Welcome to the next episode in this run of episodes on writing with disabilities and limitations.

In this episode, wonderful Writerly Love Community member, Olwen Wilson talks with me about following joy and writing with a chronic illness. We discuss labels and their conflicting appeal/repellent nature. And, what I suspect will be a through line of all of these episodes: listening to our bodies and how we’re feeling. And Olwen reads a slantly-written short piece and generously gifts us with a beautiful practice called Rainbow Walks. Listen in to hear from a writer who does things their way, someone I deeply admire for this spirit.

#92 Write, Publish, Shine Episode Transcript

Transcript with the transcript outline


Olwen Wilson, Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson:

Welcome Luminous Writers to the **Write, Publish and Shine** podcast. I am your host, author and literary magazine editor, Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication and the journey from emerging writer to publish to author.

Hi Luminous Writers, welcome to the continuation of my series of episodes on writing with disabilities and limitations. In this episode, I sit down with another writerly love community member, Olwen Wilson. Olwen Wilson has had a story receive a highly commended placement

in the Bath Flush Fiction Award and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I recently shared a publishing win that they had, publishing a piece in Unoia Review in my writerly love digest.

In this conversation, we talk about labels and their conflicting appeal/repellent nature. We discuss what I suspect will be a through line of all of these episodes, listening to our bodies and how we’re feeling. And Olwen reads a slantly written short piece and generously gives us with a beautiful practice called Rainbow Walks. Listen in to hear from a writer who does things their way, someone I deeply admire for this spirit.

So I want to welcome you to the podcast, Olwen Wilson. Thanks so much for being here.

Olwen Wilson:

Thank you for having me.

Rachel Thompson:

As I mentioned, and as our listeners know too, because we’ve started the series now focused on writers who write with limitations and writers who write with a disability or identify as disabled. We also throw in the terms spoonie, neurodivergent. How do you publicly identify yourself? What’s in your writing bio? And how did you come to this identity or way of expressing yourself within your lived experience?

Olwen Wilson:

So I would say that I have a conflicted relationship with labels and it totally depends on who I’m

speaking to or who I’m presenting information to as to how I would identify myself. In regards to

labels, I appreciate and sometimes I’m grateful that I feel like I’ve been given a shortcut to understanding who somebody is based off of their label. And I don’t appreciate the assumptions made or the stereotypes they get attached to a group of people who may share a label. Ever since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition, it’s a product illness. I have had to examine, analyze, and I’m still in the process of trying to eradicate my own ableism. And because with my rheumatoid arthritis, a lot of it is an invisible disease. So to look at me, nobody can really tell what’s going on in regards to my physical health or my mental health.

So it can be challenging for me to kind of claim a disability label. Sometimes I don’t enjoy the connotations that some groups make or assume around their label. For example, spooning, like I know what that means. I have used it to describe myself in certain ways to people, but it’s not one that I am in love with because, you know, when somebody’s talking about I have so many spoons, well, somebody might be picturing little teaspoons, tablespoons, you know, to big like ladles and it can change. In regards to neurodivergent, I am in the process of trying to examine whether or not that is something that fits for me. And it became even more complicated because I had a person that I really trusted.

When I was questioning, you know, if this was something that I should be looking into for myself, who was adamant. Nope, that’s not you. And gave me clear indicators. And I trusted them based off of their experience to then find that a few months later, they were speaking with mutual friend’s doors and they flat out declared that I was neurodivergent. And it was just like, wait, what? So I really try to focus on what feels right for me in a moment, because sometimes those labels can hurt me. You know, somebody will just make an assumption and you kind of get put in a certain role and you’re stuck. So that’s why I’m a little bit hesitant to do.

So what I tend to say more is that I live with a chronic illness. If I’m submitting something and they’re asking for like, you know, your intersections, kind of how you identify, I will identify and say that I am a black woman writer living with a chronic illness or I might specifically call it out and explain what my diagnosis is.

But it feels like I’m checking boxes for somebody which sometimes I can resent as well, because I will get treated differently once people know what I’m living with, or if I have to tell them that I’m immunocompromised. All of a sudden they’re like, oh, let me put my mask on. Oh, let me do this. And it’s just like, well, you could have just done that from the start to maybe do some small things that could help others without us having to. Let me go and bear my soul for you and just kind of share everything. It’s exhausting.

Rachel Thompson:

I guess thinking about those assumptions and the ways people change the way that they see you or act around you. How has that happened in the writing itself? Like how have limitations or disability impacted your writing creatively? That’s part A of the question, but then also in the practice too, because obviously, you know, living with pain means maybe sometimes not being able to write too.

Olwen Wilson:

Absolutely. How it’s affected me creatively, sometimes, you know, it, and I think these are kind of intertwined really for me. Because sometimes, you know, if my hands aren’t working in the way where I can hold a pencil right downwards, maybe I’m able to type that day instead of doing some handwriting. Or maybe I can’t do either one, because my chronic illness also affects my voice at times. So speech-to-text just does recognize my voice in the way and it can be super frustrating. So sometimes I literally cannot write or get words down onto a page or onto a screen. So I tend to do a lot of writing in my head. And I would call myself a slow writer. Rachel, you helped me make that shift.

Instead, I say now that I’m a thorough writer, because I am considering, you know, the words that I want to put together, why am I using them? How would a reader potentially take them in? What are the interpretations of what I want to say? And I can get it wrong because I still need feedback from people, but I try to consider these things before something even reaches the page or the screen. And in doing that, sometimes I disaster myself. So I can’t even get what I want to say out. It’s a lot of time, a lot of patience, things that I don’t always have a lot of in the first place. So that can slow slow me down. But instead of trying to focus on that, Oh, I can’t do this because I try to go, okay, I’m not able to do this in this way.

Right now, how can I get this information down? If I can’t spend a lot of time in front of a computer, am I able to tap out something on a Notes App on my phone? I’ve written them everywhere in regards to like at a desk, you know, like sitting as ergonomically as you can, to lying in bed propped up in a bunch of pillows. I’ve written on receipts while I’m waiting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. When I get back to my car, you know, grab a piece of paper and jot something down. So it’s really trying to be flexible and also trying to tune into how I’m feeling. What do I need?

And getting the resources that would help me create what I’m trying to create, where I can think about, you know, people making assumptions about my writing, because what I write in my reality is different from a lot of people, just because of who I am. So when you go in and share, you know, something that you’ve poured your heart into and your soul into, and somebody was like, this would never happen. And I’m like, this happens to me all the time, you know, now I have to try to make you understand a different reality. That’s exhausting. And it can make me question my sanity.

It’s so frustrating when you’re just trying to express yourself and somebody just can’t be bothered to expand their idea of what’s possible, because they’ve never had to experience a different reality than what they are in. And they choose not to even consider anything. So trying to find, you know, writing communities that I fit into has been a struggle, a challenge. When you find the right people though, oh my goodness, it’s glorious and it can be life-giving. But that’s how it impacts me. And it’s constantly changing, because what I’m physically able to do can change not only daily, but it can change hourly.

So within a day, how I, you know, was in the morning could be very different than how I am in the afternoon to even the evening. And I never know when it’s going to shift and change for me. So I just have to get used to being able to go with the flow as best I can. It’s frustrating. I will stomp my feet. I will want to cry. I will do all of those things. And then me trying to decide what’s the best way for me to move forward.

Rachel Thompson:

It sounds like all of that that you’re feeling and then to have people maybe who don’t understand that is another layer of this isn’t easy for me to back out of something or to stop doing something.

Olwen Wilson:


Rachel Thompson:

I think you already talked about the different locations. So it’s like, okay, I’m going to write in bed with pillows. Okay, today I’m at the desk. But what are some other things that you’ve done to make the work of writing better fit your abilities in that moment-to-moment thing?

Olwen Wilson:

I actually try to work on projects that excite me instead of what other people want me to do, you know, because there’s sometimes I’ve written something and somebody’s like, I want more of this. Oh, I think you can dig deeper here, you can expand it here. And when they’re talking and they’re so excited about it, and you know, you can get caught up in the hype of like, oh, yeah, okay, somebody’s really believing in my work. But I feel nothing for it. It’s not thrilling. It’s not getting my heart pounding. I feel like I’ve already done that. I want to move on to something else. When I ignore those instincts that I have of like, this isn’t for me, and I try to follow somebody else’s enthusiasm, it’s always backfired.

It hasn’t worked out the way that the other person wanted, and definitely not how I wanted. So I really try to focus on what excites me, which can be frustrating for other people who are like, do you write this or that? And I’m like, all of it, all of it. And they’re just like, I don’t understand. And I’m like, you either enjoy it or you don’t. So I really try to focus what’s exciting me and go after that as much as I can. There’s something you just have to do. But at the same time, I’m like, I’m going to add as much joy and pleasure into my writing as possible, because that’s what gives me life.

Rachel Thompson:

Yeah, you’re someone who I see it as modeling, of course, you’re just doing your own thing, but I find it’s a great model for me to think of all what it’s just doing what all one wants to do. And I just love that, because I think it’s easy to get caught up in that hype that someone else maybe feels and you’re like, oh, there’s a reader, okay, I have to write to that reader. And the fact that you are seeking the joy and the pleasure in every ounce of the writing that you do

is beautiful.

Olwen Wilson:

Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. And I try my best. I do get caught up in like, oh, but maybe if I did it this way, I’d have more eyes on my pieces and they would get published and all of this stuff. But at the same time, I feel like I would be selling my soul if I did that. So it’s like, go with the joy, follow the joy. So thank you for noticing that. I appreciate it.

Rachel Thompson:

Well, and that leads me directly to asking you about the kinds of writing and writing practices that do excite you these days or in this moment. Are there certain methods to or genres, forms, places where you feel momentum and excitement with your writing?

Olwen Wilson:

When it comes to genres, I’ve really gotten into, and this goes by several names, but like magical realism or fabulism, surrealism, but things that are kind of like based in reality or some sort of reality that have like a weird element or like an absurd, ridiculous, fantastical, and usually humor. I really like to infuse my pieces with humor. Even if it just makes me laugh, I’m like, that’s, I’m funny. So I’m going with it. So to me, like, when we look at the world, the world is burning. And there is a bunch of ridiculous things happening. I like to incorporate that into my fiction, because to me, that feels like truth.

Even if it’s not real magical element that we’d maybe see in our world as we know it, or how we’re choosing to see it, but in these worlds that I’m creating on the age, I’m like, why not? Why can’t it be this way? For some reason in this world, somebody decided that put any kind of moray or norm or whatever you would want into that sentence. It’s like, well, who decided that that was right or who decided that this was wrong? So I like to explore that in my fiction writing. And I’ve moved away from creative nonfiction to fiction, because it was just more enjoyable for me. I didn’t feel like I had to kind of pour my pain onto a page for somebody to sit there and go, oh, I like this, or that wasn’t enough, or I want more.

And it just felt like there would take, take, take for me. That was like, well, I can say what I want to say, but make it about some other characters, you know, or in this different kind of setting. And hopefully get people to shift perspectives, or just enjoy the story, just take it for what it is, or interpret it. And I’d like to create stories that could be interpreted in various ways. That’s just what I like to do. Like, I kind of like to poke a little bit, like, you know, get people to realize like, well, I’m reading this, but I’m not really comfortable with it.

Why aren’t I comfortable with it? Or have somebody read a piece and have like them explode, either in anger or just like, I love it. I used to really be bothered by that. I’m like, well, you don’t get it. Like, why are you so angry? And I’m like, oh, you’re actually proving my point. You’re improving my point with this story. So I’m like, yeah, I want people to have a reaction. When I write something and somebody’s like, oh, okay. Yeah, that’s nice. I’m like, wow, that was a fail. Okay, let me see how I can make them have a bigger reaction than that. I don’t mind stirring the pot sometimes and like challenging people.

I’m like, let’s discuss this in a very heated manner. I enjoy that maybe a little too much, but it gets the blood pumping. And not always in a negative way, just like, you know, when you’re excited and you want to share that joy, that passion, I enjoy those kind of conversations to a certain extent. There’s sometimes I’m like, okay, we’ve done this. Now we need to move on. It’s lively. And I want that.

Rachel Thompson:

As a reader that’s definitely what I want to is like something that provokes me, makes me think about things differently. So not to put any pressure on you, but you are serving up, I think what I would like to read too. But follow your own bliss, not mine.

Olwen Wilson:

Of course, always.

Rachel Thompson:

Can you tell me about any writers, artists, people in your life, living, not living related or not that taught you through their own writing with disability and limitations?

Olwen Wilson:

When you had given me this question, when we were preparing for this podcast, I thought of two books that really helped me when I was first diagnosed, because it was just, you know, you go into a dogster. It’s like, this is what you need to do. And I really had to be like, hold on, I just need a moment to kind of think about what I would like to choose next. And while I was deciding what to do, and you know, I was trying to find whatever information I could about living with a chronic illness. And I had found this one book, it was called How to Live Well with chronic pain and illness by Toni Bernhard.

And when I first read this book, because it was, I forget how I found it. But when I first came across it, I was like, I don’t want to learn how to live well. I don’t want to have it. Like, no. But I was so grateful to go through that book and learn from somebody who was living with their own chronic illness, how to actually live their life. You know, it’s day to day, you know, some simple things of how do you care for your body if your body is in pain, you know, how do you bathe it, feed it, rest it in ways that actually are helpful, not harmful to you. And it helped me also under have a better appreciation of what my life could potentially look like if I chose various things.

And it just helped me decide who I wanted to be and know that I could change my mind at any time going through this process, even with living with a chronic illness. The other book, this was a gift from a friend. Both of these books I return to often. But this other book, it’s by Darlene Cohen, who also had rheumatoid arthritis. But I believe she has passed away now. The book is called Turning Suffering Inside Out: A Zen approach to living with physical and emotional pain. I loved her book because when she had the same disease that I do, she chose to work with her disease in a very different way than I do. But there is still so much that I could learn from her. That book helped me really try to focus it on where is the joy, where is the pleasure.

And, you know, there is, I think, a moment in that book she was talking about, from what I remember, don’t quote me, it might not give me getting this wrong. But from what I remember, she was talking about writing her bicycle. And that effort of kind of pushing the pedal down, there was pain for her in doing that. But that, you know, when your foot kind of comes up into that, you know, coming back up into that circle, then be pushing down. But coming back up, there was no pain. And there was just this pleasure moment, you know, having to breeze against your skin. And I was like, Oh, okay. Like, I was struggling at that point to even walk my son to school. And I used to love doing that with him.

So if I had to do something that was painful, like walking, I couldn’t walk for a long time, I needed assistance to do that. So putting my foot down, when that touched the ground, it hurts so much. But when I lifted it up, I was like, Oh, wait a minute, there’s no pain here. So it was trying to look for where are those points where I don’t have pain, where are those moments that aren’t hurting me. I tried to focus on those. And that book really helped me to do that. These two books, I still go back to, you know, everyone’s like, I think I read that there. How do I deal with this situation?

Or how did they deal with that? These books showed me possibilities. What these two women had chosen to do, had discovered through their journey, it showed me a different way. And I may not follow their exact steps that they had taken, but it allowed me to go, well, look at that. Maybe I could do this, you know, and make a choice that was better for me, that I never would have even considered had I know that there was possibilities. So that’s what I’m grateful for those two books for.

Rachel Thompson:

It sounds like it’s informed your writing in the sense that you’re saying I’m looking for the joy in the writing, I want to be excited always.

Olwen Wilson:

Yeah, you know, I’ve never actually made that connection. So thank you. Yeah, I think that that has absolutely spilled over into my writing for sure.

Rachel Thompson:

So I wanted to ask you what you wish people would sense or know about writing with disability and limitations. Maybe I’ll hone it in more specifically to just, you know, living with a condition like rheumatoid arthritis, but you can also broaden it out to answer about anything, but I thought maybe we could start there too. It’s like, what would you want people to censor know about how you’re writing with that condition?

Olwen Wilson:

What I think I would remind people is that you never know what’s going on with somebody inside, especially if they’re living with the chronic illness that is invisible to you, like somebody else outside of that person. So don’t make assumptions. You do not know, even if you know somebody who lives with a chronic condition, who also has rheumatoid arthritis like me or like somebody that you know, you only know that person has rheumatoid arthritis. And if you get to know about their condition, their life, then you’ll know more about them. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to know what everybody with rheumatoid arthritis is dealing with. Because not only can the disease affect each person differently, but people’s lived experiences are also differently.

Their social economic status are different. Their access to insurance, their access to alternative therapies, you know, even physical therapies, occupational therapists, all of that stuff is totally dependent on a person’s status, situation, financial, you know, situation. So if you want to know what somebody is dealing with, you can ask them, but also be prepared that they don’t owe you anything. They don’t have to tell you. So for me, when it comes to my writing, it takes me a long time. I don’t have a lot of things that have been published. I don’t even have a lot of things that I’ve written and completed.

I have a lot of starts, but I’ve had to stop a lot of times too, either because my body physically is like, you need to rest, you’re going to have a flare, we need to go see a doctor, we need to go into a hospital, and minor illnesses can be a major, major hindrance for me just living my life, never mind trying to also work in a creative manner. So I would say to people, you don’t know until you get to know the actual person. Hopefully you are somebody that they can trust and feel safe around so that they can actually share with you if they choose to let you know what’s going on with them and how that their writing life affects them.

Rachel Thompson:

There’s something to that question where I’m asking you, what do you want people to censor no, but really I’m also asking you to educate our listeners too, which is sort of them. You’re like, yeah, I do that a lot. So thanks a lot, Rachel.

Olwen Wilson:

I wasn’t saying that but…

Rachel Thompson:

Did you bring a piece that you publish that relates to your disability slash limitations? And I told you indirectly or directly is fine. And I think I know the piece that you prepared and it sounds great for this. So if you’d like to read from it, please go ahead.

Olwen Wilson:

Sure. I brought a story that I had written because it was influenced by my experience living with a chronic illness and how it can make you feel like you’ve been sidelined in your own life at times as well as you’ll notice in the story soon that there are labels and these labels don’t necessarily give you the full idea of what that means. So you might have to make some assumptions about it and people have definitely interpreted this story in different ways, which I kind of want it. So that’s good. It’s called the Shape of the situation in apartment 23C on a Sunday in September:

Sick of soup-stained shirts, unending heartburn, and his wife’s attentive new friend from down the hall, the Horizontal Man decides to attempt standing up. He declares this to the Parallel Woman while reclining on their contorted couch, and out of earshot of their Upside-Down Child. She doesn’t ask why. She hasn’t asked him anything at all since that tall, hot-liquid-loving neighbour moved in.

“I’ll get the Vertical Vixen to help!” the Parallel Woman says through her gummy-grin.

“No! Not her! Ask the Spiralling Boy in 17D,” the Horizontal Man shouts.

His wife’s cheeks blush pink as she flees from his side. Then red when she knocks their Allen-key-assembled coffee table with her knee.

He hears her send the Upside-Down Child to fetch his foe from the Perpendicular Widow’s old apartment. She adds a lunch invitation as thanks before pushing their child toward 23E.

The click of the stove coming to life tells him his wife’s serving soup for their midday meal. He notices his antacids toppled on the table in front of him, beyond his reach.

When the Vertical Vixen arrives, the Horizontal Man can’t get up from the couch to greet her, nor does he want to. The Parallel Woman’s fawning over the Vertical Vixen’s towering frame reminds him of why he does.

Neither of them offers him any help in getting to his feet. Not even when he won’t contain his grunts and groans while scooching himself higher on the cushions.

They’re too busy swapping stew recipes.

Too busy complimenting the other’s smile.

Too busy declaring their undying love for the world above his view.

All he can do is stare at them sideways as his Upside-Down Child joins them to form a new trio.

Rachel Thompson:

What I like about that or one thing I’m noting about that anyway is that you talked about having kind of this otherworldly effect in your writing, and that piece doesn’t, but yet the naming convention somehow makes it all feel a little bit off-kilter?

Olwen Wilson:

Yeah, something to give me just really minor, but I like to tell things slant sometimes. It’s easier, right? And it’s also fun. Like, I’m like, oh, how can I tell it this way or that way? And you know, I’m always asking like, could I do this? And I’m not really asking permission. I just want to hear myself say it out loud because then it feels real and I’m like, yes, I can’t.

Rachel Thompson:

Like, I’m asking so that I can tell myself, yes, you don’t even need to answer.

Olwen Wilson:

Yeah, pretty much.

Rachel Thompson:

My next question is what helps you move, rest, heal, grieve, and celebrate your efforts, wins, and losses.

Olwen Wilson:

There’s a lot that happens with that. Because of my chronic illness, I feel like I have a lot of gadgets and supports and things like this that can help me do some of these things. But really, I feel like I’m a broken record, but it’s going back to what’s bringing me joy. You know, it could be as simple as my cat coming up and insisting that she needs to sit on my chest and purr, and she wants kisses. And that’s how I celebrate like getting a submission or that’s just how I celebrate because it’s Tuesday. I try to look at the little things.

Like even going for a walk, you know, I used to go for walks and write these little stories that I share on Instagram stories. And it was just pointing out something I noticed. I used to go on these rainbow walks that I called and it was just, you know, I tried to find the color red, orange, you know, I’d go through all the colors in the rainbow and take a picture of it. And I’d create a little story about it. Sometimes it was nonsensical. Sometimes it was just fun. It was just like, this is red, this is orange, this is yellow, but it brought me joy. And I would do it with my son, especially during the pandemic, we would go around and do that.

We got to connect and talk and chat. I got to know him on a whole new level just by doing something fun. So if a song comes on that feels good. I’m going to sing along to it. I’m going to hum along to it. I’m going to dance along to it. My body is like, yeah, we can, we can try dancing today. It’s trying to really notice and expand the joy that’s around me.

Rachel Thompson:

It strikes me that one of your practices that I’ve witnessed and also we had to in the membership

to a workshop on is the visual journaling as well. Would you say that that’s something that helps you with bringing the joy and?

Olwen Wilson:

Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. Visual journaling was something that really helped me when I was first diagnosed. It helped me pace myself, you know, like I had to realize that I can’t maybe practice it in the way that I used to where it was like sitting at a desk for a long period of time, you know, kind of stuck in one position. My body was just like, no, you can’t do that. And I had to learn how to adapt that practice as well. So sometimes it was just literally me on a couch with, you know, a sketchbook and a few supplies in a pencil case. And sometimes it hurt too much to even visual journal. And all I could do is run my hands over the texture that I had created on a page that would remind me of, you know, remember how much fun you had when you did this?

And I think I’ll be able to do this again once the slayer comes down, once I’m feeling better. And I did. So when I couldn’t produce or create something, I kind of sat with what I had done and created. And it was just something to remind myself, like, you were able to do this one, or you did this when number, even though you were in pain sitting on the couch, you still were able to do this. How else can we move forward and create something in a way that works better for you? So it was like a challenge that I would give myself.

And it could be frustrating and make me really angry that it’s like, I have to come up with another way to do this. How come it’s not easy for me, like other people? But then the other side of me was like, Oh, I get to come up with another way to do this. Like, I’ve never thought of that before. And it was exciting. So yeah, visuals journaling that, you know, it can involve all your senses, you know, depending on like the supplies that you’re using, the smell of them, the texture of them, the sound, the things that you’re spreading around your page. I felt very immersed in my creativity with visual journaling. I was just like, I want more of this. And then it just kind of spiraled into, you know, gonna focus more on lighting, but also go back to visual journal.

I still visual journal all the time. Like I say that I’m a writer and an artist and creative facilitator because I always want to encourage somebody to be like, what is it that you want to do? And okay, here are your resources. Who are you? What’s your situation? How can we best work with everything that you’ve got going on so that you can actually create what you would like to create? Whether it’s for somebody else or just for yourselves, you need to make, you need to make and create. Like, that’s what keeps me going.

Rachel Thompson:

That feels like the beginning of advice for writers, which is what I wanted to ask you about now, too, is like, what advice do you have for all writers, but especially writers who have pain flare-ups, who have, you know, similar challenges on handling good and bad feedback with writing.

Olwen Wilson:

In regards to handling feedback with writing, I would say, sit with it with whatever you’ve been giving, whether it’s good or bad. Take a moment to just kind of notice what it is. No matter what feelings it brings up for you, feel them, you know, so if somebody had said something and it’s really angered you, sit with that. Don’t try to push it to the side or shove it away to be like, oh, I shouldn’t feel angry. No, no, no, if you’re feeling anger, feel the anger, you know, because I always find we try to shove it away, push it away, ignore it. It comes back louder, stronger, and more invasive the next time. If you really sit with a feeling, it could literally move through you in seconds. But when you fight it, it’s going to take a lot longer.

I would also say, consider the source. You know, there’s some feedback that I received from people that is just like, I don’t respect you. I don’t trust anything you say. And yet, there might be some wisdom that you can still glean from it. So you do need to consider that. And I also want to remind everybody that you get to decide how you’re going to respond or not respond. Not everybody deserves a response. And just because somebody has given you feedback doesn’t mean that you have to do anything with it. Somebody might say, for example, your main character should do, let’s say, you know, you should be more angry in this situation. But that’s not what you want to get across.

So you might go, you know, I want him to be seen as sad. So how can I play that up and go through and go there? I’ve got the opposite direction that people have said, oh, it should be this. I’m like, oh, okay, thank you for showing me that I didn’t make it clear how I actually wanted to come across. So whether I go back and kind of double down and try to boost what I want to say instead of trying to change it, because somebody else told me that that would be acceptable to them. And trust your gut, trust your intuition and trust your gut, that’s what I would say. I’m constantly trying to be like, right, remember, you know what’s going on.

Remember, this didn’t feel right when this person said it. So why are you trying to like twist yourself around to accommodate this that doesn’t feel good for you?

Rachel Thompson:

So true. What you said about paying attention to the feedback, but not the solution offered is something that I find is a really great approach to workshop with people who are well-meaning and really are trying to care and understand the work. If they’re identifying like a problem area, I find it’s often it’s okay, pay attention to that. But if they’re telling you how to solve that problem area, solve them is that important information in my experience.

Olwen Wilson:

Yeah, I love the way you said that. And that reminded me if somebody has given me feedback, if they start with you should, as in like, you know, they’re telling me how I should do something, I immediately stop listening. It feels like I put my fingers in my ears and I’m like, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, like I don’t want to hear it. But it’s also just an indicator for me to go, okay, I can listen to, or maybe I’ll consider what they said up to that point of you should. After that you should. It’s usually stuff that I don’t really want. I’ll also read it again, try to see if there’s any wisdom I can glean from it. But yeah, I like how you said that. Yeah, focus on not necessarily that solution, but the problem area.

Rachel Thompson:

That brings us to our quick flip round where you complete the following sentences. The first is

being a writer is?

Olwen Wilson:

Being a writer is life-giving

Rachel Thompson:

Literary magazines are?

Olwen Wilson:

Literary magazines are wonderfully vague at times and they get challenging for me to submit pieces that I think would work. But I love that they are doing the work that they’re doing and we get exposed to a lot of varied writers and new writers and new stories that I never would have seen had they not existed.

Rachel Thompson:

Editing requires?

Olwen Wilson:

Editing requires patience, time, few things that I don’t always have a lot of, but I find that they help the editing process the most.

Rachel Thompson:

Rejection for a writer means.

Olwen Wilson:

Rejection for a writer means trying again.

Rachel Thompson:

And then finally writing community is

Olwen Wilson:

Writing community is challenging to find the right fit and you may want to give up, but I highly recommend keep going because when you find the right people or the right group of people, the right container, I guess for your writing, it is magical and it’s beautiful. You learn so much and be reminded why you started writing in the first place.

Rachel Thompson:

Thanks so much. Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you want to touch on before we end?

Olwen Wilson:

Oh, nothing that I can think of right off the bat. People can also reach out to me if they have any further questions. I’m open to that, but also, you know, respect boundaries because I will definitely remind you of mine. But yeah, good luck, have fun, and thank you again for having me, Rachel.

Rachel Thompson:

So that was my interview with the wonderful creator, Olwen Wilson. Olwen also facilitates brilliant workshops that help writers and other artistic folks and maybe folks that don’t believe they are artistic to unlock their creativity with visual journaling. In our conversation, I mentioned we had them teach a workshop in our community and it was so good. I made some neon pink pages during their session that I love. Links to Olwen’s teaching and everything else we discussed in our conversation are in the show notes for this episode, rachelthompson.co/92.

Olwen as always with caring respect, nudged us to remember that people’s experiences of all disabilities, diseases, and limitations varies so much. It’s a nuance I want to hold and keep reminding us of as I put these episodes forward. So in this series, I’m not saying here is an autistic person /a person with ADHD/a person with traumatic brain injury. And this is what all folks on the spectrum or with this injury/ disorder need from the writing community.

I’ll also with care and respect nudged you to see the writers here as individuals and also to enjoy the beautiful gifts they offer by sharing what works for them and their writing practice because many of the practices we cover might work for you. Certainly the practices of listening to your body, feeling your feelings and following your own excitement are universal things that I for one aspire to do.

Watch the podcast feed and subscribe for more episodes with brilliant writers who create practices that work for them and their own disabilities and limitations. I hope that you’ll pick up ideas for your practice and how you might work around anything in your life that makes it so you cannot write in the often prescribed formula of writing every day on a set schedule, a wrong-headed and exclusionary prescription.

The **Write, Publish and Shine** podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. My producer for this episode is Meli Walker who helped me shape these questions as a fellow spoonie herself. Thank you! Sound Editing by Adam Linder. Transcripts by Diya Jaffery.

You can learn more about my work to help writers write, publish, and shine at rachelthompson.co. When you’re there, sign up for my Writerly Love Digest—bite-sized info including prompts and craft tips, publication news, calls to action, reading lists, and more. They are still sent weekly and filled with support for your writing practice.⁠

If this episode encouraged you to follow the joy in your writing I would love to hear all about it. You can always email me at hello@rachelthompson.co.

And tell other luminous writers about this episode. You can do this by sending them to the podcast at rachelthompson.co/podcast or searching for Write, Publish, and Shine wherever they get their podcasts.

Thank you for listening—I encourage you to write in a way that works for you today, even if that’s mulling over an idea when you cannot get to the page.

Olwen Wilson spoke to me from so-called Canada, on the traditional territories of the Neutral, Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee people.

I am still here in South Sinai, on lands historically and presently occupied by the el Muzzina Bedouin, and also historically had been occupied by Israel, a country committing genocide agains the Palestinian people in Gaza, enabled by my country of origin – Canada, which is selling weapons to Israel, and in particular by America, which just yesterday shamefully vetoed another UN ceasefire proposal. All eyes on Rafah.

Transcript Outline

00:01 Introduction to this episode.
00:36 Olwen’s introduction
01:35 Navigating Identity and Labels
05:30 Creativity Amidst Limitations
10:13 Navigating Writing Challenges
16:07 Inspirations and Influences







Educating and Advocating
Creative Expression through Writing
Finding Joy and Inspiration
Advice for Writers
Quick round with Olwen
Ending words

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