Rise & Shine Interview: Scott Vannatter
Ever wondered how a stroke victim speaks from their heart as part of their recovery? I'm excited that today, Scott Vannatter, is “Speaking From the Heart” and sharing his experiences with all of us. Scott is a fellow blogger and long-time reader of my blog. If you read the “comments” section of my posts, you will most likely see Scott adding his voice to the conversation. Scott continually stands tall & speaks from the heart as he shares regularly how he perseveres despite having a stroke. Thanks, Scott, for your presence in the Arianna’s “Random” Thoughts community!
Scott L Vannatter is the oldest of two children, having one sister. He was born in New Castle, Indiana and lives in Middletown, IN in his grandmother's home with his cat, Tamika. Scott is a published author of 7 short horror stories, 4 of which are currently in print and on sale with Amazon in both anthologies (paperback) and on Kindle. Scott has 2 Master's degrees, worked in computers for nearly 23 years and nearly 6 years as a special education teacher. A massive hemorrhagic stroke in May of 2010 made him stop teaching and start writing. He is, currently, an Independent Marketing Director for Team National. He has been divorced twice and has two wonderful children, one male and one female both 30 years or older. He is happy with life and believes that "all things work together in the end; if it hasn't worked out, it isn't the end." Read his interview below.
Why do you believe self-expression (speaking from the heart) is important?
I believe people are looking for the truth. The truth is what will do us the most good. It is the heart which speaks the truth and shows the way to make a positive difference in what we do. I certainly do not have all the answers, but offering my own truth should be the best I can do. The fact is you only have one voice, and it comes from your heart.
How has writing empowered you in other areas of your life?
Writing has been my method of finding out what’s true as well as giving me an escape from the harsh world when it was needed. I write, mostly, without notes and without an outline. I would use a skeleton outline for a book, but, otherwise, I prefer to simply write, then go back and edit. What I have found is when I do simply write, my inner self shows through. If I am writing non-fiction, then I can see my beliefs and my attitudes showing and can learn from it. If I am writing fiction, then I can lose myself in the writing and the story. Both of these methods enable me to learn in all other areas of my life. I can write to see how I feel about something and I can get away from it long enough to see it in my head. This is especially true with other, more cerebral areas, which is where I spend the most time. As an example, I will often watch a movie when I have a problem to consider. I am not trying to put it off; however, if I have tried thinking it through and am getting nowhere, then I need to do something else. My subconscious keeps working on the problem. A lot of times the “sleep on it” idea really works and I have the answer when I get back up in the morning. It works the same when I am stuck in a story. I stop, do something else, and get back to it – usually with a solution.
How did you find your authentic voice through writing?
I think both questions 1 and 2 lead to the answer being sought here. My authentic voice would be the truth of the matter, the deepest feelings I have about it, the attitudes underlying it all. Writing as I do tends to allow these feelings, this voice, to come out. As long as I am honest in my writings then I should have little problem finding my authentic voice.
How did you develop the courage to stand tall (i.e., get the courage to share your writing)?
I would love to say I slowly developed this ability over time with maturity and with extensive research; however, if I am to remain honest, I would have to say most of it has to do with my stroke on May 7th, 2010. This miracle (in its revelations and the fact I survived) altered my very act of thinking, the manner in which my brain processes or filters whatever I am doing or thinking about doing. After the stroke, when I had so much time on my hands, I was able to say, “Just do it,” and do so without much worry about what others thought. What others have thought about me has always been an overriding influence on my actions. The changes brought about by my stroke set a different pathway for me in how I behaved. All of my filters were reset when the stroke occurred. I found myself able to select which of the filters I would put back in place (for the most part). I still have a fear of heights (though it is somewhat less) and a little of my OCD; however, most of the OCD is gone (the thinking pattern is totally different) and my need to please others is way down on the list. This has allowed me to speak my truth and to let others read it without my worry as to how they will accept or deny that truth. It is now their choice.
When you have a hard time writing, what do you do to work through it?
My biggest problem in writing is my mental and physical endurance limitations from the stroke. I get tired easily and have to stop for a time. The second problem is desire. I have to make a solid, conscious choice to write. At times, since the stroke, I merely forget to write. My short-term memory is a bit faulty at times, especially when a non-dangerous choice needs to be made – such as writing. I do get caught up in things, too. I love to play video games and I frequently do “lose time” playing them. I also will start a project and it will, invariably, take longer than it used to or should, because of my new limitations. The way I work through it becomes layered, depending on what I do. Many times, I will simply keep pushing it through, having to throw away entire sections of what I write in order to make sense and make it good. Other times, I will walk completely away from it, playing a video game, going out to eat, or otherwise engaging myself in something apart from writing. A final option is to write something else or to do something similar to writing (read an article, work on my blog, do a Google search for related matters) in order to move past the block. Many times, it takes more than one of these options for me to get to the point in which I can get back to my writing. Finally, when all else fails, deadlines seem to make me work harder as long as the pressure is not too great.
How did you find your support group?
I have three sets of support groups. First, I have my family. I share a lot with my sister and my children when I need to bounce something personal off of someone. My parents are supportive, especially when it concerns practical matters, matters of house and home, for instance. Second, my friends who live around me are my support for a lot of matters concerning my health and practical matters or opinions other than the ones I talk to family about. My friends can help me when I have questions about relationship issues. My newest support group is my blog/writing related people/friends. This group, of which you are one, Arianna, holds people I consider dear friends with a special relationship coming from never actually meeting. I will write things, ask things, even of a very personal nature, and put it into my blogs and comments knowing some of you will respond very honestly and tell me your opinions. This is the most cerebral group I have in that it is all mental, there is no physicality about it. You all exist “out there”. You, very often, will say something hard because we have not met. I can tell you all things without some of the prejudices which might arise from either knowing me personally or living in the same area. All three of these support groups have their place and I would not give up any of them. I know your question was how I found them; however, I think the names of the groups tell you the how without my needing to further the explanations.
Any advice for new writers/authors?
I will spend a bit of time mentioning the usual: keep writing, don’t get caught up in the mess, and stay true to yourself. Those are nearly the same from everyone. However, what I have, personally, discovered is it is different for each individual. Some people thrive on pressure while others need the environment to be calm and quiet. Many people write veraciously, sending in tons of work, while others try to send in less with more quality. What is important is to find the method which works out well with you. The only way to really do that is to choose one and try it, and then try something else if it does not pan out. I tend to write more spottily. I will work hard for several hours or even days, and then not do any type of story writing for many days. It isn’t so much of a muse for me as it is I simply have to want to do it and feel a certain need to put it on paper. I will say writing a daily blog has really kept me on my toes. It is a situation in which I can, often, write several posts in one day, then take several off to do other things. I go through periods. I know once I wrote a story on the last day of a deadline, wrote it in just an hour or two, checked through it twice, and then sent it out. It was published. Other times, I have poured over a story for days, only to have it rejected. Find your rhythm, be honest with yourself about it, and then use that rhythm to do your best work. I will mention when you send something in to a publisher, please (!) choose them well and follow their publishing guidelines no matter how strange and ridiculous you think they are. I have been told many times a lot of publishers will thin out the herd by asking for several trivial things (specific font or spacing, for instance) and then they will toss out the ones who do not follow those guidelines exactly. Often they use this to avoid having to even read the stories. A final note is to not be afraid to fail. No one has had everything accepted they have submitted. Write a lot, send a lot in, and expect rejections and rejoice when accepted. Do not lose heart. It took me over 30 years to start being accepted as a writer
Thanks for speaking from your heart and empowering others, Scott! Keep up the fantastic work! If you have any specific questions for Scott about his writing process, please feel free to ask.
One question that came to my mind after reflecting on what Scott said was “How do you practice being kind to yourself?" Many people struggle with this, so I’m reaching out to you all and asking for your input. Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!