interview: Addie Zierman
when you picture someone reading writing, how do you see them? what do they think about, wear, and do? or, maybe a better way to say it: who do you write for? and how do you see your writing nourishing others?
I write for the wounded ones and for the wounded places in my own heart.
When I began writing my memoir at Hamline University, I was very angry with Christians, with “the church people,” as I called them then. They had hurt me in deep ways, failed me in my darkest moments, and as I wrote about it, I found that every single person in my classes could relate. Everyone has an old hurt from a person of faith, everyone has a story.
I hope my writing appeals across the board, but the people that are the closest to my heart are those who are hurt and angry and can’t seem to find a way back to God. I hope my words fall like so many breadcrumbs that they can follow home.
how do you use writing as a practice for spiritual exploration, discipline, or growth? can you offer any practical advice or sure-fire practices for folks interested in allowing writing to inform their spiritual discipline?
What started for me as a reluctant attempt at appeasing my agent and growing a “platform” – writing a blog – has turned into one of the most challenging and life-giving practices in my life right now.
The format for the How to Talk Evangelical blog is simple: it’s a glossary of the religious language that has become so commonplace that we don’t even think about it anymore. For each post, I choose a different term and try to turn it a little, see it from another angle, redefine it.
For me, this has been something of an act of faith.
Instead of writing things off, I am forced to interact with them. In trying to re-form the phrases and words that have haunted and hurt me, I am finding beauty and truth and light.
This act of recreating has been powerful to me…much like writing through a painful memory and finding healing in the work.
when you approach your desk, journal, computer—where ever it is you tend to create—what are some of the processes you use? what’s going through your mind? tell us about your habits of writing, no matter how quirky, mundane, strange, or small.
My boys are at tough ages right now—three and one—so my writing life is a little piecemeal. I bring my notebook everywhere and write in the odd in-between moments. I have been known to drop them at the YMCA childcare and write in the lobby (instead of working out). I have written at stoplights, on walks, in the checkout line at Target, while cooking dinner…
And then I get up at four or five in the morning, make a lot of coffee, and try to craft something from all of those fragments. I write in the darkness of the kitchen while the sun comes up over the pond. The evangelical good-girl in me still has some issues with the fact that this is not what “quiet time” or “devotions” ought to look like, but the deepest part of me knows that this is holy ground. The keyboard, the pond, the coffee, the quiet.
when you go to revise work, how do you typically go about it? are there best practices you follow? give some wise instruction for those of us ready to get cracking on revision!
I am lucky enough to belong to a great writing group, and I’d be lost in the revision process without them. There are so many times when I know that something is off or missing but can’t quite put my finger on it…and they are the ones who figure it out.
So that’s my best advice: find a group of people whose writing you admire, who you trust to be honest and kind and wise, and surround yourself with them. let them speak into your work. The best writing is not done in a vacuum but rather in community.
what’s the best advice you can give to a person just beginning to write, struggling to write, or feeling stuck? what’s something you wish someone had told you starting out?
There are more obstacles than you can imagine in publication. Just when you think you’ve finally gotten to the next step of the road, you are pulled back out to sea by some invisible undercurrent. I wish I’d known that it’s just like that, and that it’s okay that it’s like that – it’s not a reflection on me or my talent or my worth.
Keep moving forward. Keep writing and submitting and asking and trying, but don’t forget that the joy of it is in the simple movement of pen over paper. Of finding the exact right word. Of finding yourself carried into the next paragraph by some wild thought. Of getting a new, startling glimpse of the holy. Publication may come, or it may not, but it will never get better than this.
would you like to share a piece of writing you’re working on or have recently finished and comment on how it was written in light of the comments above? if so, please do so below… [note: if you go over your word count here, no worries—I’d like to give the readers a little something that’s a snapshot of what you do…]
Most of my writing these days goes to the blog, So i’m going to include a past post here. One of the strange things I’ve found about writing in such a public space is that the posts that mean the most to me are not the posts that resonate most with my readers, not the ones that get the most comments or the most “likes.” I’m sure there is some sort of metaphor or lesson in that.
The one I’ll share here is not my most popular, but it is one of my own favorites, one that changed me in the writing. Thanks so much for having me here at Antler and for reading.
White as Snow
A metaphor used to describe the state of our soul after being saved by Christ. Our sins are no longer counted against us; we are pure, blameless, white as snow.
Maybe on the plains of North Dakota, the snow falls whole and clean, soft like a storybook, like a blanket, like the Beginning.
Somewhere there may be a place where the wind drives a wall of white forward from nothing to nothing, like Redemption, like a postcard from somewhere you almost recognize.
But here in the suburbs, it’s as if the snowflakes fall already broken.
It has been a warm winter in Minnesota. There is no bite to the air, no moisture, no blizzards. Our “biggest snowstorm to date” was the three or four inches that we got Monday night. Scarce. Barely enough to cover the dead landscape of our winter.
In the night, the plows come slow and quiet, and in their wake the snow is pressed gray against the curbs. It is half-melted already, that thick slush that sticks to your boots and turns to chalk on your fake-wood floors.
And no one ever tells you that it’s going to feel like this sometimes. There are days (more than you’d expect) in which it feels like the Great Love is not quite enough to cover all of your dead places.
There are days when it’s all a little threadbare, and the snow is melting, and your pain is sharp like the brittle grass. From the living room window, it looks like the winter-scorched world is winning.
Here is another thing that is white – sand.
I’d forgotten about this until we were in Florida a couple of weeks ago – forgotten how different ocean sand is from the standard brown variety of our 10,000 Minnesota lakes. It is fine and soft, and it goes forever across the shoreline, disappearing into the waves.
I read somewhere that each grain is different, as intricate and beautiful and distinct as a snowflake, and that we walk, unknowing, upon magnificent beauty. But that doesn’t stop us from chasing the sea gulls, from digging, from holding it in our hands, letting it run through our fingers.
We are alive, and it is vacation, and we play until the baby is beyond tired. When I pick him up, I notice that he is glowing with the stuff, that it gathers even along his thick, beautiful lashes, like drops of water on a rail.
And I think that sometimes it feels like snow, but sometimes, it’s like sand. It is a beautiful seascape, and we play in it. We run, and we don’t even notice the bottoms of our feet getting stronger, getting softer.
We sit and we dig and we laugh and we talk, and all the while, it is covering us. We are shimmering. It is everywhere, lodging itself in our fingernails, between our toes, along our delicate, fluttering lashes.
Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She received her MFA from Hamline University, during which time she filled notebooks with Creative Nonfiction and had two sons. Her work has appeared in Defunct! Magazine, The Literary Bohemian and Relevant Magazine (online), among others, and her first manuscript is currently on submission.
She writes twice a week at the How to Talk Evangelical blog, where she works to redefine faith one cliché at a time.