Featured Writer on Wellness: Susan Vigilante

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on August 6, 2015 • views: 1227

Susan Headshot 3I kind of hate to admit this, but for me the biggest challenge of being a writer is the computer.

I can always tell when I’ve had a good writing day—I can’t stand to read from my Kindle at night!  Something about that little lit screen not only tires my eyes, but gets on my nerves.

My husband is a Kindle addict; he can’t understand why I’d rather read a paperback.

Some of the best advice I ever heard about the writer’s life came from author John Sandford.

He was giving a talk at “Once Upon A Crime,” a bookstore in Minneapolis that sells only mysteries and hosts a terrific series of authors’ talks.

He said that when he gets stuck, he’ll take his dog for a walk.  “Sometimes all I can do is write; walk the dog; write; walk the dog;  write; walk the dog….”

Susan likes to walk with her dog, Bella.

Susan likes to walk with her dog, Bella.

I love to walk.  It’s far and away my favorite form of exercise.  My biggest challenge is our Minnesota winters: I am not much of a cold-weather hiker. In the winter I tend to hit the treadmill, but if I had my ‘druthers it would always be 72 degrees and sunny outside.

The Biggest Emotional Challenge: Self-Doubt

The biggest emotional challenge of being a writer? Short answer:  all of ’em.

Longer answer:  the toughest thing for me is self-doubt. It is VERY hard to keep on writing if you haven’t had a lot of obvious success yet.

I’ve been writing all my life and I still have to fight the nagging fear that I’m not doing it right, or I’m wasting my life, or … you get the idea. That ugly little voice inside your head.

When Your Friends Turn Their Backs on You

I’ve had plenty of “darkest moments.” Probably the worst was something I’ve describe in Breakfast with the Pope. I told the very dear friends who are featured in the story that I’d finally—finally!—finished the book! They’d always been supportive of my writing, and at first they were so excited for me.

And then one sunny morning in Castelgandolfo—the town where the Pope’s summer residence is, where much of the book takes place—they did a complete about-face.

They told me if I ever published the book, they would never speak to me again. 

They went further. They threatened to sue me if I published. I was devastated. For nearly a year I couldn’t even look at my manuscript.

But gradually I realized that I had to publish it. I HAD to. Even though it had cost me dearly (and would go on to cost me even more), I knew there were other people out there who needed  to hear my story. So I published it.

I never heard from my friends again. I have no idea if they’ve even read the book.

Writing to Stay Sane

Susan goes hiking in the Seguaro National Forest.

Susan goes hiking in the Seguaro National Forest.

The one thing that has kept me on my path: There are two things actually. The first is I have been writing since I was eight years old. I don’t think that’s an accident. I believe God made me a writer, and He expects us to use the gifts He gives us. So, that’s what I do.

The second answer is, I have to write if I want to stay sane.

That’s the truth.

When I’m not writing, or if it’s going badly, I get depressed, I get irritable, I’m miserable, and I’m miserable to live with. If I want to keep my sanity and my family I have to keep writing, no matter what.

Advice for a Young Writer: Believe in Yourself

If a young person told me he wanted to write, I would say that the hardest part is believing in yourself over the long haul.

This is relatively easy when you’re younger—when you’re in your 20s you think you’re brilliant and the world is just waiting for your work. If that turns out to be the case, great!

But if it doesn’t, it gets harder to keep going as more an more time passes.

You start to have doubts, you second-guess yourself more, you watch your friends and classmates succeeding in other careers, you think maybe this was all a big mistake.

You have to know in your gut that you’re a writer, no matter what the world tells you, if you hope to write.

* * *

Susan Vigilante was born in New York City. She’s married (going on 34 years now!) and has  one child, a daughter who is 14, adopted.  (She’s Cambodian, and gorgeous.)  She self-published Breakfast with the Pope, a memoir of the time she and her husband spent with Pope John Paul II.  The book was named “First Place Life Story” in the 22nd annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

For more information about Susan and her writing, please see her website, blog, or connect with her on Twitter.

BreakfastCoverBreakfast with the Pope: Susan Vigilante, an average Catholic wife from Long Island, woke up one morning in the romantic Italian hillside near the ancient village of Castel Gandolfo and had breakfast with Pope John Paul II. How did she get here? Breakfast with the Pope is the funny, endearing, searing, and relentlessly honest story of a woman on a pilgrimage, a woman who has failed for years to become the writer she longs to be, who yearns for the children she is unable to bear, who seeks to find the promised God of love amidst the wreckage of failed human relationships.

This is a book you will never forget, an often funny, always deeply moving spiritual memoir about seeking faith in the midst of doubt, compassion in the midst of suffering, and above all choosing love even knowing that it never comes without pain.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    I’m sorry your friends were not supportive! Well, worse than not supportive- downright mean! But you did what you knew was right, and that’s what counts. Thanks for sharing!