On Being A Writer

Goodreads asks its authors to answer some questions about being a writer. Here are my answers which, though not all that clever or witty, are at least honest. The gist of them is this: the better you know who you are, the better writer you’ll make.

Ask the Author: Ronald C. Wendling

“Ask me a question.” Ronald C. Wendling
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Ronald C. Wendling I am at the beginning of my resolve to read the Complete Works of Henry James, with the possible exception of those I have already read. I am now just about to finish Roderick Hudson.
Ronald C. Wendling What could have happened to me in my early life to make me think that spending nine years in a Jesuit seminary represented the man I really was when it is so obvious fifty years later that marriage, children, family life and a career teaching literature was what I was cut out for. How did it happen that I made, without really knowing it, the right decision.
Ronald C. Wendling Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As their relationship grows they bring out the best in each other.
Ronald C. Wendling I was a teacher for my whole career and wrote mainly for other scholars in my field. As I neared the end of that career and started thinking about the years I had left I felt a need to try to sum things up. My 2015 memoir, Unsuitable Treasure: An Ex-Jesuit Makes Peace with the Past, was an effort in that direction. It kept me centered on what in my past truly belonged to my present self, who I really am, and at what points in my past I got off the track.
Ronald C. Wendling Life is full of distractions, so much so that we sometimes become distracted from the person we actually are. Being a writer keeps me centered. I still have all sorts of distractions, of course. But thinking about what to write and sitting down to write it keeps me centered on what’s important to me and what is not.
Ronald C. Wendling I walk almost every morning, weather permitting. I try to walk mindfully–that is, focusing on the sights and sounds that are there because they will never return in just that form again. So I try to absorb myself in the moment, except that the thoughts that inevitably come while I’m trying to do that are often about what I am writing or planning to write soon. Those thoughts hardly ever come out on the page in the form they took in my mind, but it’s in those thoughts that my writing almost always begins.
Ronald C. Wendling I’m doing a lot of blogging, mostly in the form of book reviews that try to connect the book I’m reviewing with the memoir I published last year: Unsuitable Treasure: An Ex-Jesuit Makes Peace with the Past. I’m essentially waiting to see if I have another book in me and, if so, trying to let the main idea of it come to me easily and naturally–not in some Eureka! moment. I don’t generally have such moments. All I really want is to make my writing–next book or not–do some good in the world.
Ronald C. Wendling Think of yourself as a writer, take pride in that thought, and think it with confidence. Don’t waste time worrying about getting an agent or a publisher–all that may come with time. People admire writers-they would like to be you. So stand comfortably in the spotlight when it hits you.
Ronald C. Wendling I’ve rarely experienced it. For me writing is less a matter of inspiration than almost daily hard work. Sometimes the going gets rough, meaning the time I’m spending writing is not that productive, but something usually comes of it, even if it’s only revising a paragraph or so that I’ve already written.


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