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Today we offer a guest post from Dan L. Hays, author of Freedom’s Just Another Word:


Writing Through PTSD


When I was six years old I felt very connected with God.  I had a sense of peace about my world, and knew, I just knew, that one day I would become a famous writer.  It was a sense of destiny that was as tangible as anything I’ve experienced since.  I started my first novel at age 13, something about a plot to overthrow the President.  Then the movie Seven Days In May stole my storyline, so I set the novel aside.  Then when I was in the 8th grade, our class compiled a literary magazine.  I published five poems and a short story, and was once again really excited about writing.  Shortly after that, I stopped writing again, and my joy for it was gone.  I didn’t know why.

By the time I was in college, I had trouble writing simple term papers, and finishing my master’s thesis in graduate school was tortuous.

In 1980 I committed to trying to write out my thoughts and feelings.  It didn’t come easy. I would sit at a typewriter, or in front of a legal pad, wanting to write, knowing that I liked to write, loved to write, yet somehow feeling stuck. My attempts were tentative and halfhearted, and I had to force myself to make the effort.  I was stymied. But I kept trying.

By 1996, I had written two books, had publishers interested in both, and had walked away from publication both times, completely baffled by the whole experience.

In 2003, I found the source of the resistance.  I wrote out a dialogue with my inner child and uncovered a crippling message from my grandmother when I was 8 years old, when she said, “If you grow up to be a famous writer, they’ll call you crazy and lock you up.”  I was horrified to find this poison in my soul.  She drove the message home abusively, and the damage ran deep; I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in part because of her actions.  It took a number of years and a lot of recovery work to overcome the damage.

I knew I had made huge progress when I published my first memoir, Freedom’s Just Another Word.  In 2011 I will publish my second memoir And Then I Stop, about the whole process of healing the wounds inflicted by my grandmother, and breaking free of the writer’s block.  Then I’ll go back and publish those two books I walked away from before!


Lost creativity and the effects of family alcoholism are just two of the elements of the story Dan L. Hays explores in his first published book, Freedom’s Just Another Word, which chronicles events around the time of his father’s death. It is the first of a cycle of seven books about healing old wounds with his father. That cycle will culminate with Nothing Left to Lose, written in 1993, about a critical turning point in his father’s life, depicted from a perspective of forgiveness and admiration.

Dan has been pursuing his craft for more than 25 years. His passion has always been writing, but he had a writing block that he could not understand for many years. He wrote two books that publishers were interested in, but he backed away and the books were never published.

Read more of Dan’s work on his blog and at Life as a Human, or follow his various radio features.  You can also catch him on Twitter and Facebook.


And while you’re at it, catch WriteByNight on Facebook and Twitter, too. We appreciate the support.


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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] publishing, Twitter, writing This two-part post comes from our friend Dan L. Hays, previous WBN blog contributor and author of Freedom’s Just Another Word. ANY CHARACTER HERE ANY CHARACTER […]

  2. […] writing, YouTube, writer's block, tips We at WriteByNight have lightly touched on writer’s block in past blog posts, but we’ve been asked before, “Hey, have you guys ever done a video […]

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