Writing is what got me into farming.
The words of authors who dug, planted, harvested, and grew their lives in relation to roots and soil are what set the seed inside of me to grow this life, too.
Like farming, the writing life is lived in seasons.
In her new book, Wild Words: rituals, routines, and rhythms for braving the writing path, author Nicole Gulotta sets out the 10 seasons of creative living, and offers ways to grow and create through them all.
You can get an introduction to the creative seasons in her new podcast, but even better is to pour a cup of tea and curl up with the book.
Whether you’re already a writer or dream of becoming one, Wild Words will gently guide you — and give you the inspiration to start writing now. (I even put it down a few times mid-chapter to pick up my pen and write).
In celebration of it’s publication on October 15th, Nicole and I are giving away a copy of Wild Words.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below by Sunday, October 13th, and let us know what your biggest takeaway from our interview is.
With that, let’s dive in.
Writing Through The Seasons with Nicole Gulotta, author of Wild Words
Kate: Choosing what to ask you about and what to highlight was hard — I want to talk about everything in this book! The way you translate the writing life into seasons deeply resonates with me as a writer and a farmer, but I also think it transcends those categories.
As I went through my notes after reading the book I realized how applicable this seasonal framework is for anyone who’s creating something in their life, be it writing, art, a business, a garden.
There’s both a call to action and a gentleness within the pages of Wild Words that left me feeling possibility. No matter what season I’m in, writing can be the constant that strings them together.
Another thing that came out of Wild Words for me was the permission to step off of the “go, go, go” rush that’s so common in our culture. Instead, the seasons you put forth offer another way to engage with writing and creativity. How long did it take you to identify and accept the seasons? How did your relationship to writing change once you did?
Nicole: I really embraced the seasons after my son was born, which was four years ago. Prior to that, I was certainly circling around the concept subconsciously, but the experience of early motherhood helped me see things more clearly.
Newborns go through “micro-seasons”—there are frequent milestones and routines change quickly. To survive, I needed to adapt, keep a very flexible mindset, and really embrace the present moment.
A few months in, I wondered what would happen if I applied this same philosophy to my creativity, which helped me feel more at ease almost immediately. Since then, it’s been a lot easier to stop comparing my experiences to someone else’s, which is a true benefit of embracing seasonal creative living.
K: Your first book, Eat This Poem, was a poetry inspired cookbook that grew from your blog of the same name. What drew you to focus next on writing about the writing life itself?
N: Even when I was working on Eat This Poem, exploring the writer’s life was important to me. In fact, that’s actually why I started my newsletter back in 2013!
My food blog was focused on a particular type of post, and I wanted to be able to talk about creativity more broadly. I’ve always been a big encourager—I love sharing my particular point of view on the writer’s life with others who might benefit.
K: In the introduction to Wild Words you write:
“Seeking balance—which feels like teetering on the edge, straining to ready ourselves—is not the goal. Instead, let’s resolve to blend. Writing, family, and work aren’t isolated elements but moving parts with constant overlap that can inform, support, and even enhance one another.”-Wild Words, p.7
What has been the hardest part for you to blend, and what are some ways others can practice blending instead of balancing?
N: I spent a decade working for foundations and nonprofits, and often had a contentious relationship between my career and creativity. I thought the two were at odds, but I’ve grown to realize that having a day job can actually support my writing life, most simply, by serving as a patron. It’s a lot easier to embrace creativity when your bills are paid.
For others, parenthood might feel like a burden in terms of taking you away from writing. In my experience, blending all these elements requires a shift in expectations. Once I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to achieve certain things within a specific time frame, it’s become a lot easier.
Things take as long as they take. Also, it requires a lot of energy to be frustrated and discontent all the time. Realistic expectations can change everything.
K: One question that intrigues me, that has me always digging around for the answer, is how do we live in the space between — what you’ve deemed the season of liminal space.
For me, it can often feel like this season stretches beyond its boundaries (if it has any!) and morph from one liminal space to another: from conception to birth, from seed to harvest, from the end of one project to the beginning of another. Sometimes I get lost in the liminal space as if it will never end, but you offer this:
“A secret of this season, I’ve found, is to welcome the uncertainty, because our souls can change here. In fact, it’s where creativity can begin too, like how we trust that roots are growing in rich soil long before sprouts push through. Sometimes I think liminal space exists simply to remind us how little we can control, and how important it is to turn inward.”-Wild Words, p.121
As someone who’s learning how to not get trapped in this season, I’d love to know: what practice has been most powerful for you to either deal with the uncertainty or to move into a different season?
N: Liminal space is hard! We’re conditioned to want out immediately, because it’s uncomfortable to not have answers and simply wait and listen. One of the things I suggest for liminal space is something I call “consume vs. create.”
Depending on the kind of liminal space you’re in, it can be difficult to focus on writing consistently. I like to take the opportunity to consume what other people have created—books, films, lectures, whatever might inspire. It’s an act of acceptance to just say, OK, I’ll wait until the clouds pass, and will feed my soul in the meantime.
On the flip side, some people thrive creatively during liminal space—so definitely honor whatever you’re feeling. At the bare minimum, I find simply acknowledging I’m even in liminal space can go a long way. It’s powerful to be able to understand where you’re planted, and embrace that it’s just part of life.
K: Okay, let’s go into the season of self-doubt (another one that feels uncomfortable!). Two of my favorite passages you write are:
“I also believe it takes time to grow into yourself. These are my obstacles to overcome and stories to rewrite, and I’m working on it, embodying daily who I’d like to become.”-wild Words, p.32
“It might help to remember that the word humiliation comes from the Latin word humus, meaning soil or ground. ‘When we are humiliated,’ the poet David Whyte reminds us, ‘we are in effect returning to the ground of our being.’”-WILD WORDS, P.38
When put that way, this season doesn’t feel so heavy. Instead, it’s imbued with a deepening. I imagine it like a dandelion pulling its energy from the flower back down into the taproot. What growth have you found in this season, and how has it enhanced your writing and relationship to your work?
N: Self-doubt is a reliable companion to the writer’s life. I’ve always tended to be somewhat resilient in this area (which I attribute to a high school creative writing teacher of mine who taught me how to edit my poems and detach emotionally a bit after sending them to journals).
Over the years I’ve noticed that when self-doubt takes hold, it often sends me into a melancholy state for about two days. Since I know this about myself, I just embrace it. I don’t try to force myself to work during this time, and I journal and talk it out.
Eventually I wake up and everything’s fine and I have a new plan, and the inner critic is barely a whisper. It’s a mysterious process, for sure! One way to frame it is that self-doubt is actually a compass. If we’re feeling resistance, it’s often a clue we’re headed in the right direction.
K: In The Season of Listening To Your Body, you write:
“Beware of coming within earshot of intoxicating internet voices shouting at you to publish three blog posts every week, write viral content, quit your job to follow your passion, or create gorgeous Pinterest boards. Instead, tune in to sharing what’s in your heart when it feels good, not because you’ve done a deep dive into Google Analytics and discovered the most popular time in your blog is Thursday at 5:36 p.m. No, because you’ve been thinking about something for a while now, rolling thoughts over in your mind the way you suck on a sunflower seed before spitting out the shell. Because you’ve taken deep breaths and sipped hot drinks. Because you’ve considered, drafted, polished, and it finally feels right to watch your words extend beyond your precious care. Daily discipline—attending to both body and mind—compounded over weeks and months, reinforces habits that help us do the necessary work of storytelling, however long it takes.”-Wild Words, pp.92-93
This was like salve to my soul. The kind of writing I want to do is like organic farming: it requires me to dig deep, to acknowledge growth takes time, to pass on the synthetic fertilizer that might spurt growth in a single season and to instead choose to build soil year after year.
Still, there’s the reality of building an audience — both for your sake as a writer who wants your work to be read, and for potential publishers who want proof you have a platform to sell books to. How have you balanced this need for slow writing and audience building? Can you share some practical ways you weave both into your days?
N: It’s definitely a challenge to actively engage in audience-building efforts while also sitting down to do the work of writing.
My advice—especially if you’re just starting out—is to focus on one thing at a time. If you don’t have a newsletter yet, start there.
You own your list and it’s one of the best ways to build relationships with your readers over time. For social media, pick one platform and focus on figuring out what works for you. I host a private Facebook group for writers, and to weave this project into my writing life without added stress, I use an editorial calendar and schedule posts weeks in advance.
Authors used to have to be everywhere, but these days, quality over quantity is often more important.
If you’re having trouble deciding on where to be, just think about which platform you naturally have more fun with, or feel most comfortable sharing on. Splitting your attention across multiple platforms, especially at the beginning, will only drain your energy and take time away from actually writing. I’ve also accepted this process is a long one. Whether it’s online or offline, getting to know people doesn’t happen overnight.
K: Throughout Wild Words you have a way of uncovering universal experiences through writing. In The Season of Retreating, you write, “I’m afraid I’m still so far from who I’m meant to be.” My chest ached here, knowing this feeling so deeply, and I think it’s something many of us feel when we’re on the path but not yet reaching our goals.
But you don’t stop there — you go on to write:
“This whole time I’ve been afraid of becoming the writer I’ve always imagined myself to be—no longer placing my writing on the perimeter of my life but being centered by it.”-Wild Words, p.171
When I read this I thought yes. You must have a thousand writers feeling recognized for the first time with this sentence. I’ve always wanted to be a writer first, but it’s not until this summer that I started to step back from the farm and make more space for writing. And it still feels scary.
How has your own relationship with writing changed through writing Wild Words? And what is your deepest hope for those who read this book?
N: In the course of writing Wild Words, I had to learn and relearn many of the lessons inside its pages. Funny how that works! But this actually allowed me to embody the seasons even more and write from a place of working through them instead of being on the other side with everything all figured out—I hope that makes the book more relatable.
In terms of my hope for the book, it’s about encouragement. I want writers to feel less alone on the journey, and to come away feeling more rooted to whatever season they find themselves in right now. For those already embracing a slower pace, I hope it’s affirming, and for those for whom this concept is new, I hope Wild Words provides a new way to relate to their creativity.
I’ve used the word “offer” to describe how you present ideas in this book, and while it was unconscious at first, I realize now it’s because you do just that — you’re not telling the reader she must adhere to this or else she’ll never make it.
You’re not saying, “here’s the silver bullet to the writing life.”
It’s deeper than that. Within the seasonal approach, there’s a recognition that life moves and we grow and all of it is fodder for the writing life.
Whether it’s scribbling a note while the brownies bake for 5 more minutes, or retreating for a weekend to dive into writing, you’ve offered a way for the reader to be centered by writing. And that is such a gift.
Thank you so much for your book and your time, Nicole!
We’re giving away a free copy of Wild Words.
To enter, leave a comment on this post by Sunday, October 13th, and tell us what your biggest takeaway from the interview is.
*Giveaway open to everyone in the United States.