Featured Writer on Wellness: Robin L. Flanigan

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on January 15, 2015 • views: 2597

RobinI’ve developed tendonitis in my right wrist, so I don’t type more than a few minutes without my hand brace or I start to have pain when I’m doing everyday activities like cutting food or brushing my teeth.

On another note, I tend to do freelance assignments at a desk in my home office, but I prefer to work on my manuscript, essays, and other creative writing projects in my living room. To help prevent back issues (which come and go), I sit on a meditation cushion and type on my computer on the coffee table.

Wherever I am, there’s always a glass of water by my side.

Creating Space to Work More Efficiently

I used to get up at 5:15 a.m. on weekdays and work until 6:30 a.m., when it was time to wake up my daughter for school. I’d make plans to do yoga later in the day, but between scheduled interviews, impromptu interviews, meeting deadlines, and other tasks, those plans often fell through and I’d feel more stiff the next morning in my desk chair.

Over the last year, I’ve gotten up at the same time but have kept a commitment to practicing yoga from 6 to 6:30 a.m. I’m now more focused between 5:15 and 6 a.m. because I have a shorter window in which to get things done, and I’m much more productive once I’ve resumed work later on because I’ve stretched and created more space and energy inside.

Overcoming Fear of Rejection

Only recently did I realize that I likely had more self-doubt than I thought because I wasn’t submitting personal essays I’d finished ages ago.

Then, because I had those in the hopper that I’d told myself I’d send out “someday soon,” I wasn’t progressing on other works-in-progress at a speed that would get them published within any reasonable time frame.

It was a senseless backlog that had its roots in fear of rejection, although I didn’t consciously think of it that way. I switched things up recently, and wound up getting two essays accepted for publication two months apart. I received a rejection as well, and I know I’ll receive more, but at least I’m trying to get my pieces out there—and I’d rather embrace self-doubt with actual submissions in the pipeline than be comfortable with inertia.

Writing and Life Are Intricately Linked

The yoga helps for sure, as does reading anything by Julia Cameron. I devoured her book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, in 2008, and every day I pick up Cameron’s The Writer’s Life: Insights from The Right to Write for gems like, “Every time I put my hand to the page, I am altering the energy that flows through my life” and “We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living.”

I realize that my life when I’m writing and my life when I’m not writing are intricately linked. They feed off each other, each one offering inspiration for the other.

The Darkest Moment: When An Agent Rejects Your Manuscript

It wasn’t a dark moment so much as a deep sigh and acknowledgment of the work I had ahead of me after an agent rejected my manuscript this past summer.

After that, I sent the draft to beta readers, and am now in the process of incorporating feedback and adding scenes. Then comes another round of beta readers. Then editing yet again. Round and round.

But every time another character trait or a new scene is put in, I get more excited about the product I’m creating and the impact I envision it having on people who need to read about hope and transformation.

The One Thing That Has Kept You On Your Path

I’ve had multiple experiences that have, in my mind, validated that I’m doing the work I am meant to do.

An example I like to share often: I’m working on a creative nonfiction book about a two-time cancer survivor named Bonnie who lost her husband in a freak accident and then decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a symbolic triumph over hardship. (She happened to find a second chance at love in the process.)

The idea came from my husband on a Saturday morning over breakfast. When I called Bonnie—whom we’d met on that Kilimanjaro trip—two days later to ask if she’d be willing to be the subject of a book, I was extremely nervous, thinking she wouldn’t want to recall the painful details needed to tell her story most authentically.

She let me ramble, and then said, “On Saturday morning, probably about the time you were having breakfast, I was praying. I said, ‘I have no idea how, but it’s time. It’s time I tell my story.’ Robin, God brought you to me.”

I cried immediately, and because of that moment, no matter how frustrated I get because work deadlines interfere with creative writing time, I have never doubted that this project is supposed to happen, that it is my calling to share with the world this woman’s harrowing, brave, and ultimately healing journey.

Advice for a Young Writer: Make Time for the Writing You Love

I suppose that would depend on the kind of writer you are. For me, because I’m a freelance journalist juggling multiple personal writing projects on the side, making time for the writing that makes me happiest—my manuscript and essays—can be the most difficult.

Sometimes I schedule the time and then a work interview falls through and I have to find a replacement on deadline, or I schedule the time and realize I didn’t clean or do laundry the day before and that then takes precedence (even though it shouldn’t).

I’ve learned over time that scribbling down even a sentence or a few paragraphs adds up over time to a finished product I never would have gotten if I’d waited until the perfect opportunity to tackle it with my full attention.

Keeping up with social media has been an on-and-off challenge as well. I have no trouble maintaining my Twitter account, but my blog has taken a bit of a hiatus because I’ve been using the time I’d normally spend on posts to write essays. Because some have subsequently been accepted, I have to be OK with that, yet there is a level of anxiety for me that comes with not being able to handle all of it all the time.

When I’m at my best, I schedule various writing projects a week ahead of time, highlighting them on my calendar in bright colors to signify I mean business!

(And for those who conduct interviews for narrative journalism or other assignments, try to ignore the people who flush the toilet when you’re asking a question. Yes, that’s happened to me. More than once.)

* * *

Robin L. Flanigan launched a writing career in the early ‘90s while living in a graveyard, and has worked in newsrooms, winning several national reporting awards, for eleven years. She now freelances for magazines and newspapers, and has had essays published in various anthologies.

Robin’s coffee-table book on the city of Rochester, New York, where she lives with her husband and daughter, was published in 2008. She dedicates early mornings these days to working on an inspirational creative nonfiction manuscript and a mindfulness-themed picture book for children.

Find more of Robin’s writings at her website, or follow her on Twitter @thekineticpen.

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Comments (4)

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  1. D.J. Lutz says:

    I cannot wait to read the book on Bonnie. What an awe-inspiring story – both the subject matter and the way you two connected!

    • That’s wonderful to hear! I’m on the second draft now, so publishing is a ways off. If you’re comfortable doing so, feel free to email me at robin@thekineticpen.com with contact info so I can put you on my list of interested readers. I really appreciate the encouragement, so thank you!

  2. Chere Hagopian says:

    I love what happened with Bonnie! That’s amazing! God did bring you to her, at precisely the right time. How cool is that?
    I also love your advice about fitting in writing when you can, a few sentences or paragraphs at a time. I do some of my best writing in the shower, and then I have to try to memorize what I have come up with until I can write it down. (Or I could join the 21st century and type it into my iPhone , which has a waterproof case, but that would be too easy.)

    • I love when other people appreciate my manuscript’s backstory as much as I do! And thanks for the encouragement. I totally relate to feeling pressure to write down creative thoughts before they disintegrate – my brain works at a far faster pace than my ability to find a place to dump my ideas! Take good care.