Writing Tip: Daring to Dig Deeper into the Depths

I’ve written three complete novels, but ask me to write a short story or a poem and I freeze in fear.

Even my letters to friends (when we used to all write letters) were so long people called them novels. There is a comfort level for me in having the time to spin out the tale, slowly getting to know the characters. Besides, the few times I’ve gotten brave and wrote a short story, when I shared it with my writing group they all wanted it to be a novel…sigh.

What about the Haiku poems I write?

woman in the woods with dogI first started writing Haiku when I was in high school, for an assignment. It intrigued me because it was to be based in nature…it could be something small and not easily noticed by others, or maybe a big thought put into few words. Being close to nature is a big part of who I am. So I found enough courage (and the need to finish my school assignment) to give it a try. Over the years I’ve continued writing them and have been told I’m getting pretty good at it. I enjoy it because I feel confident while writing them. And let’s face it. They’re quite short!

I do not feel confident attempting a long poem. So I’ve never tried it. I know I should write more short stories, but I procrastinate. Don’t we all hate that feeling of being a novice? Don’t get me wrong—I love learning new things. I just don’t like the feeling at the very beginning, when I have to admit I suck at what I’m attempting to do! I want to perfect it NOW. So, I’ve taken the easier route. I’ve stuck with my fictionalize characters and plots and places. I’m comfortable with them. I know them. Or do I?

Woman in silo by full moonLately I’ve been forcing myself to peek into corners of my mind not yet thoroughly explored in my fictionalized world of novels. Books, like the one from Judy Reeves Wild Women, Wild Voices encourages me to dig deeper into my own memories. Make myself look under the bed and in the closet for those lurking monsters that I’ve been able to keep safely tucked away all these years. And she helps us find those glorious moments of pure joy we’ve encountered, so we can revive them and keep those treasures close to our hearts. She teaches us to find our voice and howl at the moon and dance under the stars. In other words, find our courage to be who we really are. There are other books as well, bird by bird by Anne Lamott, and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. These authors all inspire us to keep at it, digging deeper and deeper. There’s a big reason why. I knew it in my heart, but I pushed it away. I was afraid.

Now I’ve had to admit to myself that only by looking deeper inside can I make my own fictionalized characters even more complex, more believable and more relatable to the reader. This is something I need to do, to better my craft. Which gives me the motivation to dare to move forward.

So—Yes, I’m going to try my hand at writing poems. Yes, I’m going to write more short stories. Will they suck at the beginning? Yeah. But I know from past experience that if I keep at it, they will improve, and who knows what I may discover about myself—and my writing? I’m not afraid any more.

*Note: since posting this in 2015 I’ve since had 10 haiku poems published in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry (issues Winter of 2016 and Spring of 2017), and a long poem featured in an online Avocet Weekly. And I’ve finished two short stories and have an idea for a graphic novel, all while I continue to write my full-length novels.

Will You Dare to Dig Deeper?


What books have helped you dig deeper as a writer?



  1. Ann Young

    Excellent post, Indy! As I work on the final draft of my novel, the thing that’s encouraged me to dig deeper is the input I’ve been receiving from my Read and Critique Group. In following their suggestions for rounding out my story, I’ve had to delve more deeply into my characters and myself. My writing has become so much stronger as a result. Deciding to join a writing group is one of the best decisions I’ve made!

    • indy

      We all need a good group at some point in our lonely journey, don’t we? And you’ve found a great one. Write on! Courage!

  2. Judy Reeves

    Hey Indy, thanks for the shout-out for me and the Wild Women. I’m honored to be in the same paragraph with two of my gurus: Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron. And you know what, sometimes writing still scares the heck out of me. The trick is to stay in the chair. (hard to do when the M&Ms are calling from the kitchen.) Thanks for this excellent post, Indy.

    • indy

      You are most welcome, Judy. It is but a small token of my appreciation for the inspiration you’ve given to me! Hugs!

  3. Lois Joy Hofmann

    Thanks for this insight, Indy. I also like to write long stories or passages, and so beginning my writing career with a series of creative non-fiction books was typical Lois Joy. Writing my blog has forced me to be brief, however. Now that I’m well into my third book of the series, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss,” the little birdie on my shoulder says, “Get to the point and then dig deeper.”

    • indy

      Thanks for sharing, Lois. My blogs started out shorter, but lately have grown and grown, probably because I’m in between novels and I miss them! Although, I will say that sometimes my longer blogs get more attention than the short ones. I think it depends on the subject matter – but it better be worth the read! That said, I agree that it’s always better to get to the point as quickly as possible…the digging deeper is still a challenge for me – but I’m getting there… :0)

  4. Mike Sirota

    By the mid-nineties I had written novels as long as 200,000+ words, so when I took a job on a newspaper, the thought of writing articles that had to fit in 8-column inches or whatever was daunting. But I managed, and when I resumed writing books I found that the journalism experience made me less verbose. 🙂

    • indy

      What a great experience, Mike! We should all make ourselves at least practice something like this (for me flash fiction might work) – it would teach us volumes! Thanks for sharing!


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