August 07, 2011

Being a Member of the Writer Family – Ramona Heikel

I grew up noticing that my personality seemed a little “off” from others, and I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in to the world. No one else seemed to think the way I did, or have the same perspective that I had. It was like being brown-eyed and brown-haired but everyone else in your family was blonde and blue-eyed. Where did I belong?

I always loved to write and one day I went to the library and checked out some books on writing. Then the most remarkable thing happened: I found distant relations that looked like me! Kathryn Lindskoog, in her 1989 book Creative Writing for People who Can’t Not Write, described the typical personality traits of a writer. Wide-eyed, I realized that someone who had never met me was describing me and all my quirks as though they’d lived with me all my life. This feeling of coming home has constantly boosted my enthusiasm for writing, and given me the sense that I was born to write.

Vinita Hampton Wright also wrote a book about writing, entitled The Soul Tells a Story. Since I’d adored her award-winning novel Velma Still Cooks in Leeway, I figured I could find a gold mine of advice that would help me develop fascinating characters and plots. But instead of revealing writing techniques, she revealed herself, and I found a kindred spirit. This helped me to further understand myself: my creativity, moods, habits, choices of jobs, sensitivity, and my reactions to people and to the world in general. I realized that some of the feelings that made me lonely at times could be the very things that could help me create gripping stories like hers that change a reader for life. Her words were so sisterly, comforting and encouraging.

I’ve always felt a strong connection with the authors of the books that transform me, both as a human and as a writer. When I wrote to Francine Rivers about the religious themes in her secular romances, she replied with a warm letter telling me about her life and faith. I also sent a card via snail mail to the U.K. to thank Rosamunde Pilcher for all the joy her warm, wholesome characters gave me. And having Jane Kirkpatrick at an Inscribe conference point out the harpies on my shoulder (whining like Woody Allen) made the distance between the admired and the admirer shrink to the closeness of a mom and daughter.

Not long ago, I discovered Madeleine L’Engle and learned that we shared an enjoyment of science and a similar approach to our faith in Christ. In the June 2002 The Writer magazine, Madeleine L’Engle quotes Jean Rhys as saying, “All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”

I read those words as, “We writers are a family unit. Writing is in our genes and it’s what we’re on this earth to do.” Now where’s my pen and paper? I think I feel a trickle coming on.

Posted by Ramona


  1. Lovely post! How encouraging to the rest of us whose writing at times seems a mere trickle also!

  2. Very interesting thoughts on 'feeding the lake'. That is a new analogy to me.

  3. Me too, Tracy! Makes it seem like we're all on the same team, working toward the same goal. I like that idea.

  4. I like that idea, too, Ramona, of pouring our lives and words into a greater body of words that will feed and sustain others. It's a great image, and a wonderful motivator. And oh how I relate to your feeling of coming home when you realize that you do fit somewhere! That you're not alone in the way you view the world. It's a great feeling to belong!
    Pam M.

  5. Thank you fudge4ever for your comments, and for the image of chocolate fudge! Warmest wishes to you as you add your unique, sustaining words to the lake.

  6. You mention the joy of letting authors know how their words touched you... and, for me, that's one of the great joys I have with blogging. I've connected to a few of my favourite authors this way. For me, it brings the writing closer to home... to the heart.

    Enjoyed the lake picture too! Looks like there's a lovely stream coming from your pen!

  7. Thank you for your comments, Brenda, and for your inspiring writing--you always encourage me!


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