all else, astounding. Unlike last week, where I could have gone in a dozen different ways to write the challenge, this one is pretty straightforward. And I’m drawing a complete blank. I can’t visualize anything but a boring story.

I’ve sat down many times in the last couple of days to see if I could come up with something that doesn’t completely suck. Usually, I’ll write a first sentence and the story will come to me. This time, not so much. I’ve written at least a dozen first sentence’s and every time it leaves me stuck. Could this week finally be my doom?

I’ve not written about cancer lately, due to me being cancer free, but I’ve noticed a peculiar thing. Every little ache or pain causes me instantly to think, “Cancer!” It’s almost as if I’ve become paranoid. I went to the dermatologist and had a mole that has been bothering me removed. During chemo, the mole dried out and split and has been flaky ever since. I can’t help but wonder if this is cancer. Friday, I received a call and the tests show it was benign. What a relief!

During my annual physical, I complained about my right arm hurting. The doc thinks it is because I had a rash of boils under my right arm. The scar tissue may have contracted my muscles. To be sure, he had me do x-rays of my arm and shoulder. I finally got to see the results yesterday and contrary to my fear of having bone cancer, it showed my bones are good. Looks like physical therapy is in my future.

It’s going to take a long time for me to get over this irrational fear of cancer whenever I experience anything different. I’m not used to living in fear and I don’t like it.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Best Friends

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I read a post by Madworld Medic that really hit me. He talked about a woman that became his best friend in the midst of dying. Her, not him.

I thought about the friends I’ve had in my life. Growing up my best friend was Bruce. He lived down the block across the street. We did everything together. Even though we were only seven or eight, we would play football with the big kids in the neighborhood. I distinctly remember that Bruce was wrapped around one leg of the guy with the football and I was wrapped around the other leg as the big kid, who must have been a teenager, drug both of us across the yard on his way to score a touchdown. We were little, but together we could face the world and thrive.

Then one day, everything changed. We would meet up across the street from my house and walk to school through an alleyway. I don’t know why to this day what happened, but somehow I found myself on top of him while he was lying on the ground. I was hitting him in the face. I think I snapped and blacked out for a minute. I don’t know who was more scared, me or him? That was my first and only fight where I actually hit someone.

Bruce and I drifted apart and by High School he ran with a different crowd than I did. Come graduation day, that was the last time I remember seeing him. We never talked about that day in the alley. If we were sitting face to face today, I wouldn’t know what to say.

I’ve never had a best friend since that fateful day. Yes, I’ve plenty of friends and acquaintances, but never a best friend that you could say anything or do anything and they would accept you and likewise I would accept them. I’ve had plenty that wanted to be friends with me, but I always kept people at a certain distance, never letting them get too close. Not for the usual reason of fear of getting hurt, but somehow, deep inside, I feared hurting them.

I marvel that a single incidence in childhood can shape your whole life. From that fight, I’ve lived a solitary life and have always had a hard time expressing my true self. I’ve been married, divorced, lived for a long time with another woman until that fell apart and finally married my soulmate. We have had our ups and downs, but are committed to each other and I love her with all my heart. However, I have felt that I’ve held things back in our marriage. Deep seated feelings that come from that time with Bruce.

I didn’t mean for this post to be maudlin and I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. It just feels right to finally say how I feel. I mourn all the friendships that I could have had but didn’t. It’s probably too late to have a best friend in my life. I’m seriously thinking about deleting this post right now.

Then again, this could be why I come up with some delightfully twisted and wacky stories.

Writing a Book – Part Three

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In Part Two, I talked about fears that will stop you from writing a book. In Part Three, we’ll go over those fears and see how to get past them. Keep in mind, this is strictly for fears for writing a book. They may or may not work on other fears in your life depending on how deep seated your fears are.

For your homework assignment, (bet you didn’t see that coming!) Take out a piece of paper and list your fears. Leave plenty of space between them. For reference, here’s the list again.

  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Fear of not being original
  • Fear of not being perfect
  • Fear of judgement
  • Fear of embarrassment

If you have another fear not listed above, feel free to add it to your list. After you have made your list, think of the worst possible outcome if that fear were to come true. For instance, I wrote down “Fear of not being good enough”. The worst possible outcome would be that my book would fall flat and I will have wasted time and energy in writing the book.

Do that for each fear you have listed.

Now for the fun part, go back to the top of your list and ask yourself honestly if it really matters if the worst case scenario came true. Write your reasoning under the fear.

For example, this is what I came up with.

  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Book will fall flat and wasted time and energy
  • I have nothing to prove to anyone. I enjoy writing and I’m learning so this is not a waste of time or energy
  • Fear of judgement
  • My ego will be deflated and I’ll slip back into extreme low self-esteem.
  • I’ve conquered low self-esteem before with the help of my therapist, I can always go back for more therapy.
  • Fear of not being perfect
  • I’ll nitpick every word, sentence and paragraph and never get published.
  • I’m bent to do the perfectionism, I just have to remind myself that no one is perfect. I just have to be good enough to be published.
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • I’ll look stupid and confirm that I’m not smart.
  • Looking stupid is an emotion. It’s not real. Writing is not my full-time profession, so I don’t have to have a great book to survive. If it reaches just one person that enjoys it and maybe gets something out of it, then it is worth it.

Do this for each fear. Now look over your list. Is there any fear that is a deal breaker? Is there a fear that if the worst possible outcome occurred that you cannot get past it? My bet is there isn’t any, but in the slim chance there is, then writing a book may not be possible right now for you.

Lastly, and this is the important part, print out your fear list and post it near where you do your writing. Anytime you feel yourself faltering due to fear, go back and reread this list. I guarantee you will have at least one of these fears pop up while you are writing your book. Having the list nearby will help you dispel your fear and keep you on the right track.

In Part Four we’ll go over what type of book should you write. Also the burning question that we all ask; Pantser or Outliner?

Writing a Book – Part Two

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In Part One, I talked about motivations to write a book. Before we get started on the book there is a factor we need to face right up front. FEAR or as I like to say:

F Everything And Run.”

When writing a book, there will be emotions that come up. Fear is a biggie. Fear is what will kill your book. When we let fear rule, then we are defeated and won’t accomplish our goal of writing a book. Fear is an emotion. Emotions are not reality. Let me repeat that:


Remembering that can help get over the fears we face as writers. When we face the fears that come up and recognize them for what they are then we can develop strategies to overcome them and use them to push forward and not only complete the book but to publish it. First, let’s look at the various fears that may come up.

  1. Fear of not being good enough – This is called the Imposter Syndrome which I wrote about here and here. This is usually caused by low self-esteem. I had to write about it twice to acknowledge it fully.
  2. Fear of not being original – Think of all the books that have been written over the ages. Millions and millions of books. How do we expect to be original? Truth is that almost no books are truly original and the ones that are original usually don’t sell well as nobody understands them. No reader cares whether an idea is original or not, they only care if it will be useful to them or entertaining to them.
  3. Fear of not being perfect – Writers who obsess over every word, phrase and paragraph will never publish their book. They use this obsession to distract from actually publishing. Let’s face it, there is no perfect book for everybody, but there is a perfect book in you for somebody that wants to read it.
  4. Fear of judgement – This is a biggie fear. No one likes to be criticized. A one-star review can be an ego killer. I wrote about being critiqued here. Taking critiques as a learning experience and not personal is key to defeating this fear.
  5. Fear of embarrassment – Or a simple way to put it, fear of looking stupid. This is the root cause of all the fears above. No one wants to feel stupid. Feeling stupid is an emotion. Remember what I said before? Emotions are not reality! Look at this way, when we write a book, edit it and publish it, that in itself shows that we are not stupid. It takes commitment, judgement and inspiration to write a book. A truly stupid person not only will not, but CANNOT do this. Just by reading this guide, you have proven yourself to not be stupid.

In Part Three I’ll be going over how to defeat Fear and use it as fuel to write your book.

Imposter Syndrome – Redux

I wrote about this six weeks ago which if you missed it, you can find it here. So why am I revisiting this again? Well, I had an attack once again last night. To solve a problem, you first have to identify the problem completely. I don’t think I did that then. Back to the first step. This is going to be a long post, buckle in and prepare yourself.

One way to approach this is to do the who, what, when, why and how process. The who and what I’ve already nailed down as myself and imposter syndrome. I get panic stricken about writing. I don’t think that I’m a real writer and I’m fooling myself thinking I can do this. I doubt that my writing is clear, informative or entertaining for anybody but myself.

If I stop there in this investigative series, I would use the maxim “Fake it until you make it”. In other words, act like a writer until I feel like I’m a writer. The problem with that approach is that I’ll be continually facing periods of time where I am deep into Imposter Syndrome. Each time has the potential for me to abandon this whole writing gig. It’s wearing on the soul. Case in point, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote for 19 days straight, struggling more and more as time went on. Looking back, I let my fear inhibit my writing and my word counts kept dropping each day. Eventually, I abandoned writing daily on the project and in fact have not written a single word since on the novel.

When have I felt this way? The easy answer is the most recent times. However, I believe I need to delve into the past to see if I’ve had a form of this before. This requires a lot of introspection. The first time that I can recall in my adult life is when I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and was appointed LPO (Leading Petty Officer). That put me in charge of 15 men and I answered only to the Chief and Division Officer. In civilian terms, I was the manager. For the first year I was continually beset by the feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing and was failing miserably. I made mistakes that I magnified in my mind that were job killers and was constantly in fear of being demoted. Somewhere along the line, I finally felt comfortable.

Due to my drive for excellence, I was tapped for a prestigious school that would have opened up a strong pathway for success, not only in my naval career but beyond. Only the top 0.1% of First Class Petty Officers were offered this school in my rating. This six month class started with 20 men. If we made it past the 5th month, we were guaranteed to pass. I struggled mightily and doubted myself. By the final test at the end of the 5th month, we were down to 12. Nine passed and three failed. I was one of the three. We that had failed the test were dropped from the class. Looking back, I see that my insecurities held me back and I self-sabotaged by drinking instead of studying.

Six long years later, I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Again, the imposter syndrome struck. For the first year, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being a Chief. The Navy believed in me, but I did not. That changed one day when a fellow Chief on the ship basically threw me under the bus. I was aghast! I confronted him as to why he had done so. After a long conversation it came out that he thought I was a threat to him. This confused me as I wasn’t even up for promotion for another two years. How could I be a threat? Turns out it was all about the yearly evaluations. The top 50% of the Chiefs on board (16 of us), got personal evaluations by the Commanding Officer, the bottom 50% were evaluated by the Executive Officer (2nd in command). The Commanding Officer would rank each of the Chiefs he evaluated. The higher your rank, the more likely you would be promoted to Senior Chief. I was ranked 5th that year. For a first year Chief, that was pretty much unheard of to be ranked that high. Three of the four ranked ahead of me all made Senior Chief that year including the one that had sabotaged me. I bear him no ill will and understand that at this level, politics does come into play. He became my biggest supporter after he was promoted.

After I retired from the Navy, still a Chief even though I was up for promotion, I went back to my family’s farm. While rehabbing the houses and structures, I discovered I had a talent for carpentry and woodworking. My wife and mother arranged for me to interview at the School District Maintenance facility for a carpentry job. I felt like I faked my way throughout the interview and somehow got hired. Again, the imposter syndrome was active for the first year or so. I constantly doubted myself. Once again, I doubled down on working hard at perfecting my craft. In case you are interested, I did an online album of some, but not all of my work while at the Maintenance facility and at home. You can see it here. Due to the encouragement of not only my family but also many teachers, I started a side business of custom woodworking. Guess what reared its ugly head? Yep, imposter syndrome. I blamed the failure of my side business on the fact that I hated sales and marketing. Truth is, I doubted myself and again self-sabotaged.

Why am I continually beset by this problem? Everything I have done in my life, I either succeeded wildly or crashed and burned horribly. I sought the help of a therapist and saw her for about a year. Through a lot of painful sessions, I realized that my insecurities about myself were from childhood. We worked through quite a bit of them and helped me understand why I did the things I did. Did that cure me of my insecurities? Obviously not or I wouldn’t be writing this post. One aspect that I had not considered but we had touched upon during the sessions is that my insecurities had propelled me to excellence. By doubting myself, I had worked extra hard on being the best I can be. So the insecurities were not necessarily a bad thing. But more often than not, my insecurities had held me back by not taking opportunities that I could have. This now leads us to the final part.

How do I harness my insecurities to be the best I can be and not just chuck this whole writing thing out the window? My therapist pushed me during our sessions to write a journal. I tried a few times, but didn’t follow through. The idea stuck with me and I started this blog to write daily six months after my sessions with her came to a close. It has been a tremendous help in my writing skills and habits of writing. I need to harness my insecurities to double down on writing and tell the voice in my head that I will overcome the negative aspects of my feeling like I’m not good enough. From my prior experience, this will lead to me being the best I can be at writing.

In summary, just by writing this post exploring my Imposter Syndrome in depth, I feel rejuvenated and more confident. I thank you for following me along this journey and welcome any tips that I may have not considered. Now to decide which of the four or five projects I am currently working on to focus on first. I’ll update with another post tonight.

Fear of Rejection

As a writer, this is a real thing. It has held me back from submitting my work. It has held me back from even creating this blog.

I like what I create, my family likes it too, but will the world like it? That’s what holds me back. What if it isn’t that good? What if nobody likes it? Does that mean I’m worthless as a writer? These are real insecurities I have faced and continually face every time I think about putting my work out there.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,

Joan Baez

After letting my fear of rejection rule over me for 30+ years, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can overcome it. Having cancer has given me the freedom. If I don’t beat cancer, then it really doesn’t matter if the world likes my writing. I don’t have to depend on writing to provide for my family. It sure would be nice to write a book or two that can leave my family with some security, but I don’t have high hopes for that.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Upon reflection, I realize that I’ve had fear of rejection from an early age. It has stopped me from pursuing interests and dreams. Because of this, I’ve gone through many hardships both in my professional career and personal life. I’ve had many regrets over the years, but I can’t and won’t dwell on them. What I can do is draw upon my life experiences and tell stories that not only interest the world, but perhaps maybe even inform and teach.

Today my story The Painting was published on Writers Unite!. From the time I submitted it till it was published and even after until I saw comments on it, I was on pins and needles. My fear of rejection was almost overpowering.

From that little story that took less than an hour to create, I have built a bit of confidence to continue on with writing and more importantly to submit my writing good or bad to the world. At some point, I hope to develop a shield against the fear of rejection. The only way to do that is to bulldoze right through that fear again and again.

The main reason I’ve been doing this blog is to partly journal my experiences with cancer but also to journal my writing experiences. I could do this offline and in private, but by putting it out to the world is just another weapon to flatten my fear of rejection.

Currently in the works, I have two short stories to edit and submit. This time the stakes are higher as they are to paying publications. More than likely I will get rejection letters but at this point, what do I have to lose?