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Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 26, 2010

WARNING:  This is a no-edit zone…

NOTE:  WHEN WRITING IS TOUGH was first written several years ago, but I’m getting an enormous number of questions (is it an odd moon phase or something?) on this topic, so I thought I’d share this post–and if Norm’s bride is still reading, I hope you’re blessed by memories and peace.*


During the years I’ve worked on the Aids4Writers program, I’ve often received questions or soul-baring notes from writers who are having a tough time writing and want help to overcome it, or who just needed someone who “gets it” to listen to the tough times they’re having writing.

The reasons are as varied as we are individual, and I hope by sharing this post, when you have trouble writing, you’ll find the subject of it the source of inspiration I’ve found.

There are times when every writer, regardless of how much s/he loves writing, considers writing work and the joy of being able to write is buried under the burdens we’re carrying. Pulling teeth would be easier than crafting words and phrases and sentences that relay cohesive thought.

Maybe we’ve overbooked our schedule, or unexpected events have come up that have upset our apple carts. Life always intrudes. You’re sick, the kids or spouse is sick, someone you don’t know is sick, but you must fill in for them. The committee that was supposed to take 15 minutes of your time a week is taking 2 hours every single day. The group you joined to interact with other writers needs volunteers, and if you belong, you must volunteer for something. Your life is in turmoil due to work, family, friends, circumstances out of your control.

Those are but a few of the countless things that happen and impact your writing life. And all you can be sure of is this: Things are going to continue to happen that make it easy not to write.

Sometimes sheer will isn’t enough to work past them. You need more. You need inspiration.

Inspiration can come in any form. For me, one very strong source was in a man by the name of Norm.

Norm joined the Aids4Writers list shortly after I started it, which was years ago. How many exactly, I’ve forgotten now and it isn’t germane, so I’m not going to stop and look it up. What is important is that nearly from the beginning, Norm was a subscriber.

Norm emailed me often privately, asking questions, sharing antidotes, and chatting about his love for writing. Through the years, we shared life’s up and downs and our work. What was going well, what wasn’t. Techniques, methods, ideas–all the things we writers love to explore.

I admired Norm. Writing wasn’t just hard for him, it was a constant struggle, and yet his love for it shone in his every word. His stories were earthy and real. His characters were people flawed to the core and rich in life. Norm was wise and warm and wonderful.

He had been married for most of his life, and still called his beloved wife, Shirley, “My Bride.” He had goats on his farm. And when one was born and its mother died in childbirth, he brought the baby into his home and tucked it under his electric blanket in his bed, to keep it warm. He and his Bride nursed it and the baby goat lived. Norm respected life.

His life hadn’t been easy. He had a 2nd grade education, which made for challenges in his becoming a writer. But he taught himself and he learned from others. He also had a medical challenge that made reading an exercise in patience. It would take Norm about a year to read a book because of this medical challenge–but read he did.

Norm had to work at becoming a writer–harder than most of have to work at it. He wrote beautiful stories. He started a writer’s group, where they helped each other. He offered his wisdom and insight to other writers in a critique group.

He won the Author’s Friend Award, and accepted it with humility and grace. He continued to write through worsening medical conditions. He continued to help other writers through many challenges.

Norm died a week ago Friday. I’m richer for having had the privilege of knowing him. I’m richer for having had the privilege of reading some of his stories. Writers are richer for having had the benefit of his warm wit and gentle wisdom.

Norm’s stories were never published, yet they will be remembered. And when writing times are tough, I’ll do what I’ve done for all the years he has been with me at Aids4Writers:

I’ll remember Norm’s special hardships and his extra burdens and how he persisted in writing in spite of those things with such dignity and grace.

I’ll remember a man, a friend, who struggled longer and harder and received far fewer rewards, but wrote for the love and joy of it–even when it was hard work. It was ALWAYS hard work.

I’ll remember Norm, a treasured source of inspiration, and I’ll write.*





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