Featured Writer on Wellness: Renee Canter Johnson

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on June 28, 2017 • views: 1333

ReneeEarly morning is when I do my best writing.

When I’m in the zone, time passes so quickly that I might sit for hours in one position without realizing it. Rising with a fuzzy mind, stiff back and neck, as well as joints, all I want to do is recline on the sofa. However, this is the worst possible thing to do.

Getting my body moving is the best remedy for mind and joints.

Weight-Bearing Activity is Essential for Women Writers

As bad as it sounds, I prefer to write in a reclining chair. This allows me to change the elevation of my feet, legs, and neck. Balancing my laptop only becomes an issue on rare occasions, and even then, not so much that I have a real problem with it. It solves the issue of having my body cramped into one position for long periods of time.

Of course, nothing helps as much as getting in a good workout immediately after a writing session. Sweating rids my body of its excess water, and weight-bearing activity is essential for women over fifty. (Yes, I’m 50+ so I can’t take my health for granted.)

Olive oil tasting in Orvieto, Italy.

Olive oil tasting in Orvieto, Italy.

In Fiction, Nobody Know Which Parts are Factual and Which Aren’t

For me, the hardest emotional barrier to cross has been when writing about inner conflicts, which is especially true when capturing painful time periods.

Writing fiction, as well as nonfiction, involves getting in touch with my own demons in order to make the situation I’m portraying believable and real. This is tough—but doable.

One wise teacher advised me that nobody knows, in fiction, which parts are factual and which aren’t. That’s been invaluable advice and has freed me in many ways.

Coping with emotional challenges is part of the job of being a good writer. As Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

It’s really difficult to dig down deep enough to touch the darker parts of the soul without getting a bit singed by its flame. But what comes out of these moments is usually quite beautiful and dramatic.

Renee hiking to the lighthouse--Edgartown, MA.

Renee hiking to the lighthouse–Edgartown, MA.

Reading Your Own Work Can Be Terrifying

I was writing a novel about a child whose life fell apart after his father’s suicide, only to discover that I was actually writing my own story following my father’s suicide. At a writer’s residency, I was expected to read from this work in front of other esteemed writers. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Every time I tried to read from it I started crying—not something I wanted to do in public. Then one of the older writers whose opinion I valued asked me what I feared would happen if I did burst into tears. Facing the worst possible outcome helped me deal with the situation before it could arise.

For the record, I read it, and did not cry. Victory!

I Write for Reasons Known to My Soul

I write because I can’t not write. I have another job in addition to my writing, so it isn’t something I must do for financial reasons. I write for reasons known to my soul.

It is my heart, my love, my passion, and for that reason, I write what makes me happy or brings me clarity. I write to understand. I write to commiserate, to entertain, or to enlighten.

I have written some romance novels, but am always angered to hear someone speak of the genre as if there is a formula I’m using to cheat creativity. My novels have more than romance between their covers, and I usually follow such a misinformed suggestion with a reminder that Shakespeare had a lot of romance going on within his tales as well.

My beloved German Shepherds, Hansel and Gretel.

My beloved German Shepherds, Hansel and Gretel.

Advice for a Young Writer: Recognize the Worth of Your Creativity

In my opinion, the hardest part for any artist is recognizing the worth of his or her own creativity. I believe artists/writers finish a chapter or a painting or a great piece of pottery and think: Gee, this isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before.

Imagine what Pablo Picasso must have thought when he stopped following the crowd and stepped into his own. But that is where our genius is birthed, in that space where it is fresh and new and never been done before.

I’d tell them to create what makes them happy, let others decide the value. In the meantime, have some income so that you aren’t forced to sell out to a world demanding cookie cutter designs in literature, visual art, or music. Be authentic. Be you.

* * *

Renee Canter Johnson is the author of Acquisition, The Haunting of William Gray, and Herald Angels. A mystery suspense set in Venice, Italy—Behind the Maskis her fourth novel with The Wild Rose Press. Renee has studied in France and Italy, and is a fellow at Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and University of Iowa’s Novel Intensive Workshop. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

Renee’s essays have appeared in Bonjour Paris, Study Abroad, and Storyhouse. She maintains two blogs: WritingFeemail for travel insights, and Renee Johnson Writes for information about her writing journey. For more about Renee and her work, please see her Amazon author page, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Behind the MaskBehind the Mask: No one knows who the lady pulled from a Venetian canal is.

Even she doesn’t seem to know and the ball gown and period undergarments she was wearing give no clues. hitting her head and oxygen deprivation have left her with amnesia.

Dr. Luca Viale is determined to find out her identity. The bruises on her body appear to come from different times, convincing him that her situation was no accident. Can he restore her memory before another attempt is made on her life?

Time is running out and his growing attraction to her is beginning to cause problems in both his personal and professional life.

Available at Amazon and Wild Rose Press.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Thank you, Colleen, for giving me space in your wonderful blog to share my story.

    As writers, we have all the challenges of every other wife, mother, daughter, sister, employee, friend, etc., while carving out sacred hours for writing. It’s much easier to do get take-out and avoid a workout, than to spend some valuable time planning. But only short term. It always catches up with us.

    Best wishes to you and all your readers.
    Renee Johnson

    • Colleen says:

      So true, Renee. We have to take care of ourselves and our creativity. Thanks again for sharing what works for you! :O)