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6527212 December 29, 2010

Blue Man Rising: Scott Heydt

"My previous employer failed to appreciate and understand my creative personality, interests, and drive."

When I went to bed last night my throat was a bit scratchy.  I woke up this morning feeling terrible.  I'm sick. My head hurts. My ears hurt. My throat hurts. My back aches. I'm congested and tired.  Sitting here writing this, I'm also sick of editors not falling in love with my novels; not having enough hours in the day to do all that I'd like to do; and a mother who somehow manages with almost every word (whether intentional or not) to make me feel guilty for who I am.

I've had it!

On the other hand, tonight I'm going with my family to see The Blue Man Group in Philly. I'm also starting a new job in the pharmaceutical industry on Monday.  I have a great husband and two wonderful kids.  I have a roof over my head, and plenty to eat.  Life is good!  I feel better than I did twenty years ago, ten years ago, and even three years ago.  I'm still evolving into the person I was born to be, and it feels awesome.

My guest today is Scott Heydt, a young man I met a few years ago at a book signing event.  My youngest daughter and I read his book, O.Y.L. together, and we both loved it.  He's an excellent writer who I've seen go through some ups and downs recently. But he keeps moving toward his goals, following his passion.  I so admire that and am honored to have him on Aberration Nation.

In his interview below, he writes about an employer who didn't understand his creative personality. I've been there. In my situation, even with great yearly reviews and successes, I felt that I wasn't quite 100% there.  Something was missing.  As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to take a few years off to focus on my creative endeavors.  During that time, I wrote two additional novels and began painting. 

What I learned, and what I believe Scott has learned, is that life goes on and that in the end, we must be true to ourselves to find our best self.  I'm still finding mine. I'm headed back to the pharmaceutical industry within a week, and I'm optimistic that I'll bring my best self to the new job. Over the last three years, I've gained confidence by pulling together the scattered pieces I longed for--the pieces I thought I had to hide, subdue, and disguise to be successful in the corporate world.  They are all here now, front and center, along with all the more traditional aspects of success I honed over years of hard work.

I'm thinking a lot now about what I want to do next with my writing.  I have three novels circulating with editors.  I'm in transition again with regard to agents.  I'm discovering the world of electronic publishing.  The good news is that over the last three years I've gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my creative abilities, and I will without a doubt carry on the dream that took spark so many years ago.

As a little girl, trying to soothe a screaming mommy, imagining all the dark, scary demons she saw around us, I knew that it was all happening for a reason.  I was born blue, and all that angst and stress deepened the shade. But somehow I knew that the reason for it all would ultimately be something positive.  I'm still reaching for that promise.  The screaming is no longer part of my life.  The demons have fled, but I still remember them.  In the end, if the reason is as simple as the ability to now feel true joy on a day such as this--filled with an aching body, a pounding head, and underlying rejection (of my creative work)--I will gladly take it.  That feeling of happiness alone is all I ever wanted.

Scott says, "Writing makes me hyper-sensitive to my life and my surroundings ..." He wonders if I consider that an aberration.  Yes, I do.  But those of us who find positive ways to channel that sensitivity are lucky. Now I know that being blue is a gift.

Tonight as I watch those larger than life blueberry guys beating drums of vivid, splashing color, I will celebrate my past, present, and future.  Aches, pains, rejection, and all ...

What's your writing story (in a nutshell)?

Six years ago, my extracurricular life consisted of marathon running. When several injuries requiring surgery sidelined my running career, I used my recovery time on the couch to write. This first literary surge since college produced my first novel, O.Y.L. Running still plays an important role in my life, but now shares equal time with my passion for writing.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

My current creative focus involves teenage brain
growth and building relationships. This first nonfiction venture evolved during the final year of my Masters degree work at Duquesne University. I’ve read so many books about the teenage brain geared toward parents and teachers, but few address the brain’s owner—the teen. Gray Matters: Build a Relationship With Your Teenage Brain is a guide for teenagers to harness their powerful, changing brain through practical, relationship-building tips.

Have you had any set backs that you can tell us about, and if so, how did you manage to keep moving forward?

In 2009, an independent press awarded my second novel, Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken, an honorable mention in its first annual contest. Soon after, the same press offered a contract for publication. For nearly a year, I edited, created a book-specific website, and pre-promoted. One month before my publication date, I learned of deceptive and illegal practices within the company. Since then I’ve regained the manuscript rights and will now publish through my original publisher, Helm Publishing. Trust since then hasn’t been easy, but I have renewed hope with every word I write.

You write books for kids. Is that what you've always wanted to do, and if so, why? Will that continue to be your focus moving forward?

I’ll admit, I read young adult and middle grade fiction more than I read adult fiction. This not only keeps me current with my young students (I teach as well), but it keeps me knowledgeable about the genre I enjoy. I doubt I’ll ever stray from writing for kids, although I have a stronger gravitation toward young adult fiction and nonfiction the more I hone my craft.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Writing makes me hyper-sensitive to my life and my surroundings (if you consider hyper-sensitivity an aberration). The highs and lows are more substantial when I consider how I might turn my emotions to words or transfer events in my life to story. I wouldn’t trade this sensitivity, though, because it makes me a passionate and caring individual.

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does writing sooth or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

While I certainly find writing therapeutic, this question is best turned on its head—the difficult and challenging times in my life sooth and inspire my writing.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

My previous employer failed to appreciate and understand my creative personality, interests, and drive. While I loved my co-workers, I knew that to compromise my drive is to compromise my values. With my wife’s support, I chose to leave that position. Since then I have joined ranks with several close friends and colleagues that share my creative personality and drive: the difference is indescribable.

Do you think there is a difference between creativity and talent? What are your thoughts on this?

I believe the two work in tandem, creativity acting as the accelerant for talent. I can write creative sentences day after day, but unless I can work tirelessly to weave those sentences in a unique way, I’ll never develop talent. Sure, some creativity and talent is inborn, but the majority (especially of talent) comes from hard work and dedication.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your writing goals? If so, can you tell us about it? Where do most of your ideas come from? 

I draw my ideas from life. Wherever I go, my writer’s notebook is not far beyond reach. I don’t stalk, but I do people watch. If you’re observant, twenty minutes in a crowded mall or restaurant can transform into 100 manuscript pages.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My mantra is “Live, Learn, Teach.” Education is my life. I must live fully, learn from my relationships and experiences, then pass along that knowledge in service of others.

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