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Me and Cheryl.

Me and Cheryl.

I didn’t ask for the desire to write.  I mean, the necessity to write.  I did not ask for it.  It was a gift from God or the Universe, or whatever you call that Force the pushes up daisies and invents birds of paradise.  Maybe They knew that Life would be tough for the first twenty or so years, and maybe the desire to write was the lifeline They threw me.

Regardless.  This desire is both a blessing and an affliction–a viral affliction that doesn’t go away.  I can’t not do it, so instead I rove around clumsily and blindly, without cane or clue, feeling like every successful writer has more ability or confidence or intelligence or maturity or talent or whatever.  I say “feeling” like every writer has these things because I actually know this is not true.  I’ve been to too many author presentations and events and have listened to all of them say they contend with the same things that bang against the sides of my own head: “I suck at this, I don’t know what I’m doing, what if I write and write and never get a book published, etc.”

But like I said, even if we don’t know what we are doing and suck and never get a book published, the real truth of the matter is we have a viral affliction and there is not a damn thing we can do about it except put one word in front of the other and try to ignore the mean things we say to ourselves.

Last night I had the great pleasure of meeting Cheryl Strayed (author of Torch, Tiny Beautiful Things, and Wild) in the offices of Minnesota Public Radio.  It was an intimate gathering that allowed me to sit next to this woman who is no longer a lower-case “w” writer, but an upper-case “W” Writer.  Meeting her and other authors is like being given a flashlight, for a moment, to see into the darkness of the unknown.  And within the light cast, I get to see for a moment what It is.  And what It is is simply this: me standing on this Earth, holding both my blessings and my struggles, and being as brave as I can possibly be while loving as much as I possibly can.

“The unifying theme is resilience and faith.  The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker.  It is not fragility.  It’s strength.  It’s nerve.  And ‘if your Nerve, deny you–,’ as Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘go above your Nerve.’  Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder.  Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal?  They do not.  They simply dig.” -Cheryl Strayed.


  1. Janna! Man, I gasped when I saw this! I told Angie that i read this incredible book called “wild” and thought of you the.entire.time. As if you wouldn’t have already read it :) I’m beyond thrilled for you that you met your kindred spirit. i’d love to hear the story of that day. cheers!


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