Cecilia Galante to Writers

Photo Thanks to Markus Spiske

Photo Thanks to Markus Spiske

My writing is a selfish venture, because I do it for myself, to help me find my footing and secure my place in the world. Some people would consider a childhood filled with fear and loneliness to be a detriment, but I have come to value it because it has made me inordinately curious about the world and the people in it. What kind of things do we find ourselves thinking about, and why do we do what we do, and how do we live with the consequences of our actions? The ideas for my books stem from those kinds of questions after meeting certain people, or hearing about their own experiences and then taking them to the next level.

I used to be terrified to get what I was really thinking down on the page, sure that no one else had the same strange, convoluted, sometimes even dark thoughts that I did. But the longer I’m alive, the more I realize that we are all in the same boat, that none of us are all that much different than the next person. Our fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams all come from the same place, a kind of sacred space that each of us, every single day, is trying to fill or strengthen or maybe just comprehend. I write to honor that sacred space, and in the process, to gain a better understanding of who I am today, tomorrow, and the next day too.

Read the full interview at Forbes here.

Do This Sometime This Week

I’ve had wonderful experiences expressing gratitude to the writers I read.  I’m surprised by their reactions to my thanksgiving.  Until I remember that writers and communicators are people too.  Their words come from deep, unseen places.  Their stories and anecdotes, their lessons and characters come out of things we often can’t see on the page.  And what they do matters.  Have you thought about that, how much writing matters?

It’s definitely and a nod to the importance of reading.  But words have to be printed for them to be picked up.  They have to be written to be read.  And I love what writers do.  Aside from my obvious connection as a writer and aspirant of related futures, it’s wonderful to read something life-giving.  Still, that’s not the most sparkling event of my experience.

Communicating, even just a line or two in an email, with a writer is that much more exhilarating.  It brings me back to the humanity of the writer.  It helps me recall that this person–whose words have created a world for me to sit in and walk in and breathe in–goes to the grocery store to pick up yogurt and broccoli and plums.  She goes to restroom and leaves it stinking.  He shaves and has hair to clean out of the sink.  That writer reads emails from people like me.  That writer needs to know that what she did or what he wrote wasn’t published without an impact.

So I want to challenge you to do something in the next week.  If you’ve read an article, a blog post, a book, an essay, or something written that doesn’t fall into those categories, will you write a note to the author and send it?

Thank them.  Tell them what you read and when you read it.  Tell them anything you want.

I was at a conference once, in a breakout session with a novelist I attribute as responsible for my starting to desire to write fiction.  One of the women in the room told her that she saw her at some random place in the neighborhood, which made me feel weird.  The author was gracious.

That said, don’t find them in person.  Just write them and email them.  You’ll likely have to search for them through Google, but the odds are in your favor.  They may or may not reply, but I’m certain they’ll appreciate it.  And who knows, they may just respond right after they get home from the grocery store or, perhaps, after the come from the restroom.

For those of you who have an author you can’t email–perhaps they’re dead or reclusive–post something as a comment.  Name them and their work.  I’d love to know about them.

Wangerin, Writing, and “…the shape of my days.”

I’m celebrating the work of writing and revising and wrestling with words.  This is partly because of National Novel Writing Month and partly because I need to think about writing more than I allow myself.

I came across a delightful conversation between Mark Neal and Walter Wangerin.  Walter Wangerin is a retired writing teacher and pastor and author of more than thirty books, a few of which I’ve read.  His writing is wide, deep, mystical and searching.

In the conversation, Wangerin talks about the five covenants of writing.  He says of beginning a project that he starts “with something that has possibility,” something he can pursue.  He says, I’m sure for those of us learning from his long record as a writer, communicator, and teacher, “In order to see truth or reality as clearly as you possibly can, you have to empty yourself. And that means emptying yourself of any preconceived interpretive factors.”

He discusses his views of technology and how it’s impacted his own way of writing.  Then Wangerin mentions a friend, Eugene Peterson and how he has ended book writing and taken up letter writing.  Wangerin says,

And his mind is my mind. I’m sure there are authors who do consider what they are sending out, even by email, to be of literary value. But I think letter writing has been profoundly undermined by email. Letter writing used to be a genre of its own that was just a delight. You didn’t have to go back and forth and revise it; you could allow your mind to wander and be shaped by the relationship you had with the person you were writing. And I am sorry that that has been diminished. Because email simply gets deleted.

Is that true in your world?  Do you think that your communications have changed, or, more pointedly, that your writing has lost value because of technology?  When talking about how many people can’t live without devices and gadgets to get things like writing done quickly, he says that “writing shouldn’t be easy or fast.”  And he offers advice to writers and the theme, if I can call it that, is nurturing one’s soul.

When answering one of the last questions in the interview, one having to do with a recent book, Letters From the Land of Cancer, Wangerin talks about what motivates him to keep writing.

But it takes somebody who knows how to write it so the commonality can be discovered and experienced. And that always is the sweet slip of the sea along my boat, the pleasure of that. Why would I stop that? I mean that’s why I’m telling you all this. Not just because it’s a thing I can do, but larger than that, it’s my identity. There are a number of things that make up what I would call myself. I would say all of them are relational. And certainly I am defined by my family, my heritage, just as in the Old Testament, nobody was an individual. But I’m also defined by this thing I can do. This is not a profession, this is a characteristic that reveals the soul, the core. I write, I am a writer. In fact, it has become the shape of my days, which is a pleasure.

To read the full conversation with Walter Wangerin, click here.