Silence!

Everyone who has ever written anything knows writing is hard. There are many reasons why, and every writer’s journey is different. Something I struggle with may be easy for someone else and vice-versa.

I could write a novel about why writing a novel is difficult for me–I won’t. Not today, anyway. I have something specific in mind and it’s universal to all forms of writing.

How does one deal with their inner critic?

I can’t say much yet, but yesterday, I wrote a poem comparing Donald Trump to the Titanic. I wrote it in a rush of creative madness, knocking out a 32-line poem in about twenty minutes. I bragged about it to my friend and on social media, and even texted my husband while he was at work, something I rarely do.

I thought I was so clever, and I was positive I could publish it.

And an hour later, I hated it. The more I re-read it, the more I thought it sounded like pretentious garbage, and I wondered how anyone could ever like it, much less anything else I write.

For the record, I’m back to believing in my cleverness. I finished editing the poem and have already scouted out some places I’d like to submit it to. Wish me luck!

But I know it’s just a momentary respite. Once I hit “Submit,” my fears will return.

So…how do you silence your inner critic? A girl could use some advice.

The Forest: A Novel Teaser #1

I don’t usually write novels. It’s much easier for me to write poetry or short stories, as I’m too flighty for such a big commitment as a novel.

I began my first novel in 2007. I had just discovered NaNoWriMo and I was excited. I rode that high the entire month of November and I “won” that year, but only just (my final word count came in at 50,134 words). I’ve failed every year since (if I even attempt it at all).

Still, I hold out hope that someday, I’ll finish a novel (and hopefully publish it). A little over a month ago, I got a new idea for a story I’m rather excited about. So far, I’ve written about 3,000 words of it and haven’t lost interest. Perhaps this will be the one?

Continue reading for a short preview of the first chapter of The Forest, a story about a young girl whose family gets trapped inside of a story.

Gwen enjoyed a good blizzard. They were a part of her, after all, she had been born during one. She had weathered so many, storms of her own making and ones of the earth, that no matter how much snow fell or how hard the wind blew, she never grew frightened.

As she stood at the edge of the void, all she could feel was fear. Staring into it, she couldn’t help but feel something was staring back.

It was unlike anything she had ever experienced. Even the worst blizzards could not have prepared her for the absence of everything, the startling white of the nothingness before her. Even when the snows fell two or three feet deep, there was always color left in the world. Like a painter who had come through with his brush to touch up any faded spots in a piece of artwork, the world was more colorful after a blizzard. The rough browns of the tree trunks were darker. Evergreen boughs took on a heartier hue. Glossy, red winterberries, which always lit a fire in Gwen’s heart on cold nights, were brighter when contrasted against the blank canvas.

Behind her, the forest existed as it always had. The trees shook in the wind, animals rustled in the bracken, and the river burbled its merry song. In front of her was…nothing. Not even a stray bird in the sky or a tendril of smoke from someone’s fire. She could feel the implications of it pushing at the boundaries of her mind, looking for any chink in her psyche to pour madness into.

Oh, is This Your First Time?

Among all the changes to my life I’ve made since I turned thirty, I also decided I was going to begin submitting my writing. If I want to be published someday, I have to start putting myself out there. Opportunities aren’t just going to fall into my lap, after all!

Though, wouldn’t it be nice if they did?

During my research, I stumbled across a great online literary magazine called Mother’s Always Write, and I thought, why not? I’m a mother, and I write. Sometimes I even write about being a mother. Perfect fit, right?

I am proud to announce that my poem, “The Robin,” will be published in the late summer issue on Monday, August 24th. Please look forward to it!

Here is a short preview:

The Robin

The robin bop,
bop, bops along
the stone path,
her beak digging
into the cracks
she passes,
looking for supper—

On Turning Thirty

Whatever your personal feelings are on the matter, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a strange year. In just seven months, we’ve dealt with, among other things, wildfires, murder hornets, and a global pandemic. It’s been a lot already, and the universe doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.

Another thing that happened in 2020 that’s personal to me: I turned thirty! Don’t ask me how I feel about it, because I don’t know. It’s odd to have a different digit beginning my age, but I don’t feel any different.

Except, I do.

The me I want to be and the me I am are not the same person. I got sick of it. I don’t want to reach the end of my life a bitter, depressed woman with a lifetime of regrets. So, I’ve changed a lot in my life. I’m going back to school. I’m pursuing a new career. I’ve started a novel, which I’m very excited about. I’m trying to change my eating habits, and I’ve started an exercise regimen.

I’ve made a lot of decisions that will, hopefully, lead to a happier, healthier me. I deserve it, my husband deserves it, and my children deserve it.

So many times you hear that your twenties are meant to be the prime of your life. A lot of good things happened in my twenties, but the decade was also fraught with uncertainty. I waffled between what I wanted and what I thought was feasible, and, unfortunately, I chose to settle. Subsequently, I hit a bad depressive episode and flunked out of college.

Now, I’m older and, I think, a little wiser. At least, I’m less willing to settle.

All-in-all, thirty is feeling pretty good!

Writing & Editing Tips #1

Let’s talk about brain fog. It’s the pits, right?

Every writer has experienced it at some point. During the writing process, it may manifest as an absence of thought—the fog obscures the next word, the next thought, the next scene. Helplessness sets in and frustration mounts.

If this happens, I suggest walking away for a little while. Stretch, get something to drink, take a shower—some of my best writing breakthroughs have occurred in the shower. Do whatever is needed to clear the mind, to blow the fog away, and return to work feeling settled and, hopefully, motivated.

During the editing phase, brain fog can look a little different. Instead of an absence of words, suddenly there’s too many! Eyes cross and brains melt. Things start to blur together. Separate words lose all meaning, sentences become paragraphs, and paragraphs become even longer paragraphs.

In some ways, I find editing and proofreading to be more frustrating than writing. The words are all there, yes, but making them behave can be tricky. Typos and grammatical errors are especially difficult because they’re so easily missed.

Our eyes become adjusted to seeing the same thing over and over. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I’ve read the same paragraph numerous times and missed a misused homonym or misspelled word because my brain didn’t register it. It’s like they simply faded into the background and ceased to exist.

To counter this, I now change the font type and size whenever I’m ready to proofread something. Doing so has made it easier to catch those pesky typos and punctuation errors. How could it not, when they were staring back at me in font size 18?

Suggested font type? Comic Sans. Annoyance is a great motivator to get work done faster.

Let’s Talk Experience

I haven’t been playing the freelancer game for long, and I certainly haven’t learned all the rules. I have learned, however, that experience, as experience always does, plays a large role.

You know, the whole “you need experience to work at this job but you can’t gain experience without a job” shtick.

Hence why I decided to go back to school. I’ve always wanted an English degree, but if it didn’t seem like a necessity, I wouldn’t bother. I’m already in debt from my BS in Psychology; I’m not looking forward to being even more in debt.

We do what we must, though.

Before I was laid off, I worked as a Behavior Therapist at the Minnesota Autism Center. My schooling was invaluable in that it helped me understand the technicalities of Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it was my personal experience growing up with a sister with ASD that helped me understand how each child’s experience with ASD is different, and how important it was to adapt my approach to their individual needs. It’s that knowledge that ultimately made me a good therapist.

I’m not disputing that professional experience is important. I am, however, disputing the disregard of personal experience, which I believe is just as important. I would even argue that sometimes, personal experience is the most important.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been writing prose and poetry for 20 years, and I’ve been editing it for nearly as long. I edit all my own writing, and I offer proofreading and editing services to my writer friends who ask for help. Please visit my Portfolio and Testimonials pages for more information.

Writing is hard, but I can at least make the editing process easier for you, and I’ll do it quickly, thoroughly, and while having the time of my life. The degree and professional experience will come in time, but in the interim—take a chance on me. You won’t regret it.

On the Job Hunt

I admit, now that I’m tasked with finding my first job, the initial excitement of my decision to pursue freelance editing has waned a bit.

No one likes job hunting, least of all me. There’s always a lot of anxiety involved–it’s the nature of the beast. Are there many jobs available? How many am I qualified for? Will anyone be willing to take a chance on me?

For someone like me, a long-time sufferer of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the innate uncertainty of job hunting compounds issues I’ve been trying to overcome for years; it’s hard to remain confident when my brain is working so hard to undermine me.

I am, however, confident in my proofreading and editing abilities. I know I’m capable of helping writers reach their full potential. I wouldn’t have begun this journey if I didn’t think I could see it through to the end.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to completely silence the little voice inside my head telling me I can’t, but I won’t let it dissuade me.

Now that I’ve come to the vast ocean of the writing and editing business, it’s time to cast my fishing lines. With enough skill, determination, and maybe a little luck, hopefully I’ll reel myself in a big fish.

Or even a small fish. I’d be happy with that.

A New Business Venture

Hello! I’m Cassandra Henken, a newly-minted freelance editor (for hire)!

Like many, my life has been turned upside-down by the global pandemic. Three months ago, I lost my job. At first, I was upset–who wouldn’t be? I’m a mother of three, and I’m a homeowner. A loss of income could mean the loss of our home and, subsequently, an extended stay with my parents.

Thankfully, none of that happened.

After the initial shock passed, I began to look at it this way: I had been planning to quit, anyway, but there was always something keeping me there. Being laid-off meant I could no longer make excuses. I had two choices: wait for my position to become available again (on the off chance it ever did), or find a new career.

2020 has been a year of many changes–what’s one more, right? I’m confident this change will lead to only good things, though, and I’ll finally be able to wash away some regrets I’ve held on to for nearly a decade.

Eight years ago, as a young mother, I made a quick decision to settle for a degree I knew would help me find work, but it wasn’t the degree I had dreamed about since I was a young girl just learning how to read. Now, I’m older, wiser, less willing to settle, and in truth, a tad desperate–I’m going back to school for my English degree, and I couldn’t be more excited!

I’m new to the business of freelance editing, but I’m not new to writing, or even to editing. I’ve been writing fiction and poetry since I was 10 years old, and I’ve been editing fiction for nearly as long. It’s something I love doing. Helping a fellow writer reach the full potential of their ability is a rewarding experience, and I cannot wait to share in this journey with fellow writers.

For more information, please visit my About page.