Today I received an email from a writer whose novel will soon be published by the Pronghorn Press, which last year published my Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood.
Dawn Wink shares her journey to publication with an openness that is entirely beautiful – beautiful because in her tremendous accomplishment she exposes the hard and messy process of writing and her own jagged edges that, in effect, forced her to turn to her craft.
She is human. She wrestles and tugs to create beautiful art in the midst of an upended life. And when she succeeds at it, she wants her whole world to know.
How can that not be inspiring?
“Meadowlark was the book that should never have been written,” she writes. “Too much happened in my life as I wrote. Too much upheaval, too much transition, too much pain. And yet, I couldn’t stop writing. Like Gretel following the bread crumbs, I stumbled through the forest of my life, focusing on that next bread crumb …”
In Dawn’s journey I am reminded of three things:
1) Writing is and can be such an act of discovery.
2) A life story can hold tremendous, mind-boggling power. If you have a strong story to tell – be it yours or someone else’s – the words must find their way out. Even when you don’t think you can go on, even when the noise of life is so loud you can hardly think straight, the story wriggles itself free. And, as Wink learned, the power of story can be a writer’s biggest ally during times of personal hardship. “I believed in Grace and her story,” she writes, “when I had lost all faith in my own.”
3) Times change, and circumstances change. We are tested by many hardships in this thing called life, moments of intense heat in which we, like hot iron, are bended and shaped. We won’t be in the furnace forever. But those trying times are the nuggets that test our true character. Writers count these times as gold for their craft – moments and emotions that provide foundations for creating riveting stories.
Now, as Wink finds herself “in a place of family, stability and home … a place where I can at last settle in deeply to love, live and write,” she is able to reflect back with a sense of celebration.
During a recent upheaval of my own – a new book out right alongside my second child being born – I clung to my mom’s persistent wisdom. How do you eat an elephant? she’d say. One bite at a time.
As writers, we have to keep on keeping on. There will always be too much. Too much going on. Too much to worry about. Too many balls in the air. But we have to put our heads down and charge ahead in the business of artmaking, one bite (or one sentence) at a time.
At its base, Dawn Wink’s journey is a story of beautiful persistence. If you’re a true writer, you can’t ever give up. You have to want your words to succeed so bad you can’t take your eyes off the prize. You have to obsess over it and sweat over it and cry and pound your fists. And when you break through into the light of a hard-won success, you have to wholly and entirely celebrate it.
Well done, Dawn. And best of luck as Meadowlark soon finds its way into the hands of readers.