Ever since she was a child, Wener has always written little notes, usually about feelings of sadness, despair, fear or grief. She says writing helps bring the feelings out of herself and onto the paper. She continued to write these notes to herself when she became ill with cancer, but didn’t begin her book until 20 years later.
“I never thought I was a writer until I seemed to have this book write me,” says Wener, who has been free of cancer for 22 years. A Montrealer, she has a private practice as a natural health consultant, with a multi-dimensional approach to healing.
It was her daughter Katherine who thought more people needed to learn Wener’s story and suggested she write a book. She told her mother, “You touch a small number of people, you give speeches locally, you have a private practice where you see clients. But I think more people need to find out that they have the same potential capacity that you have.”
“It was a very difficult process because as I wrote the story, I relived all the physical pain in my body. Though in a way, it was really quite cathartic to get it out of those little corners where we store all these emotions. I was able to literally to get it out of my body.” When she’d completed the book and was asked how she felt, she replied, “I feel like it’s no longer my story.”
In writing Resilience, Wener’s intention was to help people understand that they have the capacity within themselves to deal with the struggles they’re about to face. “I wanted them to understand that even if life is difficult and tenuous and painful, there are still going to be moments that are going to be extraordinary, exquisite and wonderful, and that we all have the capacity to find those moments.”
It was a two-year process from the first time she first sat down to write until Resilience appeared in print and on bookshelves. Her advice to first-time authors? “If you have a book inside you, whether it’s with pen and paper, on computer or with a Dictaphone, just start putting down emotions, feelings and thoughts. Then go for some form of an outline so that you have an idea of what your chapter titles might be; you can change them at any time, but it’s a place to start.”
People have asked why she waited so many years to write this book. “If you write something right when you have the immediate emotion of it, you’ll never really know how you’ve worked it through,” says Wener. “When you’re distanced from the emotion, you have the ability to be more objective, because you’re not in the pain of the moment.”
She is now at work on two more books, one about Sacagawea, the legendary Aboriginal woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the parallels with her own life, and the other, titled Permission, “which is about giving ourselves permission to say no, to be selfish, to find out what our own wants and needs and desires are.” Which, according to Wener, also applies to writing. “Anyone who wants to write something has to literally give themselves permission, without worrying about whether it’s good or not, or how it will sound to somebody else!”
Sounds like she’s speaking from experience.
by Shelley Pomerance
Susan Wener’s reading recommendations:
|When All You Have Is Hope, by Frank O’Dea and John Reynolds.|
When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, (Random House)
When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Gabor Maté, MD (Vintage)