Tough Love Writing

Writing Block

“You’re scary!”

The instructor was a little taken aback at the comment from one of the young women in the writing class. I knew just what she meant. The discussion came after we spent some time selecting one character from our story and then identifying his or her desires, wants, needs and weaknesses.

I had just finished sharing what I’d written down and I was so far off base. The instructor kept pushing, “More detail, more specific! Why is that important? Why? Why? Why?” It was a very uncomfortable place to be. I didn’t have the answers and wasn’t even clear about the difference between desires, wants and needs.

I debated not attending the second session, because I’d left the first one feeling like I’d jumped into a class too far above my skill level. But, in the end, I decided it was already paid for and I was bound to learn something new.

This week’s class exercise was to write down the point of the story. What is it that you want your main character and your audience to discover at the end? And, what is the climactic event that leads to that discovery?

Several people volunteered to share. Most students were too generic with their responses and so the instructor kept pushing and putting them on the spot. They were uncomfortable, but the results were incredible.

As the instructor got ready to move on, I lifted my hand. He asked me if I wanted to share. Somehow I knew that I would lose something if I didn’t grab the moment.

My responses, as expected, were too broad and muddy.  As the instructor pushed and prodded, I struggled for the answers. My fellow students added their thoughts and my brain hurt as I tried to find the right words. And…as the hot seat sizzled…ZING! There it was…the point of my story in three words.

The tough love has led to places I never would have imagined. This instructor is so powerfully passionate about story telling and his commitment to each one of us, that he pushes us far beyond our own comfort zone. While I’ve always thought I could write a book, after this week’s class, I believe it.

I can’t wait until next week. Hmmm…I wonder what else he teaches? Thank you, Michael!!


Love it! Those are the types of instructors who make you question your sanity, test your confidence, and in the end make you so much better than you were when you walked in. They scare the bejesus outta me but more often than not it’s totally worth it.

Glad you stuck around even though it was uncomfortable!


That’s exactly the kind of instructor he is, Kim, and you can see the lightbulbs coming on in the class as people gain such nuggets of clarity. It’s amazing. I’m glad I stuck around, too.


Jennifer, you are a writer and when you are ready and if you want to I have no doubt you will write that book. Reading your blog I am always impressed by how smoothly you write and how well you paint a picture or a feeling or a though with your words. I see it, I feel it, I am there.


Thanks Kathy. I’m getting there a little at a time. If I just stay with the journey, I’ll get where I want to be. I appreciate your support more than I can say.

Cindy Brown

I wish I could afford a lot more schooling – sounds grueling! But just like a tough sports coach, that probably makes it good instruction given with passion as well.


I’m just taking it a class at a time, Cindy. I’m not sure I could handle more than that tough love.


Oh now THAT’S cool.

I just signed up to the free OU fiction writing course that Yvonne pimped in Bloppies the other day. I hope something good comes of that. And I’m really glad that this instructor’s methods worked for you 🙂

Carol Cassara

I have the same problem–and I’ve been writing for almost 50 years. Yes, since childhood. My book is going to kill me, or that’s what it feels like, sometimes. Keep at it and so will I.


Have fun in your class, Lizzi. As you can tell, my class has made a big difference in the way I think about writing.


You keep me inspired, Carol. We’ll have to get together and celebrate when our books get published and then once again, when they become movies. 🙂


Estelle, Wonderful teachers are amazing. It’s so much fun to see their different styles and how they are able to push us to new heights.


Wow, this sounds like it was a really extraordinary and worthwhile experience. Congratulations on making this fabulous progress!


What a perfect example that Risk is necessary to create. You are pushing the limits past the familiar, predictable and the safe, free from fear’s grip. Congratulations!


I encourage you to try it, Jacqueline. My first class had an encouraging teacher. She was a perfect fit for me when I needed a boost to really get started.


Diane, I’m guessing you would be right there with me waiting for the nugget that will move us forward. 🙂

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