How did you become a writer?
I began writing commercials for a radio station, then for the fun of it, I tried poetry. All my poems could be read in 30 seconds - exactly, just like the commercials I wrote. From there I moved into longer and longer pieces, stories and essays, until I came to book-length projects, which seem to suit my pace. I have published three novels with Penguin Group and most recently New World Library published my non-fiction book, WRITING WILD, Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
My mother loved to read. She read Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry to me as a child. And when I began to read on my own, I loved it so much I vowed to be a writer when I grew up, then forgot all about it for many years. Eventually, I remembered how I wanted to give to others what reading good books gave to me, which was sometimes a good story and sometimes words for my inner life. I fell in love with the whole process and all its props: paper, pens, files, dictionaries. I admire Barbara Kingsolver for her characters, the poet William Stafford for his language, Carl Jung for his insights, Lorrie Moore for her quirky thinking, and many novelists for their riveting storylines. I never read in an analytical way or am even particularly conscious of what I want to emulate in my own creative work. It’s more that I absorb the energy of the voice and material of what I’m reading and store this, unsorted, using the information as resource.
When and where do you write?
I schedule nothing until after 3:00 in the afternoon – dental appointments, tea with friends, meetings. I love to wake up and know that the day is mine to work in. After breakfast, I take my coffee into my writing cabin and begin writing in my pajamas. My theory is that nothing really counts when you’re wearing pajamas, so I’m free to just go with whatever occurs to me. Later in the morning, I surface and jump into the shower. With water drumming my body, I seem able to solve some writing problems or see my intention with more clarity, so afterward I get back to work with new enthusiasm. By three in the afternoon, Zoe, my dog nudges my leg, stares me pointedly in the eyes, and I pull myself away from my desk. She and I go walking up Snow King Mountain behind my house or along Flat Creek.
My writing space is an old log cabin that used to be on the Elk Refuge here in Jackson Hole. We moved it to our other small cabin and attached the two. It has windows all around and sometimes moose peek in.
What are you working on now?
I’m in a place of taking in right now, rather than putting out. I started a novel, a young adult novel, and a non-fiction project, before remembering what I wrote about in WRITING WILD: that there needs to be a time for growing our root systems, in other words attending our inner lives. So after a time of intense writing, followed by a lot of public events for my book, I have given in to my desire to read. Of course, I’m jotting things down, sometimes pages and pages, but I don’t have a goal for any of this right now. And I think, at the moment, that’s exactly right for me.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
No, I haven’t. Without sounding too harsh, I don’t really believe in it. I’m easy on myself. I figure if I don’t feel like writing, then I could do something else at my desk: edit, tidy my snack drawer, eat the snacks in my snack drawer, day dream. I think we need to honor our feelings about the creative process. The problem of writer’s block often arises from needing something from the writing. For example, when someone writes with the hope of earning money or attention, then right away the process is burdened with expectation and need. Too, we often write something then begin to tear it apart, denigrating our skills and output to the point that we freeze up. It takes a lot of bad writing to get to the good writing. So we need to be kind to ourselves and patient.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Lower your standards and keep lowering them until the flow begins. Those nasty judges in our heads don’t belong there until the very end when it’s time to edit and rewrite. The whole skill of writing is in the re-writes. That’s the way beautiful, clear language comes about, along with unique insights: re-writing and re-writing. With WRITING WILD, Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature, I re-wrote most sentences dozens of times. Some dozens and dozens. You do not get tired of the repetition if the work keeps getting more polished. And polished sentences are like faceted gems, you don’t get weary of them, no matter how often you look at them.
Tina Welling is the author of WRITING WILD, Forming A Creative Partnership With Nature, and the novels Crybaby Ranch, Fairy Tale Blues, and Cowboys Never Cry. Her essays have been published in Shambhala Sun, The Writer, Body & Soul, and other national magazines, as well as four anthologies. She conducts creative writing and journal keeping workshops around the country and is a long time faculty member of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. Welling resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She can be contacted through her website: WWW.TinaWelling.com.