Thursday, August 26, 2010

Being a Writer by Curtiss Ann Matlock

Welcome to Seekerville, Curtiss Ann!
Thank you, Cara Lynn, for inviting me to blog on Seekerville. You’ve given me a chance to dig down and find out more about myself as a writer. I read a great quote today by historian David McCullough: “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."
My mind opened up. So that’s why writing is such a difficult endeavor for me! But the growth is in the trying.
Nearly two years ago, when I finished the writing of the final book of my Valentine series, LITTLE TOWN, GREAT BIG LIFE, I said, “That’s it. I’m worn out. I’m done with writing for a while.”
To myself, I said, “Forever.” I had written book after book for twenty-five years. Burn out, is the term, and I also believed God had other avenues for me. This has proven true in wider ways than I could have imagined. In the past two years my husband and I threw ourselves into a dramatic lifestyle change, when we moved our solitary, two-person household from Oklahoma, where we had lived for thirty years, to Alabama, where we have family coming and going, are renovating a house, gardening, and actively grand-parenting.
It was during the upheaval of all these changes that I made a surprising personal discovery: I am a writer. It is part and parcel of who I am, who God made me to be.
This may sound a curious statement on my part, considering all the writing I did for all those years. But then I did not feel like a writer. That is because feeling so never makes anyone anything, but, in my case, it was mostly because I was too busy aiming at polishing craft and more publication and spots on the bestseller lists. Always striving, I was distracted by the ego and all of its misconceptions, fears, pretenses, and self-doubt, not to mention making a living.
I don’t mean that I was not being a writer during all that time. Every day when writing, I would eventually, and without fail, drop down the creative well and be thoroughly absorbed by my writer self. But I was not consciously aware that this trait was the trait of a writer.
I did not understand that writing is one thing, being a writer is something else.
Every human has something important to say and the inborn impulse to express it in words and pictures. Look at cave walls, Twitter and Facebook for confirmation of this. All of us are given to writing, if not skills.
Being a writer, though, is a way of processing life through writing. Being a writer is a personality trait, a way of operating in the world, and, I think, a way of seeing the world. When one is a writer, one sees details. And one is writing all the time, not only at the keyboard or with pen and paper. One of my favorite places to write is on the tablet of my mind during driving trips. I look at the land, and houses, read signs, and have all manner of musings and enlightenments.
In the midst of the past year’s upheaval and change, when I was not pressing myself to write, I discovered that I kept on writing. I journalled, began a new novel, wrote to friends and enjoyed blogging, putting into words my experiences of change, within and without, about the move, grand-parenting, the new house-- about life, which is what I have written about in novels all these years.
So it was that during this time I awakened to the fact that I am a writer to the bone. As has been said--this is my gift from God, and what I do with this gift is mine back to Him. I’d like to share with you five things I endeavor to practice each day, as a way of making the most of what I’m given:
  • Commit to a seriousness of purpose.

  • Commitment to the long haul. I’m in this for life.

  • Study craft and creativity daily.

  • Learn to listen to the still small voice, the Writer within

  • Trust the process.

Curtiss Ann's Bio
Curtiss Ann Matlock is a writer and tea-drinking girl raised in the South. She is the author of thirty-eight novels, including the tender and funny Valentine series. The two most recent of these are LITTLE TOWN, GREAT BIG LIFE, and CHIN UP, HONEY. Her books have earned rave reviews, spots on the USA TODAY bestseller list and numerous awards, three RITA Finalists among them. Born in North Carolina, she lived thirty years in Oklahoma and now resides with her family near Mobile, Alabama. You can find out more about her at

Today Curtiss Ann is giving away one copy of LITTLE TOWN, GREAT BIG LIFE to one Seekerville commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!


Helen Gray said...

I love the way this was stated.

Thank you, Curtiss Ann, for shaing.


Coffee's on!

BK said...

My first thought when I read this line:

"To write well is to think clearly."

...was "I'm toast. I have to have clarity of thought? Oops."

Thank goodness it concludes with the "that's why it is difficult" part. *-) There may be hope for mre yet! 8-)

Amber S. said...

Thank you, Curtiss Ann, for sharing your thoughts! :) This was a wonderful post, and it makes a lot of sense. I hope that if I'm truly a writer, and if I ever get published, that I'll remember that it's all about God, not my own glory. My blog is titled "Seasons of Humility," and I have a lot to learn through those seasons! ;)

Thanks, again!



Lindi Peterson said...

Curtiss Ann, I love the way you said

'Commit to a seriousness of purpose.'

I really needed to read this post today. What a writing journey you've had---and will continue to have. Thanks for sharing.

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Curtiss Ann! I LOVE your books. There is such a "realness" to them. So down to earth. Thank you for sharing a "behind the scenes" piece of your writing journey with us today!

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

I was flabbergast when Cara said she knew THE Curtiss Ann Matlock.
The legend!!!

Welcome to Seekerville.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us and may you write many, many more wonderful books.

Cara Lynn James said...

Curtiss Ann, thanks for joining us today! I love all your wisdom about writing. I have great admiration for your perseverance over the years. It's so hard to write continually and meet deadlines etc. but you've certainly mastered how to do it!

Rose said...

Curtiss Ann,

First, thank you for all those wonderful books!

Second, thank you for sharing some on your insights about writing for us.


RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

kathy taylor said...

Thank you for your encouraging message, Curtiss Ann. I love the title and cover of your book. I'm in a small town, actually I call it Hazaard County. I'm praying that life for me can still happen here after so many years of isolation. God bless you.

Sandy Elzie said...

Curtiss Ann,
I loved the quote. I enjoyed your post reminded me that whatever life throws my way, God gave me a writing talent and that makes me a writer! Therefore, I must write.

Thanks and have a great day.

Sandy Elzie

Beverly L Schwind said...

Thanks for the quote, I want to be a ready writer. My entire life, and I am past 70, I have written when inspired, but now I do it daily and have a newspaper column. You made me think about some places I have been that tell a story. Thanks

Cindy Martin said...

Wow! I needed this today. I am so new to this whole process and have really struggled this week with whether or not I am spinning my wheels and should just give up or press on.

Your post spoke to me on a very real level. Thank you.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Curtiss Ann, Welcome to Seekerville and especially we welcome that lovely post. What words of wisdom.

And so true. Sometimes we can't help what we are and what we do. And you do it so well. I'm delighted you are still writing.

Love the cover on Little Town, Great Big LIfe. I'm sure the book is as delightful as all of your others.

Helen brought coffee, so I'm bringing some Southern biscuits and gravy, tater tots, and a platter of fruit. I know several Southern girls who die for those tater tots (Waving at Lindi and Missy)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Curtiss Ann! I'm thrilled to see you here! Several years ago I had the pleasure of hosting you in my home the evening before the workshop you presented to our RWA chapter. You're not only a wonderful writer, you're a lovely person. Your post resonated with me. What a joy to remember to focus on the gift God gave us instead of the ups and downs of publication.

I brought coffee, teas and taco omelets with sour cream and salsa. A great way to start our morning with a kick.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Lindi's here??? Good! I can boss her around!


Curtiss Ann (such a great Cabbage Patch style name, btw, I LOVE it. Wonderful. I need to be Southern, I can tell that already...) this is wonderful stuff and the commitment I hear in your voice is so good to hear.

Writers don't generally have a choice.

Except for "When"...

Thanks so much for being here. I'm armed and loaded with chocolate chip cookies studded with peanut butter chips AND M&M's....

These are really good cookies. Help yourselves.

And fresh, cold milk. Mmmmm.....

And tea. Helen's coffee. Caramel Macchiato creamer. Oh, yum.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks for a helpful post. I'm trying to remind myself about that. I'm a writer whether I get published or not. I still have opportunities everyday to use my writing for the glory of God.


mary bailey said...

Thanks for sharing from your experiences. It reinforces to me that I'm still a writer, even if I never get published. It's the way I think, behave, observe and dream in all aspects of my life.

Would love a chance to win your book!


Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks for a helpful post. I'm trying to remind myself about that. I'm a writer whether I get published or not. I still have opportunities everyday to use my writing for the glory of God.


Melanie Dickerson said...

Great post, Curtiss Ann. I've been fretting over the fact that for the past year and a half, I've been so busy with editing and blogging and emailing and marketing that I haven't been able to write a BOOK! I started a sequel to the book I'd just written, but I didn't like it and stopped. Then I started another book, a third in a series, but I had to stop to do more editing and marketing. And I just haven't felt INSPIRED! I'm not getting the kind of exciting ideas I want to have. But how do you force ideas? I don't think forcing them makes them come at all. But I've written four books and one is getting published, so I know I'm a writer. I was a writer when I wasn't sure I'd ever get published. So I'm hoping the ideas will start flowing again at some point!

Oh, and I loved your five things you practice. Would love for you to expound on those some more! And I live in Alabama too. I grew up in "Lower Alabama" but live in north Alabama now. And now I need to read your books! Which one should I start with?

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Thanks so much Curtiss Ann for your insights. I have a writer friend who swears that writing on Facebook is really talking but I disagree. When you are a writer, regardless of what outlet you use, you are still a writer.

Thanks too for reminding us that there are times when our gift needs to lay fallow for a while to be rejuvenated.

Peace, Julie

curtissannmatlock said...

Oh, my goodness, I am grateful and delighted with the warm welcome here. Thank you all. And I'm such a talker, I have these conversations going in my head with all of you. What a blessing to me this day, your friendliness.

As for clarity of thought--that is my largest struggle. Maybe that is the entire reason God has made me a writer. To help me find clarity.

As for meeting deadlines and daily schedules. No. I'm a seeker there.


Kathy said...

I have been reading your books for years. I am thrilled to find you here at Seekerville today. Thanks for sharing!

Kathy5476 at yahoo dot com

Pam Hillman said...

Great post, Curtiss Ann!

Seems like God's trying to tell somebody something with yesterday's and today's post.

They're like bookends.

Same, but different!

Regina Merrick said...

God is good. Everyone will take something different from your blog today, and what I honed in on was that you're a writer even when you don't FEEL like a writer. Kinda like loving your husband when you don't really LIKE him all that much? ;) It literally made my shoulders (which were bunched up in anticipation of a killer day of NO writing but a LOT of everything else)go down a notch and try to be still and listen to that Writer within.

Thank you so much, Curtiss Ann!


Myra Johnson said...

Curtiss Ann, so glad to have you in Seekerville today!

Your statement, "I am a writer to the bone," really resonated with me. A few years ago, when I was in the pit of discouragement about my writing and asking God whether He wanted me to give up the dream of publication, I had an amazingly vivid dream that I'm sure was God's answer. The gist of it was that if I were to give up writing, I'd be like a body without a skeleton. Writing is THAT much a part of who I am.

We don't always know where or how God wants to use the writing gift He's given us, but if we walk away from it because of discouragement or doubt, how will we ever know what we COULD have accomplished?

connie said...

Great post.

Most of the time I assume writing is so much easier for "real" writers. The words must flow easily, without effort. Everything in your life must be grand.
I know better but it helps to be reminded.

I love the title, Chin Up, Honey.


bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

Kelly Freestone said...

Mmm Great coffee, Helen!
Oh, Ruthy...did you HAVE to bring out the cookies?! lol
I suppose it's okay, these are the ones w/o the calories or points or fats!

Curtiss Ann, Thanks so much for the post.

It's so hard to push past that blockage of fear and just write.

And I love how you put the ..."Writer within."
I beg God for His presence in my writing, w/o Him, I know there's no talent.

this is HIS story, and He's chosen me to write it...okay...That's awesome. God is so Good!

I also see where the clear-headedness could pose a problem for me...

I've committed to do this for the rest of my life.

I have to.

I feel so lost w/o a regular writing time whether it's journaling, putting ideas to paper, or a planned, strategic writing hour...
but I FEEL it when I don't write.

I let out my frustrations, my ideas, my worries, my hopes, my everything down, mostly in prayer form while journaling, and it's not just expressing myself's communication with God.

Journaling, or character journaling, or just plain venting is where I work things out, get things understood and plain, and where I organize things in my head...w/o writing...

I'm a Witch! lol

Sooooo needless to say, my husband likes it too :D

thanks again,
have a good day, gals!

Vince said...

Hi Curtiss Ann

You are the only author I’ve ever met at a book signing whose outfit I could accurately describe many years later. You had on a western Santa Fe style outfit I thought was perfect for the author of “The Forever Rose”. I knew you were the author as soon as I walked into Steve’s in Tulsa. I was delighted to meet you. I've always considered you and Louis L’Amour as authors having the ideal image to reflect their work. I’ve often wondered if that Santa Fe style was a passing stage to mirror what you were writing at the time or if you still wore similar outfits?

I have three keepers here on my book shelf “Lost Highways”, “Love finds Yancey Cordell” and an autographed copy of “The Forever Rose” but I have not seen any of your new books. I’ll have to correct that situation now – even though you have abandoned us here in Oklahoma. :(

Do you get questions like this all the time? :)


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Curtiss, nearly every line of your blog post made me take serious pause and think and absorb and nod. Excellent outlook. Thank you for gracing Seekerville with your wisdom and presence today.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Amber, your blog sounds interesting. Post the URL for us so we can check it out.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

LOL BK! I might be toast too on that count.


Casey said...

Thanks for the great post!

curtissannmatlock said...

When I published my first book, a Silhouette Special Edition, a woman said to me: "When are you going to publish a 'real book'? That falls in line with the 'real writer' thinking so many of us have gathered from the world. Daily effort to shrug it off.

Today my writer is frustrated, too. So very little time with focused writing. I grow to see that is required for me. We each have our requirements.

Vince-- you have a remarkable memory. Thank you for bringing back a pleasant one for me. And yes, back then the dress and boots were very much exactly who I was. I carry that young Western woman with me, too, as I travel on to Alabama. I still have, and wear in winter, my boots! And next door to where I live is a large pasture of horses.

Lorna said...

Curtiss, what incredibly wise and thought-provoking words. You gave me a lot to think about. Thank you.

PatriciaW said...

Thank you, Curtiss Ann. Writing does help me think clearly. I guess that's why muddy plots and characters frustrate me. I've got to work them through to clarity before I can proceed.

I've not read your books but I enjoy Southern fiction.

Missy Tippens said...

Curtiss Ann, thanks so much for being with us today! I was so excited to see you were going to be a guest. I recently read Lost Highways and absolutely loved it. I'm still studying how you do your characterization!!

Amber S. said...


Thank you! :) My blog URL is:

I named the blog after a poem I wrote, which you can find in the sidebar of my blog. :) I'd love to have you check it out! Plus, this week is our "End of Summer Bash," so I've had several fabulous author interviews this week!


Frances Housden said...

Great blog - Curtis Ann

So pleased to hear the urge to write hasn't left you. As a writer myself I know I spend a lot more time working on my book in my head than I do putting it on the page, and it's hard for other people to understand, 'Yes, I am writing.'
I so loved your last series and once you're settled in Alabama I'm sure something in the air will start those wheels in your head rolling.

Beth said...

Thank you for the enlightenment. To be a good writer I must be a clear thinker. Also, I must keep my mind centered on God not myself and my ambitions. I need to be reminded.

Wendy said...

Thanks for this review. The book looks good.

Patsy said...

Sounds like a great book! Thanks for giving away a copy.