Feeding the Writer Within

stoking the flames of love

Some loves are normative. I can tell you that I love my husband and daughters and you will understand me. I could say I love Jesus, and most of you will understand what I mean to say, even if you don’t share that love. I could mention that I love the smell of frying onions and the sight of melting cheese, and many of you will sigh and salivate.

I could even say that I love words and writing, and many of you will nod in agreement. But if I say that I love my writing self will you continue to nod? Or is a bit transgressive to turn a love inward?

Yet the best way for me to express my love of words and writing is to honor my writing self. I have to feed Writing Ruth. I have to stoke the flames of her loves.

How about you? Are there loves you struggle to honor? 

This past Saturday something unexpected happen — something I’ll think of as an early valentine I gave to myself. At the last moment I attended the last day of the AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) in Washington, DC. The opportunity was spurred by a long-time writing friend who traveled to the conference. Not only could I listen to writers talk about writing, but I could spend time with my friend, who is a phenomenal poet.

I had to scramble to make it happen. I sacrificed a few hours of sleep. But what I gained was not just a 24-hour series of events and conversations. I gained a space of time that reminded who I am: a writer. In fact, that is who God created me to be.

Perhaps this is why brief love liaisons don’t go out of fashion, even when they’re transgressive. Even a few hours can feed a hunger inside of us, a love that deserves to be stoked, an identity too often hidden.

Andres Dubus III, Angela Flournoy, Aminatta Forna

This is how I fed my writer self at AWP:

  • wandered through an enormous book fair and chatted with other wordy-type people
  • discovered a writing program that tickles my fancy for summer 2018
  • listened to three authors read, then discuss how they work with their characters’ history. “What is our present moment except the consequence of everything that has gone before?”
  • heard a panel of authors discuss the topic Wayfaring Stranger. “Who gets to tell the story of a particular people?”
  • met writers in every stage of their careers, including the novelist Richard Bausch
  • gained insight into my own current writing goals and roadblocks
  • attended a candlelight vigil to support the right of free speech #WritersResist
  • closed the evening with a sort of bedtime story from Colum McCann, a reading from “”Letters to a Young Writer”


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I'm a Presbyterian pastor and the author of two spiritual memoirs. RUINED was recently named a "2017 Book of the Year" by Christianity Today.

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