I receive a lot of questions in the form of emails, private messages, and glacially slow federal mail. There is no way I could answer all these questions, so I have compiled some commonly asked questions into the popular Q-and-A format and answered them here.
I won’t waste any more time.
Q: How in the heck are YOU a writer? No offense, but I’m an English major/teacher/professor/professional writer/constipated person/expert, and your stuff stinks.
A: I appreciate you taking the time to write that. Means a lot.
Q: Wait? Aren’t you gonna argue and try to shut me down?
A: Nah. After all, you made a fair point. My stuff ain’t exactly Joyce. Remember, this writing is something you found on the internet.
Q: So, you mean you think your work is subpar too?
A: Sometimes, sure. Sometimes it reeks.
Q: Then why do you keep writing?
A: Because sometimes it doesn’t.
Q: When I first started following you, I didn’t think you were a spiritual person. But sometimes your writing gets way too spiritual sounding for me, where do you stand on religious things?
Q: Really? You’re not going to answer that?
A: It doesn’t matter what I believe. What matters is what you believe.
Q: Oh, give me a break. What a cop out. Surely you can tell me your religious views.
A: I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate. I’d like to think that God is love. He’s down below, He’s up above. He’s watching people everywhere, He knows who does and doesn’t care.
Q: Did you just quote a Don Williams song?
A: You bet your astrological sign I did.
Q: Man, Don Williams was great.
A: Tell me about it. I saw him in concert once in New Orleans when I was young. I had driven all day only to be left standing outside the theater, in the frog-choking rain, because the venue was completely sold out.
I was about to leave when a kindhearted ticket-lady at the door told me that Don Williams wouldn’t want anyone to miss his concert, so she snuck me into the back row for free. She said Don would have wanted it that way. True story.
Q: Dear Sean, are you for real? I’ve followed you and it seems like the life you claim to live is a little too good to be true.
A: The irony here is that most of my life, to be quite frank, has sucked. I have gone through anxiety, depression, blah, blah, blah. Start playing your air violin.
See, when your life sucks, that’s how you end up viewing the world—as one big Suck Fest. But when you are fortunate enough to have the help of mental-health experts and loved ones who can lead you to daylight, as in my case, life becomes a veritable Disneyland.
Soon, you find yourself looking at life differently. You visit rundown truckstop diners and sincerely want to write novels about the elderly waitress you met because life feels so vividly brief and beautiful.
My life isn’t anything remarkable, I simply choose to believe that it is. Because, you see, I’m desperately trying to love my life. I wasted too many years not loving it.
Q: I really want to be a writer, how do I do that?
A: If you’re asking that question, you are already a writer.
Q: No, I mean I want to be a REAL writer.
A: You look pretty real to me.
Q: You know what I mean, I want to be a legit writer.
A: Get in line.
Q: Quit avoiding the question and answer me.
A: Okay. I think what I’m actually hearing is that you want to be a “recognized” writer—which is a normal thing to want. After all, the reason you write is for others to read, right?
But it’s also dangerous to crave recognition. I’ve been to a lot of writing conferences and book events and met writers who, when they say they want to “be a writer,” really just mean they want to “be famous.”
Don’t confuse fame with real success. Brittney Spears is one; Helen Keller is the other.
Q: How are you and your wife holding up since your mother-in-law passed away?
A: First off, thank you for asking. We are doing okay. For my wife, the grief comes in tidal waves. But overall, we’re hanging in there. I’m not going to lie. Our lives look a lot different now. And that’s been hard.
Q: I am going through a really tough time currently. Someone I love is dying, or I am very sick, or my life is falling apart, can you give me a few words of encouragement?
A: If there is only one thing you take away from this ridiculous Q-and-A column, let it be this: You’re going to make it through whatever private hell you’re going through.
That’s not an opinion.
I know you don’t believe me, and hey, I don’t blame you. But even your doubt cannot change the fact that you, my friend, are going to make it.
Just ask my buddy Mark, who was shot by his mentally-unstable father. Mark nearly bled to death on the kitchen floor. Today, he is the happiest person I know.
Or ask my friend, Linda, who has survived cancer, not five, not six, but seven times.
Talk to my pal Bradley, who tried to kill himself twice, but through therapy and medication is now loving his life, drinking lots of carrot juice, and paddleboarding every morning. And when I see him in a bathing suit I always feel like I should lay off the glazed donuts.
Talk to Jennifer, who lost her mother, her father, and both brothers in a car accident. Then, as if being orphaned wasn’t bad enough, she was hospitalized with a rare cancer. But guess what? Jennifer made a full physical recovery, and is getting married next spring.
You—yes, you—are going to get through this mess. Not because you are strong, not because you said the right prayers, not because you believed hard enough, but because there is an unseen Being up there who will drag you through to safety.
No, I’m not talking about a divine white-bearded old geezer, floating in the sky, wearing a John-Belushi toga, looking like a character akin to Santa Claus. There is a lot more up there than a heavenly Rip Van Winkle. And that is exactly what is going to get you through this.
And here is the coolest part:
While you read these weakly written words, something in your heart knows you’re going to be okay.
Yep. You know I’m right. You can’t explain how you know, but you do. On some level, you have this small, faint, almost unnoticeable feeling, but it’s definitely there. It’s buried beneath the fear and uncertainty. You are going to survive this.
Go with that feeling. Trust that feeling. Feed that feeling daily. Exercise it. Don’t let that feeling go, not even for a nanosecond.
And when this is all over, write back to me. I’ll buy you a beer and we can compare our scars.
Q: Okay, see? That all sounded pretty spiritual.
A: You can blame Don Williams.
David S Doom - November 11, 2021 6:52 am
When your wife or you hear a story, song, a sound, smell a smell etc. that causes a wave of emotion about Mother Mary to come over you, embrace it. It is a sign of your love for her and her love for you.
Christa Gettys - November 11, 2021 8:49 am
Some of the very best writing I’ve ever read, 1-comes from the heart and moves mine (check you got that)
2- writes like the spoken word. It doesn’t follow the grammar schmammer we learned in school. It sounds like what we hear when we sit with friends and talk. Your brain takes a break from seeing spelling errors and strong verbs/weak verbs, what it sees is a conversation. For anyone to say other wise, well then they need to only read stuff written by grammar knot seas like themselves (they can have fun with that-stuffed shirts)
3-some of the very best writing I’ve read is fanfiction written by non native American English speakers. I finished the last word of a 200 word one shot or a 500k epic novel written by someone who didn’t know our slang, used words that were way too proper or not quite how we’d use them, and i would end that story with my heart pounding full of feels unlike anything Diana Gabaldon has written (and her writing is pretty ok)
4-Erma Bombeck is one of these most amazing writers I’ve read- she writes about the shite and giggles of life and I laugh and bawl my eyes out as I understand and commiserate cause she just gets it!!!
I write fanfic myself (I have a few “real world” stories I’m plunking away at) and why do I write it? I LOATHE sad endings , I LOATHE major character deaths. I NEED HAPPILY EVER AFTERS like the kind we usually never get but all need to know that even if they’re fictional, somebody got a happily ever after! And I give folks a lot of fluff and and HEAs and a tiny bit of fluffy drama. I give them the HEA that their beloved character should have had. I make people very very happy, with writing that has never seen a proof reader besides myself or a BETA . It’s not easy finding people who feel comfortable enough to do this, and I kinda get it (I used to do BETA and ARC proof reading).
I think most people need to read things make them FEEL! Feel whatever it is they need to feel. Sometimes, I need to feel cathartic pain, so I read books or writings or stories that make me bawl my brains out, sob with an entire box of Puffs Plus with lotion so my nose doesn’t turn read and get chapped!
But mostly people want to read what’s real, even if it’s fictional and would never happen in real life. It’s real to them and then they need people like you who can write the real stuff so that they can feel. The world is making us all want to go more than a little numb. Or sometimes it makes us want to just rage quit everything and leave a swath of destruction in our wake…that’s kind of illegal and immoral so we go and find the writers of words that get us to feel.
I’ve suffered with depression over half my life from making one very stupid choice. I’ve had God drag me along for pretty much all 51 of my years (yeah a 51 year old fanfiction writer lol It’s The Hobbit if you want to know – or even if you didn’t and it’s lots of romance within that) I’ve had to write MY OWN HEA, cause life just isn’t going to give me one. God has me by the left ear and all you see in the sand is the print of a beached whale who was kicking and screaming for most of the dragging. It ain’t pretty and neither is life most of the time. But like you said, when you’ve been in a place so dark and lugubrious that you swear you’ll never breathe again, Well, it makes little things like a very kind male nurse 30 year younger than me, tell me he enjoys the maternal vibe I give off and I must be able to love people so easily and make them feel so good.
Honestly I don’t like many people, but the ones I can feel need the goodness and will reap something positive from it, I can’t help but give that maternal goodness to them. I know what a super sucky crappy shite filled life that keeps throwing you bad hands is like, but I also know that sunrises and sunsets are a hello and goodbye, that that weed growing in a crack of the curb at an expressway exit, is a pretty hardy wildflower and is so beautiful among all the trash around it, I can only see it.
So while I may be a weed, I choose to be other people’s wildflower.
Never stop writing, I think your soul would burst, there are people who write, and then there are writers…always be a writer!
P.S. this font on the wordpress is so microscopic to me even with the page enlarged, if it didn’t have a red squiggle and spell check didn’t fool me, I probably still made a bunch of errors. fingers crossed you can still understand it all.
Karen Erwin-Brown - November 11, 2021 10:10 am
Folks can be mean so I’m glad you’ve been able to encounter many with angel stories. Prayers for your first Thanksgiving with Mother Mary. Enjoy your words. Peace for the day.
Karen Erwin-Brown - November 11, 2021 10:11 am
without Mother Mary is and edit to my above comment. Not enough coffee yet this morning for me.
Keith Turk - November 11, 2021 11:03 am
“Never confuse fame with real success “. One of the best lines I’ve ever read!
Peggy hartley - November 11, 2021 12:07 pm
Dear Sean, I’ve read Joyce and I’ve read Lyla. Lyla is better.
Marilyn - November 11, 2021 12:42 pm
Thank you Sean. You touched my heart today – again!
Melissa Armstrong - November 11, 2021 12:55 pm
I’m so glad you keep writing. I wish people could just be kind, but you deal heroically with it through your words. You don’t need me to be a momma bear, but I would. I used to write (as in a blog fashion before blogs existed). There is a history of Alzheimer’s in my family. Words don’t come easily now so I’m going to stick to memorizing scripture. Anyway, I think I digress. 😉
Keep writing your words. They really help me.
Melissa (Mel to my friends)
Sonya Tuttle - November 11, 2021 12:59 pm
Don Williams knew how to put meaning into those words! I believe in LOVE.
Sonya Tuttle - November 11, 2021 1:01 pm
Don Williams put true feelings in his songs. I, too, believe in LOVE.
Alicia Folds - November 11, 2021 1:04 pm
In your defense! I love your writing, I look forward to reading your column everyday. People are so used to watching sludge on t.v., and doom and gloom, and all of this made up reality crap, that they have lost sight of someone good and honest that wants to spread a little joy and basic human kind.
I hate, “and I don’t even like using that word” that you get bashed for putting your thoughts onto paper, and I say, what the heck are they still reading it for if they don’t like it so much. It’s your thoughts, everyone has their opinion, and we aren’t all going to agree on the same things in this world and what a boring world it would be if we were all alike and thought the same. So I pray you do move on past the people that spread bitterness, don’t let them bring you down and
keep doing you! Keep writing every thought and spreading all the goodness you can around. Because this world sure could use some. AND, if you are religious and your writing shows it, Praise the Lord, because we need a Lot more of that in the world as well.
Can’t wait for your next novel.
An avid Alabama reader,
Pinny Bugaeff - November 11, 2021 1:09 pm
Dear Sean, This is a thank you note for your story today. Thanks for your ;much appreciated reminder that this former battered kid, suicidal girl and now happily married granny, that what I’m facing today -I will get through because He has brought me safe thus far and won’t let me fall . Just know that ,every day , something you write touches my heart. XXx
Brenda Haley - November 11, 2021 1:14 pm
Thank you Sean. Not everything you write resonates in my soul but today’s sure did. As with you, I have endured so many challenges commonly referred to as “life” and I would not trade any of them. I believe the more you endure, the more you learn to appreciate life. We all know that person who has had a cushy life, no losses, no sickness, no needs unfulfilled and then bam!, life gives them a challenge and their world turns upside down. Nah, I say give it to me on a regular basis. Our governor here in Kentucky coined the phrase “We will get through this. We will get through this together” at the beginning of the pandemic. Sure, too many people didn’t get through it but a whole lot of us have. I am thankful you did, Sean and thankful I did so you can continue sharing your wisdom.
Dorothy Holloway - November 11, 2021 1:42 pm
Dear Sean, I lost my son 12 years ago. To this day not a moment passes that I don’t miss him. Some days I still don’t want to get out of bed, but, I do, and that’s the Great I Am you have been trying to explain. Join hands with me( us) who have lived and are living with with separation from our loved ones. Sincerely D
Paul McCutchen - November 11, 2021 2:02 pm
Suellen - November 11, 2021 2:38 pm
“Real” writing is kind of like art. So much of it is because the powers that be have told us that it’s wonderful but I’m sitting looking at it scratching my head thinking “what does this mean?” It makes no sense! Don’t people see that it makes no sense? What is so wonderful about it? I enjoy reading your writings every day because you relate to my life and give me hope. You, my friend, are a real writer.
Diann - November 11, 2021 2:45 pm
I love your take on life- the encouraging words- the ability to laugh at yourself- to put things in perspective. You are a writer and a very good one. Not everything is brilliant, but then neither is life and that’s what you write about. Just keeping it real!
Joan Moore - November 11, 2021 2:52 pm
A real writer can make us feel something we never did. Like you do.
Bobby - November 11, 2021 2:54 pm
Lord I hope this day is good—thanks to Don Williams.❤️
Karen Snyder - November 11, 2021 3:46 pm
This is an example of what a real writer produces, consistently, day after day, because the real writer, first and foremost, is more concerned about his readers’ benefit than his own. At least that’s one of my consistent take-aways from your work. You are genuine and a caring human, not that fame seeker you mentioned. This post was worth sharing, so I shared. 😉 Keep writing, Sean, please!
Carie A. Partain - November 11, 2021 4:17 pm
I love your daily column! Never listen to the nay sayers, keep writing. Your “worst” entry is still GOLD to someone who needed a kind word and a reminder to cherish the day. Much love to you and Jamie as you navigate your new normal. Thank YOU for being part of my every day.
Lucinda Harding - November 11, 2021 4:50 pm
Your sketch today is one of my favorites! Your stories touch all of us that follow you in one way or another. Keep them coming. ❤️
Janet W Moffat - November 11, 2021 6:27 pm
You are right. My precious husband passed in January. I didn’t think I would survive January. Here I am, 9 months later and thanking you for your encouragement and so many others
Larry Wall - November 11, 2021 7:57 pm
Sean, it sounds to me that you are coming along your path of life pretty well and getting stronger, in every way. And that YOU are going to be alright. I think that you might have rightly entitled this day’s writing as ‘A Letter To Myself’. It was good reading and will give a boost of confidence to many who may be struggling with the circumstances in their life.
Linda Moon - November 11, 2021 9:00 pm
My answer to the first questioner would be, well….your s*** stinks. You might think it doesn’t, constipated person, but it does. To dear Sean I will reply that yes, life IS brief and beautiful. I just began reading “Helen and Teacher” for the 3rd or 4th time over many years. The book is old and ratty, but the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy is not. And, no, (in case you’re wondering) I won’t give or loan it to you. But I’m reading another one that I might share soon. This Linda (me) has survived a bunch of cancer, too, so let’s keep holding on and surviving, my friend.
Christina - November 12, 2021 7:19 am
We like you and your writing. Keep up the good work Sean!
Norman McCord - November 12, 2021 11:12 am
Where in N Florida?
Nancy Crews - November 12, 2021 12:55 pm
Kate - November 12, 2021 1:28 pm
Sean, I think I have been reading you for about a year now, and I have read several of your books, and you write, many, many wonderful things, but today may have been one of the best I have read. Thank you for writing. Just getting my each morning and writing SOMETHING is a most amazing feat, but to do it with the heart and love you put into it, that is so very special.
Bonnie - November 12, 2021 3:15 pm
Your words of encouragement are the best! And I love the Don Williams reference – one of my favorites