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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Rebecca Conrad Lawton

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing has kept me alive in more than one trying situation—as a lifeline through confusion and chaos, a way to understand the world’s biggest questions, a tool to make meaning of loss and adventure and complication and joy. Storytelling, too, along with art and song, will get information across or inspire action where other types of communication haven’t a clue how to make their point. Not only that, language generates the world we live in, so choosing our words carefully and writing the landscape through the height of conflict or at its most vibrant is a huge honor. Writing has made me best friends, livelihoods, and deep correspondences I’d never have otherwise. Giving a ton to my own writing and that of others creates a world I want to live in and makes sense to me.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Sit down with a pen and blank sheet of paper whether you feel like it or not. Get the hand moving, and you’ll be feeling like it soon enough. I’m also a big fan of “modeling” if nothing else will come: take a beautiful, effective, or just intriguing piece of writing and substitute your own verbs, nouns, and qualifiers in a Mad Libs sort of way. You’ll be so excited by what results, you’ll soon be off in a new direction. The cure is in the doing.

What is your favorite time to write? Morning. My brain has always been freshest before noon. Then it’s great to take a break with movement—I’m lucky enough to live within a ten-minute bike ride to a mineral-water pool for immersion and lap swimming. Sometimes, with my core temperature cooled down on a hot summer day, I’ll get back to my writing desk. I also love to take morning walks with a field notebook in hand and just jot ideas while I stroll, look, stroll, listen, stroll, inhale, stroll, feel the air. It’s a great way to walk a forest, desert, or river path.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Do it for the love of it. At one of the first writer’s conference I attended when I decided to commit to creative writing, Amy Tan shared her string of successes around The Joy Luck Club. She wowed the audience when she said that of all the wonderful experiences she’d had related to the novel, writing it had far and away been the most rewarding. I remember the audience gasping, not in horror, but in appreciation and surprise. Maybe others, like my younger self, thought that endorsing the checks or living the prosperous life that ensued would be even more satisfying—but it was the creative act, the bringing her vision into the world, that had brought the most joy (and, now that I think of it, luck). Now, after my decades of my own journey with writing, publishing, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, I still love and relish the act of writing itself, and in the end that’s what I’m here to continue.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? That I still have something unique and compelling to say. That every writer does, if she’s brave enough to dig for it. And that, of all the brains in all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, new ideas still come into mine.

Rebecca Lawton’s Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems is out now with Finishing Line Press.