Lover of Language Get to Know Kelsey Schurer, RTC Executive Book Editor
on August 19th, 2021
How do you get into “the zone” when it comes to diving into your work?
I take writing very seriously, in that I recognize it is a true art form. We interact with language on a daily basis, often in the shape of writing—sending text messages and emails and reading Instagram captions or blog posts or even advertisements. We get so lost in the sea of language—all this written text that we encounter on the daily—that we forget the written word is more than just a form of communication; it can be, and is, art.
Writing has the power to shape who we are, what we think, feel, believe. Like any painting or theatrical performance, writing has the power to emotionally and spiritually connect us. There is a relationship that is established between the skills a writer must learn, the creativity a writer must seek within themselves, and the connection they must forge with their audience.
It is a sacred, never-ending, long-lasting pursuit.
For any artist, that first step in pursuing their work is often looking inward—what is it inside of my mind, heart, and soul that is willing to knock on the door of my body and request to be let out?
Before you ever open the door and before you ever hear the first knock, you must be willing to sit and listen.
How I get in the zone is by, firstly, reminding myself of this sacred pursuit of an art form—it is not the mundane, regular encounter of language that I do on the daily, but a blessing to seek out talent, beauty, and truth.
Secondly, I settle in. Because writing is built by language, we can listen for it and hear the story coming toward us—as American poet Ruth Stone says, she can hear the poem barreling for her, without warning, like a train’s whistle in the distance growing closer.
Settling in can look very practical. For me, when I sit down to craft something creative, I often prime myself with an environment that exudes the kind of atmospheric energy I am looking for. Meaning, I get into something comfortable—lounge pants or a soft, fuzzy sweater—because I know I will be at the computer for a while (writing is most definitely playing the long game). I light a candle or diffuse essential oils to ignite those sensory parts of myself (the flickering light, the smell of frankincense). And sometimes, depending on the work, I pull up a playlist of music to help me engage in rhythm, cadence, themes, and emotion. In other words, I set the scene for myself, just as an actor gets into her costume or a dancer ties his tap shoes.
Ultimately, to get in the zone, I encourage other artists to take their art seriously—take writing seriously. Not only does the art deserve to be recognized as such, but you—the artist—deserve that breathable space to move, and be, and live out the sacred experience of art-making.
Pursuit of creative work should never be the cause drudgery, but always joy.
What is the best piece of writing/editing advice you have received?
Writing is alive—every piece of writing has a heartbeat. The work will always be dead unless you find the heart and make sure it’s beating throughout the entirety of the body of work.
Finding the heartbeat is another matter entirely, but knowing there’s a heartbeat is half the battle indeed. The moment you start to think of writing as alive, and living, and moving separate from yourself, you can begin to see how it works, how it’s shaped, who it longs for. Every living thing has a heart and this heart not only helps the physical functioning of the thing, but the heart also is a symbol of how we love and how we speak to one another. If you think of writing as alive, then you recognize it must have a heart—what does it long to say? Who might fall in love with it? What rhythm does it move in? You can begin to see audience, structure, thematic desire, and all the rest when you figure out the heartbeat of the story.
What is your favorite aspect about working for RTC?
Our core values! LOVE—everyone and everything at RTC is motivated by love. And within that love is a desire to learn from one another and grow and evolve; to own one’s responsibilities and to respect our teams; to embrace being vulnerable and to not fear or shy away from emotional intelligence and emotional communication; and, of course, to elevate to brilliance—to support one another brilliantly, to lovingly challenge our clients to take a leap, and to rise as a true artist and perform at our highest levels of art-making. There’s a special kind of magic at RTC in striving to treat each person and each act with attention and care and love. And sometimes that love looks differently based on the individual, but ultimately, we all can feel the love and its intention in everything we touch and in every word we say, and that’s unique—you can’t really find that in many workplaces.
When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a little girl, I either wanted to be Jane Goodall or a writer. And pleasantly, in a way, I became a version of both. I’ve gotten to volunteer with all kinds of animals—tigers and lions, owls and eagles, horses and cows. And by the grace of God, I’ve managed to keep writing since I was an eight-year-old girl giving poems about the beauty of trees to my teachers, to journalism, to my master of fine arts in fiction, to now—a writer and editor at RTC. Writing has never failed me, in that I have always loved, and do love, and will always love writing.
What is your personal mantra or manifesto?
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV.
Whenever I feel anxious or afraid or overwhelmed—and as artists, we all do from time to time—I cling to these words and receive His peace.