Hello, fellow writers!

Following is an interview I did with Mandy Santos, aspiring writer of nonfiction. She offers inspiration in writing (and living) from a place of honesty.

A bit about Mandy:

I grew up in the south, married a Brazilian, and we now live on the west coast in San Jose, CA. I’m passionate about seeing people follow hard after Jesus and living a life of integrity.

What are you writing now and why?

I’m working on a project called Living Honestly. This idea came out of a season of discovering who I was and what God was calling me to do- both as a woman and as a Christian.

So much of my life seemed great on the surface. In fact, it was difficult to talk about the struggles I was dealing with because there were so many good things happening around me. The new church plant we were a part of found some measurable success, my marriage was great, I was a little overwhelmed with three kids under the age of four, but things were good overall.

But despite all of the good things, I carried around this unsettling feeling that I wasn’t being myself, and it seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t kick the feeling that God had more for me and I wasn’t completely aligned with Him.

Eventually I went through a season of loss and grief when three of my remaining grandparents passed away in the span of five months. I allowed the grief to fuel my search of seeking more answers. I spent a year with a counselor and she helped me unravel the parts of myself that had gotten tangled up and to figure out how to live and lead a better life.

Soon I began developing new thoughts and healthier patterns. Much of it came out of a clear moment when I felt God asking me, “Are you living the most honest version of yourself?” I wanted to respond, yes, but after some reflection, I began noticing many areas where I wasn’t. Things I hid because of fear and insecurity- many of them things I was passionate about.

So I adopted the phrase, “living honestly” as a quick test. I asked myself if I was living honestly in my personality, my gifts, and my health. This began to affect every area of my life, because I began to see how every area is one we can live honestly or hide who we really are. I stopped saying yes to things out of pressure, I started developing new rhythms, and soon enough, everything changed. The change may not have even been noticeable on the outside, but I felt like a different person on the inside.

Who do you see as the audience for your writing?

The more I’ve walked in this idea of living honestly, the more women I’ve come across struggling with the same issue. This journey doesn’t really have a finish line; there will always be adjustments to make. But, we can bring some clarity and alignment to some areas and feel like our lives have meaning and purpose because are living out of who God created us to be and not the cultural pressures surrounding us.

I’m writing to my young sisters in their twenties who could benefit from this perspective and hopefully save themselves some of the frustration I went through in my thirties.

What has the writing process been like for you?

For me, writing came out of nowhere. In fact, it was the year after I graduated college that I started finding more interest in it. So, naturally I did what everyone else was doing and started blogging. I honestly expected to flame out within a year. I convinced myself it was a fad that would die down eventually. But, oddly enough, my love for writing only grew, and that was weird because I didn’t know what to do with it. The biggest struggle I had was feeling qualified to be a writer and own it. I had a lot of insecurity and wasn’t sure how to know if or when I was good enough. After setting some personal writing goals and meeting them, I went to my first writing conference (Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference) to put myself in a position to get more professional critique and feedback.

When it comes to the actual writing process, I love it. Writing is a very spiritual experience for me. It’s where I feel most connected to God and feel like He’s personally speaking to me. There are times I just need to process something and by writing I’m figuring it out and learning whatever it is I’m wrestling through. But there are so many times when I will write something and go back and read it and think, “Where did that come from? I didn’t know that in my own mind.”

Do you have future writing or speaking plans?

I’ve been writing blog posts and articles for about ten years, but this is my first full book I’m working on. I really enjoy going deeper into one subject rather than the shorter and somewhat surface level posts.

My goal is to transition now to writing more non-fiction books and I’m using this project to learn what the process is like and how I write books best. It’s probably a littler slower, but I’m learning new tricks and techniques to find what works for me.

I enjoy speaking, but see myself as a writer first. Writing helps me process an idea fully so that I can speak on it more confidently and passionately.

What has been the most challenging part of writing? What do you struggle with in writing?

Up until recently my struggle has mostly been around being confident I can actually write well. After much feedback, that’s not as much of a concern anymore.

Now that I’m pursuing the publishing route, my challenge is surrounding platform and learning how to get the message out there in a way that fits me. That’s where I’m starting to take new risks and feel vulnerable, yet still learning how to live honestly. That message sure does seem to be affecting every part of my life. I guess its fitting to have to deal with it in this area, too.

Find Mandy and connect with her in these places:

Thanks, Mandy, for sharing your heart and what writing looks like for you!


Coming up!

  • Tips about writing narrative nonfiction for kids from an excellent example
  • And gleanings for writers from the book, Culture Care, by the Japanese artist Makoto Fujimura.