Tag Archive: Writing


I remember it fondly. It was a beautiful day and the other children were outside at recess (which we call ‘play time’ in Scotland), and I was sitting beside my teacher as we formed each letter on the page, transferring the story in my young mind onto the crisp sheet of paper before us. There were finger spaces between the letters, and I’m sure the letter themselves were untidy, not unexpected since I was perhaps five or six at the time. This was my first story.

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I have no idea what the actual tale was, nor how well it was received, but the memory of the teacher’s patience, and my determination to tell my story have lived with me ever since. And I’m still trying to tell the darn story.

When I moved to the USA, I had a nugget of an idea, and perhaps a dozen chapters of an almost-story I’d started after college. Both were sitting unfinished as I’d lost confidence in the project. Adventures about magic, it seems, aren’t ‘Christian’, so I held onto that as the excuse to no longer continue.

It was at a friend’s Christmas party in Malibu that my new friends found out I was a writer. My wonderful hubs blabbed. They knew I was an actor and had done theater my whole life. They knew my beloved had proposed while I was performing in a show in Balloch, Scotland. They knew I’d moved five thousand miles for love. But they had no idea this half-started book and this knot of an idea still lived inside me, till my darling spouse told them all at the party. And therein started the journey through taking this idea and actually turning it into a novel.

Full disclosure: it’s almost finished. There are only a few chapters to go, and I’m very excited to write it. I’m also terrified and intimidated to write it, but it’s too good not to finish. I owe it to myself to at least get to the end of the last chapter. Not to mention, I owe it to my hubs and the many, many wonderful friends who have cheered me on as I have planned, mapped it, written, re-written, and edited all the chapters so far to within an inch of their lives. I’m so in love with my book that I can’t believe it’s actually mine.

The funny thing is, some of the most wonderful changes have come from taking the things I’ve learned in acting. When we break down a character to understand what they’re feeling, why they’re acting this way, what the relationship is with each of the other characters in the scene…. all those things translate to the written word too. When I was working through the core of the storyline, and pushing my character into and out of different scenarios, I tried to stay anchored to her drive. What was her purpose in this moment. What was she feeling over there. Why is this important to her? All the things we do and decide when we take a script and try to tap into the authentic person we’re wanting to represent.

Sometimes it’s easier to create a character on paper because you are in full control of all the scenarios and emotions that you want to showcase in the moment. Sometimes being a character on stage is easier because you have other cast members pushing the narrative with you. For me, both are similar yet different, and both require a great deal of being able to connect and react to emotional, challenging, or extraordinary situations. And, I can tell you, it’s wonderful.

Across the road, lanterns glowed like blurred suns against the inky blackness, their burnt-orange aura easing a finely drawn path through the narrow, cobbled streets.

The Hideaway, Chapter 1

A dear friend of mine asked to read the chapters I had so far, and the feedback came back that I had “major writing chops” but they didn’t know where the story was going. This wasn’t unexpected since I was writing every chapter on a whim, and trying to work out where it was going as I did. That doesn’t work when you’re trying to engage readers. So the re-write began.

At that time, he suggested I also start posting extracts online, to garner interest as well as accountability for finishing the story. The feedback was wonderful and – with a lot more rewriting – I finally reached the point where the finale was right around the corner.

Then I stopped.

In all honesty, it was a massive panic attack that stopped me from writing it. What if it sucked? What if it was disappointing? What if it was a letdown to all those wonderful friends who had invested all that time and effort into reading it?

And on the flip side: what if it was actually any good?

 

I think the latter was the hardest to grapple with. Having grown up the way I did, I struggled with a fear that all good things are temporary and therefore will disappear. So would I lose my book? Would it be swindled away from me, or somehow accidentally deleted from my computer so that it no longer exists? What if they wanted another story? What if this labor of love is all that I have?

Just so you know, anxiety sucks. It’s the hardest thing to battle because it’s all inside your head and your imagination, writing one “if only” on top of another until you are literally too scared to leave your house in case something tragic happens. It’s easier to stay quiet, resign yourself to living in the smallest space possible, hug your dogs, and will the world to leave you alone. Facing the anxiety is like trying to slay a dragon that refuses to die, while it insults you and and tells you all the things about yourself that you’re trying to forget.

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So this is me standing up to the dragon.

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I have four chapters to go till my book is done. I’m posting the new, fresh, beautifully revised chapters on a site called Patreon that any and every budding creator should check out. People can pay to read your work, and having people actually wanting to pay to read your work is surprisingly humbling and exciting. They give feedback if they want to, or they simply ‘like’ your work. It tells the anxiety dragon to be quiet. It tells you that you’re not half bad. And it persuades you to keep going.

Everybody has a story in them. I  truly believe that.

Now, go write it.

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It’s finally stopped raining here in Southern California and today’s blue sky is a welcome sight. This week, as I’ve tried to shake off whatever this under-the-weather thing that has afflicted me and a number of my friends, I’m taking a long look at last year, and breathing in this fresh new one along with all the promises it brings.

Nelson Mandela Courage QuoteI realize that much of last year was spent creating new goals for myself, not least when I picked up archery once again, having enjoyed it back in my high school days. The feel of the bow in my hand and hearing the thuck of my arrow hitting the target was all kinds of wonderful. Of course, a tiny part of my rekindling the archery romance might be my love for Hawkeye and having spent last year binge-reading my way through Marvel’s Hawkeye comics, I still tell myself it was mostly nostalgia. Mostly.

Annie Bergin Archery

And then there’s Hapkido. In 2014 I had extensive knee surgery which led to a year of intensive therapy to get the mobility back. Last year I started taking Hapkido and working with Master Sayed at the American Hapkido Karate Academy to build up its strength, with the added bonus of learning a martial art in the process. In May I achieved my first belt (Orange) and was very excited. After a few knee setbacks which saw me return to class in the fall, I ended the year with my much-anticipated second belt, Yellow.


I finished the year with new headshots by the fantastically talented Mark Atteberry and his eye for detail is incredible, as verified by his amazing Instagram (so it’s not just me being biased). The next few months will include marketing them to casting directors in the hopes of unlocking many new auditions for me.

Quite a few people see 2016 as the year that hated us, bringing with it losses like the wonderful Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan, David Bowie, Victoria Wood, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds to name but a few. Though it’s hard not to attribute human emotions onto the passage of time, 2016 has certainly dealt an unfair share of punches and I, for one, am glad the year is behind us.

One of the most emotional blog contributions I’ve submitted to this blog site was written last summer. In it I spoke of how the events of my past were once the core of my existence and how I let it shape and define every part of my life but that I was now choosing to no longer allow My Story to be my defining. I called the blog, “Live in the lower case“.

The fallout from this blog was unexpected. While the majority of those who read it were deeply moved by my honesty, this reaction wasn’t universal. I learned that while I was choosing to move forward with confidence, there were a few I once wanted to be close to who instead took umbrage at My Story, for they believe such things are meant to be kept in the darkness and not brought into the light. I’m sad to say that their support and understanding was not forthcoming.

I made the difficult decision to draw a line in the sand and walk away from these lifelong connections for the betterment of my soul and my future, and entered into the new year released from the burden of twisting myself into a pretzel of their defining. Though a part of me is pained by the estrangement, there is a sense of liberation within myself that I can now live my life according to my own definitions.

While the earth dries from the storms of the last few weeks, and while we each find our groove as we navigate this new year, I hope each of you pray for the courage to chase new challenges, and the strength to leave behind anything that is detrimental to your story.

Much love and Happy New Year

Annie

xo

In defense of E L James: I’ve read a number of articles about a twitter Q&A with EL James which seemed spiral out of control, largely because of trolls and the anonymity of a forum whereby anything can be said as long as it fits into 140 characters.

Not everybody is a fan of her books, and not everyone appreciates that a best-selling book series can be written in a style which would not place it among literary masterpieces. That’s fine. Everyone is allowed to disagree, and it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree publicly if that is so desired. But attacking the physical qualities of a person just because you disagree with them is bullying. Expecting a work of fiction to parallel reality without any deviation lest it ‘offends’ is unrealistic.

Fiction is fiction because it is made up. It is make-believe. I’m surprised by the lack of acknowledgement there is to this concept. Fiction can be based in reality and can be inspired by reality, but in the end it is a story (or sequence of stories) living inside the author’s head which they choose to share with the world. And in this case there were enough people loving the work that they propelled it onto the best sellers list.

It’s also a film. Yet there are many offended by the subject matter and want an explanation of why someone would write about a subject that hurts another person. But, and this might sting, writers don’t generally write things with a view of taking everyone’s feelings into account.

Just as an example, I am deathly afraid of clowns. I read the Stephen King book It, which is probably where the fear of clowns came from. I watched the film (don’t ask) and now if I see a clown I have a physical fear wash over me that is so intense, it’s what I imagine a heart attack feels like. But is that Stephen King’s fault? Should he be called out for writing things that genuinely cause distress and upset among his readers? No. Because as adults we have a choice about whether we read them or not.

It is our responsibility as free-thinking individuals whether a book about clowns, or serial killers, or BDSM might cause us distress and upset, and with that independence of thought it is our duty to ourselves to choose whether to read them or not, and deal with the consequences thereafter.

I’m deeply sympathetic to those who read the Fifty Shades books and were affected by the type of relationship that was portrayed because it triggered things in them. I have a genuine, heart-felt sadness that there are relationships and events which happen to people whereby they are scarred so deeply the pain can be released from reading or viewing something traumatic.

I’m not here to belittle any of those feelings or emotions. I am, however, here as a writer to say that it is not our responsibility to coddle you in our writing and change the story in our hearts just because someone may be saddened or upset by it. Our job as writers, or actors, is to pull from our own imaginations and experiences to create realities that suck people in and let them feel what we feel.

As Ernest Hemingway said: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.

So let me end with this: I’m sorry that a piece of fiction caused you physical pain. I’m sorry that you saw a BDSM book and decided to read it, and the consequences included revisiting a trauma deeply personal to you. I am not, however, sorry that a writer created a piece of fiction which didn’t conform to your version of reality or that it did not end in a manner which gave you closure. That’s not our job. Our job is just to write the story in our hearts. What you do and what you feel after that is up to you.

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