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Posted by: Nicole Kiefer | on March 13, 2017
Where art comes from…
During this winter season as I went to trade shows, bazaars, and arts and crafts sales I was asked several times where my art comes from, where my ideas and inspiration came from. A question I couldn’t answer as easily as I would have liked, simply because I never thought about it.
No matter if it is writing, design or photography or any other form of art, it’s origin is unique to the person. At least that’s what I believe. Every person sees the same thing a little differently or even different. I look at a sunset and it’s beauty, the burning sky, the play of shadow and dimming light, takes my breath away. So… where does art come from?
Over the last few months I thought a lot about that and not just when asked and in the peril of trying to explain it. Where do my stories come from? Where do patters, pictures and designs come from? Why do I take a picture of the things I photograph?
I think the answer is the soul. Something deep inside us that simply needs to be expressed. A deep need to share that passion, emotion, or beauty only I can see and express the way I see it. Does this make sense to anyone but me? Maybe… maybe not.
When I write a book, it gives me the chance to not only tell a story but to shape the world in a way I want it to be, or create one I would like to be at. To bring characters to life I would like to meet or to fight. I can express my political, ethnical, and religious views, without making it obvious or offending. Most of all I can give it the happy ending we all deserve but rarely get in reality. Quite frankly, when writing, I can play god to my own little universe and have no competition.
It’s similar with art. I can express with colors, photoshopping, drawing and forming lines into shapes how I feel about a topic or in general. I can create something beautiful from nothing and share it with others. I can (within the rights of copyright) take something and reshape it, give something already existing a new meaning. With every art piece that springs into existence through the use of my hands and mind, I give birth to something new and unique.
I think, art comes from deep within us and reflects who we are, how we feel and think and what we dream about. Art is freedom, creation and expression.
Posted by: Nicole Kiefer | on February 17, 2016
Those who read my autobiography (My Life with Dyslexia and other Shit…) know this, those who haven’t read it… get to it, it’s time you read it… you can simply click the link to your right-hand side and it’s yours.
However, some of you know that as a child I learned to put up a tough front, showing people a confident, cocky person who didn’t care about what other thoughts. When inside I was the furthest thing from it.
I didn’t believe I mattered, that I could archive anything or that I had any kind of worth. Live did that to me, and it wasn’t just one person’s fault, but a convergence of circumstances.
Over the years, I thought I had grown out of that, simply because in the right setting I have. With my family and close friends I am confident, know what I am capable of, and that I have worth and aren’t stupid. I even have the results of an IQ test I took years ago hung up. (Well actually it got lost in one of our moves, but I know it was there and hung on the wall, so I insist on pretending it’s still there)
Yet, when it comes to exploring new areas in life, trying out something new, I simply wear that mask again, while inside I am filled with doubt. Only I didn’t realize it until recently. (By the way, you can tuck this post on to my autobiography, it’s like an afterword I didn’t write)
When I wrote Waiting in the Wings I put a lot of myself in the plot and characters. Sure most of it were fiction, and yet still me. When I published it the first time, I was nervous, not just because I’m dyslexic and didn’t really have the money to get it edited, but for hundred more reasons. When the first reviews rolled in, telling me that they saw a good story that was unreadable by mistakes, it only chipped on the little confidence I had.
The person I am with my family and friends was nowhere to be seen as I tried to get Waiting in the Wings edited, even spent the money on a professional edit. The money I didn’t really have, but scraped together, because I didn’t believe I could do it.
The editor didn’t want to just fix the spelling but made lots of suggestions about plot and writing style. Something a good editor should do, don’t get me wrong there.
However, as the author, I should not have blindly listened and followed the whims of my editor, and the thing is I knew it. Much of what was suggested went against what I wanted, but because the editor thought so, I did as told. Falling back in the familiar pattern of not standing up for what I wanted, thought or believed in.
I did that until the editor liked it. One person, who didn’t know me, who had no idea about the parts of the story that were me. By the time, I was done the story had changed so much it wasn’t the same anymore, and I believed that was a good thing, because… well… I wasn’t good enough, didn’t know enough, was too inexperienced. The editor, on the other hand, was all those things, so she had to be right… right?
When, after I republished it, started to promote Waiting in the Wings again, I also contacted the local newspaper and they asked for a book to read so they could write about it. (I know the lady I talked to from the newspaper reads my stuff from time to time, so she most likely will read this too) When she invited me she gave me her honest opinion (something you don’t get often) she informed of still existing spelling and grammar mistakes. But one thing she said and that I kind of ignored at that point was, that she felt like it wasn’t done. Like I hadn’t taken the time to finish it and bring it to its best.
Quite frankly, I thought she must be crazy, after all, the instructions I followed, all the rewriting I did, and the money I spent.
Since then some time has passed, I did some other projects, got my store going, my designer business up from the ground (not much from the ground, though, mind you).
During that time I also explored Facebook… yeah I know who hasn’t? What I found were several groups dedicated to dyslexia, fibromyalgia, and Nail-Patella-Syndrome. The dyslexia groups caught me off guard to tell the truth. When I join a group, I introduce myself. After all, my mom raised me to be polite to a T… even when I hated the person, I was polite, even when I smashed something over their head the next moment, or threw a chair after them.
The way I was welcomed was amazing and humbling. To hear from so many people who went through the same struggles were bullied and thought (that’s what baffled me) that I had made a success of myself, was overwhelming.
I look in the mirror and I see a 36-year-old woman who by only half fault of herself lost most of her teeth, who lives in pain every day. Someone who had no higher education, in Canada, not even a high school diploma, and no job at the moment or in any foreseeable future. I struggle on a daily basis with the housekeeping, because of the pain, depressions and continuously losing hope. I’m too sick to work and not sick enough to get disability. I’m a burden to my family financially and mentally, and that hurts. To know that your children suffer because of you. Yes they have the essentials, they have food a roof over their head and I’m always there for them even when they think I’m not. But because of me, we are in bad financials, and I look towards the future and cringe. Because I know I can’t afford to send them to college, or to help them out when they have problems financially. When I look into the mirror I see a mess.
Year of feeling inferior, ugly, unlovable leave their stain, and I was aware of that just not as much as I am now.
However, after joining those groups and being regarded like I accomplished something, I was also asked often about my story. Ten years ago I wrote it down and it was published. Only then I wrote it out of hatred and anger. Something I don’t feel anymore. Or not as much. I would be lying if I claimed it doesn’t hurt when someone tells me something bad about my writing or designs. It does, but I don’t get pissed about it anymore.
With their encouragement I decided to write my autobiography again, (remember My Life with Dyslexia and other Shit… to your right-hand side to order it) this time more objective but no less emotional. For some reason the book I wrote ten years ago, quadrupled, and as the one ten years ago I didn’t let anyone edit it. To use the words my publisher used back then. I’m dyslexic, it is part of me, I should not be ashamed of who and what I am and spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and punctuation horrors are a part of me. In that spirit, I didn’t let anyone touch it, not even my family. All I did was ask some friends to read it and let me know if they were able to understand it. When they did, I published it.
I know you already endured a lot reading this, most likely you’re ready to hit that red x in the right-hand corner wondering if I ever come to the point.
Yes, I will.
As with Waiting in the Wings I contacted the local newspaper, but to be honest didn’t think they would be interested after the last debacle. When they were, I hurried to get the book to the journalist. I caught her in a fee minute and we talked, she actually had read the reading sample already.
And here is what struck me, but only later when I was already back home. She said, “This reads much better, I get drawn right in. This reads like you took your time and put more effort into it.”
I told her, but mostly out of fun, that I actually wrote it in about a week and then took another month to go over it often.
However, those words stuck in my mind, replaying at the weirdest moments. Until a couple of days ago, when I talked to my mom. I don’t know how we got there but she reminded me of my school time, not the early bad years, but the better ones much later. That, whenever I had to write something for school, and would hand in my first draft I would get an A, 100% or 1 for content and the worst grade for spelling and grammar. But when I asked for help or went over it again, my own doubt got the better of me and I messed my essays up, receiving only a poor grade for context and a worse one for spelling and grammar.
After that, I pulled up the first book I wrote after I began seriously writing again. The Immortal Druid was what I had planned as my debut novel, not Waiting in the Wings, but when I pitched it I got many replies telling me what was missing, or what wasn’t right. I doubted myself and tried to fix all those mistakes mentioned, blowing a novel with over 70K up to over 120K, trying to please everyone, but me.
I was doing it again, I put up a front of confidence while inside there was nothing but doubt. It was the reason I didn’t publish it, I was doubting it. Doubting myself and my abilities. I doubted I could make it a good story because some had given me nothing but constructive critique.
The thing about revising, editing and perfecting a story, isn’t to try to please everyone. It will only ruin what has the potential to be great.
It is about taking their critique and using the parts that will fit you, while discarding and ignoring what you isn’t. Writing is about being creative, about imagining, and becoming more then you are by giving some of you and taking the characters you create into you.
An author who claims that nothing of him is in a story and nothing of the story is in him is either a bad author not worth reading or a liar.
Now I sat down and rewrite MY The Immortal Druid, returning it to what it was supposed to be, ME, or rather part of me.
Lisa is my endurance, my fight for a better future, no matter how I have to archive it or what I have to sacrifice for it.
Condan is my love and dedication to those I love and call family and mine.
Alastair is the strength and wisdom I rely on every day.
Argos is my love and admiration for animals.
In every character is a part of me, and every character encourages me to keep on going to give them live and meaning by creating a world for them they can exist in.
In the end of the day, the story I publish has to be me, coming from my heart, imagination and heart. I’ve forgotten that, and instead followed someone else’s ideas and imaginings. I fell back into who I was as a child, tough exterior, trying to please everyone while suffering inside about the way I denied myself to be me.
You might be thinking that what I say next is avoidance, said out of fear, but it isn’t. It’s a revelation, one I strongly believe many should have.
I say in the beginning of my autobiography that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are important, that they are what norms our language and makes for easy communication. Yet since I came to North America I didn’t have any trouble to bring my point over, even with spelling or grammar mistakes.
From now on, I will put not let others mess with my head, but only take the advice that actually works with my story. Neither will I get it professionally edited again. My dyslexia is part of me, I work every day to better it, to find mistakes and correct them. There should be no reason that my readers can’t make the little bit of effort to endure some mistakes, as long as they don’t make it impossible to understand the meaning of what my story is about.
The Immortal Druid will be ready this summer, I will place a warning in the front of the book, letting people know that the book was written by a dyslexic and not edited by a professional. As I learned with Waiting in the Wings their not worth their money anyway.
But the story will be me, it will be honest to me and my thoughts, dreams, and hopes. Not to someone else’s. I don’t charge much to begin with, but a story coming from the heart that is well researched written and plotted should be worth the little I charge.
I’m tired of hiding behind a mask. Instead, I will endeavor to become the mask of confidence I wear so often.
Posted by: Nicole Kiefer | on October 9, 2015
Waiting in the Wings and emotional abuse in a relationship.
I always get asked how I was inspired to write Waiting in the Wings, and I always answer with the story of how my husband had a hernia, tried to hide it, and ended up in emergency surgery. While I was pacing the empty waiting room.
Now that is how it started, but not the gist of the book. While mostly writing to sort out my emotions about that night, I also thought about how good I have it, and how bad my life could be. Most of all of how life changing it would have been, had he died that night.
I don’t plan books or stories, I don’t plot them out, they just spring into existence. Like a woman faced with the fact that her husband suddenly dies after 16, 18, or 20 years of marriage. That is a long time, people change in that time. Now if the marriage was good, she will grieve for some time, then get herself together and live on with good memories and a healthy attitude to going on. What if the marriage wasn’t good?
That’s how it really started.
Not long before that night, I had read a book about bullying and emotional abuse in relationships. There is a large number of woman out there, trapped in relationships that are not healthy, that make them physically and mentally sick, and they often don’t even realize it. Their friends, neighbors, and family don’t see it, don’t know of it, because it’s like cancer or aids, it’s silent and hidden.
Emotional abuse is nothing that bruises the skin, doesn’t brake bones, or make you scream in fear.
It breaks the heart, soul and spirit. It destroys hopes and dreams. But most of all, it changes fundamentally how a person looks at themselves. One of the phrases I read, researching the topic was, “Strong on the outside, broken in the inside”
What I found the most disturbing while researching was, that many abuser don’t even realize they are abusive. They think of themselves often as direct, honest and encouraging by pointing out their partner’s flaws. They don’t get loud or angry, they don’t hit.
They simply tell you, “that you screwed up again, but that they shouldn’t be surprised since you don’t understand clearly how the world works. They should have known better then let you handle it, and that it’s ok to be a screw up, it’s simply unavoidable with the amount of smarts you have.”
How nice this insult sounds…, imagine your partner talking to you like that for twenty years. I would have killed him, metaphorically speaking.
The more I researched the topic, the more I wanted to make a statement with my story, yet I didn’t know how. Since I was bullied as a child and teen, I could imagine how Henry would talk to Sara, how he would treat her, and how she would feel. Yet imagining a decade or two in a relationship like that, I couldn’t imagine her coming back from that. Couldn’t imagine her still being strong, accomplishing anything on her own.
But that wasn’t the statement I wanted to make. I wanted her to be the one with the last laugh, so to speak. The winner in the end, not just over Henry but over his abuse.
Then I remembered something I read once. “Without hope we are nothing, when we lose hope we lose ourselves and any chance of surviving.” I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but it was my solution.
If I give my abuse victim an anchor, some person who still believes in her, someone she can hold on to, she might not lose herself completely. And what is stronger than the hope of true love?
I went through different ideas, but in the end decided to go with her first love. To use him not just as her anchor, but also to demonstrate how she had changed.
In the Benjamin from twenty years ago, we find the usual abuser. A man who loves but has his own demons, he drinks and changes. He is loud, or depressed, he gets angry at times, and reckless, even close to violent. She loves him, but sees how unhealthy their relationship is, and breaks it off. Sara walks away from the danger of getting to deep into something, which will most likely end badly.
Benjamin loves her, that’s why he lets her walk away. It also is the point where he begins to realize he has to change. True love will do that to a guy, even if he is messed up.
He becomes her anchor in the following years, the only one encouraging her, telling her that she has worth, that she is smart and strong.
While he only slowly learns and realizes in what kind of relationship Sara is trapped in. When he offers to help she threatens to cut all ties to him, because she is not only trapped by a piece of paper, or the finances, but by her own insecurities, fed by her husband.
While I wrote and the story progressed, I watched the story unfold. (As I said, I don’t plan much, if at all) I let Henry die, I gave Sara a contradicting character, I send Benjamin to her, but then I realized that charm alone wasn’t enough.
By using Benjamin’s past as comparison of the two kinds of abuse, I also gave Sara good reason to never entrust her heart to him. She needed a push, because if I would have been her, I would have blocked him until Armageddon.
So that’s what I needed, Armageddon.
Well, I don’t want to spoil more of the story then I already have. The point is, Waiting in the Wings is not just a simple romance, with some hot sex scenes to keep it interesting. It’s about enduring, fighting and surviving a kind of abuse nobody can easily see. It’s about getting physically sick because of it, about being cornered and coming out fighting and winning.