Living the Astonishing Writer’s Life (A Love Letter)
As you read this, I’ll be finishing up a five-day stay in Louisville, Kentucky, after a conference/celebration at Spalding University, where I got my MFA. The celebration part was to honor Sena Jeter Naslund, the founder and long-time director of the MFA program, who is retiring.
Sena is the author of many wonderful novels, including my favorite, Ahab’s Wife, and is also an amazing teacher and inspiring speaker. One of the things she says is, “writers get everything everyone else does—plus the pleasures of a writing life.”
That quote encompasses everything about the life of a writer and why it is the best life imaginable. We get everything everyone else does—and more. And, conversely, everything in our non-writing world (that part everybody else gets) impacts our writing world. It’s sort of like the double helix of the DNA strand—our writing and civilian lives combine and recombine, constantly fertilizing and enriching the other.
A walk on a beautiful fall day inspires description for a novel. A snippet of overheard dialogue makes its way into a scene. Reading a book deepens your understanding of your main character. And you also get to enjoy those things as aspects of living life. A beautiful fall day, some interesting eavesdropping, the pleasures of sinking into the world of a book.
“You were made and set here to give voice to this, your astonishment,” says Annie Dillard. “Instructions for living a life: pay attention, be astonished, tell about it,” says Mary Oliver. We writers are the lucky ones because we get to not only be astonished, but then tell about it. We get to live twice, as Natalie Goldberg points out.
And that, my friends, is astonishing, no?
I do often wonder how non-writers make it through. I can’t imagine living without a writing practice, be it journaling, writing this newsletter, or crafting novels, in which to process my thoughts and figure things out. How do people live without a container in which to place their astonishment at the world?
Aren’t you glad you’re a writer? Leave a comment and tell me the best part about being one.
0 thoughts on “Living the Astonishing Writer’s Life (A Love Letter)”
Hi, Charlotte. I didn’t know about Sarah’s connection to Spalding but I certainly know about her relationship with Alabama. It’s incredible really that we can be home to people like the current Senate candidate and to such a great writer. I confess to having never read a book of hers ( that will change next week) but I have followed her career and I am aware of her reputation. We should aspire to be half as good.
I’m curious. Do you like your new software, the program to arrange books for the internet? Publishing is so strange now.
I always enjoy your blog. Just one comment–the steps to making a comment are not self evident as they should be. For someone who really wants to, like me, yes, it works fine. For someone unfamiliar with your blog they may give up before posting a response. Alway great to read your blog. You are a professional, someone grinding away in real world. J.D.
Charlotte Rains Dixon
Thanks, J.D., for the info on commenting. I’m a bit flumoxxed by it. Ever since I came over to WordPress, I have to approve comments and sometimes, as you’ve noticed, it takes me awhile. I’m afraid to change this, because A. I don’t know how, and B., I do get some spam that doesn’t show up this way because I can just delete it. I’ll check on the actual process of commenting, too. Sometimes I really miss Typepad.
And do read some of Sena’s books! She’s a bit wordy but pretty great.
Charlotte Rains Dixon
P.S.–I also recommend starting with Ahab’s Wife when you dig into Sena’s work. Wonderful novel.