survival :: place

"so it is better to speak, remembering we were never meant to survive."

Audre Lorde

Last night I had the delight to attend a reading by Cheryl Strayed. I have long been a fan, since reading Torch fresh out of my undergraduate writing program, and read Wild just after publication. I wanted to hear about not just her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, but also her journey as a writer, a crafter.

It began as I expected, with much talk about the book and also about her mother, a central character in Wild. But the moment my interest shifted from delightful listening to rapt attention was when she made one very clear statement:

"I did not write Wild because I took a hike. I wrote Wild because I am a writer."

Cheryl Strayed

THIS. This is the piece I had hoped and dreamed to hear from her, to have a room full of people hear. This is the core of understanding the difference between a book written to be written and a book written to share something personal. Earlier, Strayed commented that "the very simple act of writing a book is an attempt to build a bridge between the writer and the reader."

Building bridges, writing because we are writers, recognizing that all of us "have a life worthy of memoir" (Strayed). These are the reasons that I pursued writing (and editing) as a life, not just a passing habit. These are the reasons I return to this work, day after day, year after year.

There is, though, another reason that I continue to write some 25 years after I penned (well, crayoned) my first story.

I write to survive.

I write because the stories and old tapes of a life lived through hardship will not have the power to control me. I write because the dreams of a girl running wild in the woods of northern Minnesota are valid just as much as a boy swimming in Boston or a man running in Los Angeles or an old, drunk codger smoking cigars in Paris. I write because the words flow through me on platelets of fire and ice, and to keep them in is my own freezing immolation.

One of the lessons Strayed shares, both through Wild and through Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of essays from the Dear Sugar column, is this: you can totally fuck up your life ... and make it better again.

I was never meant to survive. I was never meant to walk the bright green forests of Marrowstone Island, to climb through a foggy morning in Portland, tour the bourbon bars of Louisville. I never intended to leave the small town of my growing, and when I left I made the intention never to return. I never anticipated my words would be published, that I would make or break the first publications of others, that I would build an editing consultancy that puts the deep truth of our experiences first above all.

"The weight of all you are not saying is holding you tethered to an existence far too small for the immensity of you.

Jeanette Bursey LeBlanc

There comes a moment when that weight is either shifted loose or smothers us. It might be from stories untold, truths we have ignored, or simply the small, quiet voice of our own hearts, aching to be freed. The shift might be a hair's breadth or a monument. But it is there, and it will determine the next steps on your journey -- or the ones you avoid, risking the safety of a well-lit path for the wild caverns of your mind.

A huge part of my work in this world is to watch and be ready, when this shift occurs, to witness your journey into the wilds. To bring my listening heart and my passion for depth into your writing and extract from it the deepest truths: the planks and beams that build your bridge to the audience you desire. It isn't glamorous work. It is messy and smelly and sometimes covered in shit, but it is here, and it is good. It is the moment my eyes blaze golden and my heart moves mountains and I feel every cell light up with love that is boundless.

I was never meant to survive. But I did. I am.

And you know what, love?

So are you.


I'm working fervently behind the scenes to line up a brand-new collection of offerings. I'm delighted and enthusiastic and maybe a little manic about it all, and I'm having an impossible time keeping it quiet until launch time. But one of the products I'm excited to revamp is my coaching process, with a special focus on bringing your writing into the world. If you'd like to more about this and all future offerings, feel free to contact me and we will keep in touch!