New Breath

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Your tongue shot the bullet that pierced my heart,

Rang confusion in my ears,

Filled my lungs with smoke…

And choked my soul.

Beaten and broken,

Without a friend to turn to,

I fell to my knees and whispered,

“God…my heart is heavy. I’m so very sad.”

He let me cry all the tears I needed,

Until His Grace covered me,

And I finally fell asleep.

Now my laughter is the dam

Which keeps the tears at bay,

Hanging to the thread of hope,

That the nightmare be forgotten,

That your shoulders have the strength to hold me.

All the while,

I whisper to my Lord,

Begging Him to bless us,

Begging Him to destroy the demons

Before

They destroy

Us.

Is There Any Hope

This world is getting uglier by the day,

Hate crimes killing us everywhere.

Why can’t we all just wake up and see,

That we are brothers and sisters in humanity.

And you’re no more deserving of this place than me.

Were your ancestors born onto this land?

No?

I didn’t think so! So don’t go tellin’ me to leave my home!

Reject the media’s call to war,

Turn to sources that side with peace,

Because

Divided we keep falling to our knees,

Keep shouting out that ‘we can’t breathe!’

We need to stay united, spreading love,

Understanding that with no community,

We will remain incomplete.

Let’s join forces, join hearts together,

Cure this cancer called hate once and forever.

We are shepherds of the earth,

Appointed to watch over it,

Why do we keep destroying it?

Stop killing our children all around the globe,

Their innocence sees not skin, sees only soul,

But evil tongues keep digging an evil hole,

Filling their heads with lies of supremacy,

Erasing their hearts, ending their purity.

Our children’s smiles keep fading everyday,

Tomorrow’s skies hold promises of gray.

Is there any hope in changing this fate?

© Hend Hegazi 2015

(To give a listen to the audio version of this poem, please click here to visit the Pen Powered Mic blog. While you’re there, check out the other great audio poems in honor of World Poetry Day.)

Out of ideas for your current piece? Start another!

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I used to think that in order to be focused and effective, I could work on only one writing assignment at a time. I worried that if I tried to write multiple pieces, I would become easily distracted and unable to give each piece the effort it deserves.

A few weeks ago I found myself faced with three deadlines, two separate articles and one for a piece I was editing. Just the thought of working on all three simultaneously had me anxious…but I am NOT one to ignore a deadline! I had no choice but to buckle down and get to work. And it turned out to be such a great experience; I learned the value of juggling several mentally demanding tasks at once, and I have become a better writer for it.

The beautiful benefits of working on more than one writing assignment is that you have a wider creative field, so ideas flow more easily. Often you can use them for one of the projects at hand, which is great for your short-term deadlines. Sometimes the ideas that come to you may not fit any of your current projects, but they will tend to be ideas with potential, so you can jot them down for future use. If you do experience a period where ideas shy away from you, then editing – which requires more analysis and less creativity – can help keep your mind active. By having simultaneous deadlines, you are under more stress to finish the job at hand, but the fact that your brain must stretch into different spheres increases your ability to do so. It’s similar to academically successful students who participate in extracurricular activities; they have just as much studying to do as every other student, but they also have other commitments. Since they understand that their time is limited, they know they cannot simply idle away the minutes, so they finish their tasks quicker and, quite often, at a higher caliber.

So if you’re worried about taking on a couple of different projects, don’t be! Working on them simultaneously will provide great practice in mental multitasking. Starting new writing projects is a great trick to overcome periods where you experience a shortage of ideas. In either case, working at several writing tasks simultaneously will undoubtedly help you improve your craft.

Reviewers vs Editors: Whose Words Are More Painful?

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Back in the day, when we first learned editing and peer critiquing, we were taught that before we point out the weaknesses in a piece, we should always provide a positive comment. The positive comment makes it easier to digest the negative, sort of like a literary ‘spoon full of sugar.’ An encouraging word also gives the writer an important sense – however small it may be – that the editor truly wants the writer to improve, and that improvement is indeed attainable.

It seems that editors are abandoning this practice, however. Perhaps due to the millions of pages they have waiting on their desks, ready to be graced by their red pens, their limited time makes them focus on the changes which need to be made, neglecting to give an encouraging word. But for those of us on the receiving end of that, such an oversight can be debilitating.

Writers need to have thick skin because there is no question that one’s work will often be met with harsh reviews. The difference, however, is that a review comes after publication, after the writer signed her piece and someone, somewhere saw it worthy of putting it out into the world. Regardless of whether or not it makes any kind of bestsellers list, being published is, in and of itself, a milestone, a mark of success. A review can often be more tolerated than an editor’s comments because that review comes once the piece is completely out of her hands. The words of an editor, however, have the power to keep her piece crumbled up inside of her, soaked with the stench of failure.

As an editor, I make an effort to point out the positives in all my clients’ work. I do that because, as a writer, I know that we can swallow a mountain-load of negative…but without a sip of positive, it can easily get lodged in our throats, choking us into a stationary state.

Fellow writers, find solace in knowing that we’ve all been there. The disappointment feels unsurmountable, but breathe deep, and keep moving forward. Remember the last words of encouragement you heard from anyone, and let that reignite your confidence.

And my fellow editors, please don’t overlook the encouraging words. Your are on the same team as your clients; make sure they know that.

Your Freedom

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There will come a time,

When your eyes will shoot open

With the sting of your heart,

From the thought

of all the moments

When you turned your gaze away.

When you will look back and wish,

You had stopped the tapping,

The chit-chatting,

The game playing.

There will come a time,

When the fog of your mind will settle,

Shaming you to your knees,

When you will wish you had paid attention,

Wish you had given a glance,

A hug,

A moment.

There will come a time,

When as you think of me,

You will wish

For just one glance,

Just one hug,

Just one moment of love.

When you will beg to sacrifice everything,

For just a second

with me.

There will come a time,

It’s on its way,

When the memories will haunt you,

When you will wish you could rewind,

And give love to those who loved you.

When you will wish you could un-do

The hurt you didn’t see,

The pain you never noticed,

The neglect you displayed

so casually.

But when that time comes,

It will be too late.

I will already be gone,

Far out of your reach.

You will be left alone,

Free to tap,

and chit-chat,

and play as you please.

There will come a time…

When you will be free of me.

A Different Language

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You and I,

We don’t speak the same language.

Your mind understands my words,

But it’s not your mind I need to reach.

The words of my heart are clear:

Respect me – honor me – cherish me.

But you don’t understand all that’s left unsaid.

You don’t hear all my soul has screamed.

It calls to you,

It tells you to reach for me,

It tells you to wrap me in the warmth of your safety.

Your mind understands my words,

But it’s not your mind I need to reach.

When you offer me a morsel,

Give it life, then walk away,

I try to untangle what you’ve said,

Try to filter out the pain.

My mind understands your words,

But it’s my heart that feels the hurt.

You continue, in your manner,

With nothing else to say.

Foolishly, I wait for more.

You and I,

We don’t speak the same language.

Writing…As a Team Sport

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November has ended, and with it National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) has also come to a close. For those of you, like me just a few short weeks ago, who are unfamiliar with NaNo, it is a push to encourage storytellers to get their words down. The goal for each participant is to write 50,000 words in 30 short days. There are some prizes for ‘winners,’ but the writers entering this project aren’t in it for the prizes…they just want to write. They want the structure of this project to help them organize their schedules to force them to make time for their novels, for their writing.

This was my first time participating in NaNo, and even though I did not make the 50,000 word goal, I gained so much from this experience. Trying to meet a specific word count each day is challenging, and with the comings and goings of life, sometimes impossible. But just having that goal does something to a writer…it makes us strive harder, squeeze out the time somehow, make up lost days if need be. It’s a great real life model for writing one day at a time.

The best part of NaNo was the overwhelming support from other NaNo-ers.  On the NaNo facebook group I joined, we celebrated each other’s milestones and encouraged our ‘teammates’ through times when either we were failing our writing, or our writing seemed to be failing us. Just Write! was the main theme. ‘No time to edit!’ ‘Editing comes later…Just get the words out!’ we encouraged. As we worked to complete our individual goals, we tried to help our teammates reach their goals as much as we could.

But the cheer-leading aspect wasn’t the only thing that turned writing into a team sport; NaNo even comes with sprints! Many of us depended on word sprinting against others to achieve our daily goal, or just to get the juices flowing. And talking about what we had to do to find the time to write–like escape from our children, hide in closets at work, or re-adjust our sleep schedule–added to the team spirit.

So now it’s over. Until next year, that is. But all of us who participated, whether ‘winners’ or not, have gained so much more than just the number of words we’ve completed: we’ve gained the knowledge that we–each one of us–can do it! it will take time and dedication, but we have it in us to write that novel we’ve been dreaming about. We’ve gained the knowledge that there are thousands of writers out there, gliding their pens across paper and tapping their fingers across keyboards, who know exactly what it’s like. So when the writing gets tough, don’t forget that! We’re out there…just give a holler, and your teammates will appear to cheer you on and help you race to the finish line!