7 Secrets from the Weird World of Writers by Leslie Leyland Fields

on Jul 17, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

Today we welcome Breathe, 2017 keynote speaker Leslie Leyland Fields to the blog. We’re eager to meet with Leslie and to hear what she has to share with us at this year’s conference. We’d love for you to join us. Registration is open! 


You already know writers are strange. There’s your great-aunt who wrote a whole series of children’s stories about a one-eyed pirate she named Captain Crunch. Okay so far, but—Captain Crunch was a carrot. (And she put an eyepatch and a boot on the poor vegetable, too, didn’t she?) That’s just the beginning of writerly oddness.

And then–what about Writing conferences? Who are those strange people who fly sometimes thousands of miles to gather secretly with other writers, mostly people they don’t even know? And what do they do—sit around and diagram sentences, argue over the proper use of the dash, and fist-fight over the relentlessly contentious comma?

Let me help de-tangle the mystery. I’ve been publishing and teaching writing for more than 30 years and I’m ready to spill it: Seven Secrets from the Weird World of Writers

Secret #1

*Writers are scared. We always write alone. Now, we are gathering with others to share a conference, a weekend together? We know it could go badly. The others could be bored with our stories. There could be tussling for the best seat. There could be wrangling for compliments and attention, for approval. Factions could form. Can we really do this?

Secret #2

*Writers are brave because we go anyway, fears and all. We embark on all kinds of adventures, because we know that even if everything goes terribly wrong, at least we’ll have something to write about.

Secret #3

Writers are scavengers like that. Even carrion can look good under our gaze and pen. We value what others don’t. We look for the discarded, the buried, the wounded. Our words take us there. And when we find them, these poor bodies and souls, memories, aunts, accidents, deceits, griefs, we attend with oil and wine. Who knows what might return to life?

Secret #4

*Writers retreat from the world but they care about the world more than most. Writing is love-in-action for us. Our words, written in closets, take us deep into the smell of fresh laundry on the line, into the morning sun glinting off our sister’s headstone, remembering the taste of the paste we ate in first grade art class. Our own words lead us to love the world of laundry, dirt and matter better. 

Secret #5

Writers are ignorant. We know we know nothing. We know in the madness of living we’ve missed so much of our own lives, not to mention others. So we write to recover it. We write to remember: When our mother dropped our dinner on the kitchen floor because she couldn’t believe we won, when our friend with arthritis knit us a purple hat—and we lost it, that day we saw a girl in a pretty flowered dress carry a new toilet seat into the bus station, when we sat beside our dying father and he touched our wrist.

Secret #6

*Writers don’t write to tell you what we know: we write to ask you if you care. We don’t have all the answers. Not even close. But we do have lots of questions about this human life we’re all trying to muddle through. And our biggest question is: do you care about this giant existence, and all the glorious and sometimes hideous details of waking up every morning in it? And will you come with me today for a few minutes so we can see and maybe name this thing called “life” together?

Secret #7

Writers are relentless. We have no idea when we write if two people or twenty or twenty thousand will read our work. But we write anyway. We know some will judge us harshly, even renounce us, for the truths we write. But we write anyway. We know our work will not earn us much or even any money at all. But we write anyway. Against all reason, against all critique, against all loss, we keep setting words down on the page, one after another. The world is birthed new every minute. Someone must take notes.


Leslie Leyland Fields is the author/editor of ten books, including Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas, which won Christianity Today’s 2017 Book Award in Christian Living. Her other books include Surviving the Island of Grace (Thomas Dunne), The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Cascade Press), and Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers (Thomas Nelson). Her books have been translated into Chinese, French, Ukrainian, Slovak, German, Polish and Korean. (For more about Leslie, click HERE).


  1. Your blog captured it all for me, especially #4 and #7. Beautifully written!

    Teresa Marita McGuire

    July 17, 2017

  2. That was delightful, nodded in agreement with all 7. See you at the conference.


    July 25, 2017

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