Posts Tagged With: writing

The Writing Life – A Reflection

What does a writing life look like?  Most of the time a person of my ilk wants to be handed a list of 10 things to do to be a writer – knowing that doing these things will lead to a published book.  In school if I followed the teacher’s instructions I would receive an A and eventually I would graduate.  At work I could list goals, work towards them, and get a raise.  Success came via pretty clear roads.  However, with writing, as with most things, I’m beginning to see that this isn’t reality.

Annie Dillard expresses this very idea in her book, The Writing Life, by providing a view into her life of writing. Several reviews I read on Amazon were critical of the book because it did not contain that step-by-step guide.  As if by reading enough books on writing one can actually write.  Even though I may find a sense of comfort from those type of books, a sense that I’m doing something to further my writing project, I’m actually just putting off the real work.

Instead of providing a fool-proof system, Dillard pulls her readers out of their comfortable pictures of writing – just as she pulled her readers out of a romantic image of nature in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  Within these pages we are accosted not with images of writing at a desk overlooking a scenic lake – but of needing to find a place in a library where no outside experiences will intrude. Or, a cabin or tool shed where only the essential items are present – and sometimes absent, like heat.  For Dillard, “Appealing work places are to be avoided.”  She closes herself off from potential distractions in order to practice a great discipline of focused composing.  Yet, this is an element of her writing story, not something she claims is necessary for everyone.

Most importantly she shows that a writing life is a life first.  It’s not about being holed away and creating an alternative world – that can come later.  Instead it’s about living in this world and writing out of that living.  She emphasizes that “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.  A schedule defends from chaos and whim” (32).  A writer does not wait for something to happen, but lives into the story.  I’m reminded of Donald Miller’s book A Thousand Miles in a Million Years later that explores what it is to live a better story.  As far as a road map to living a better story – it’s basically doing it, not following a list of instructions.

Dillard even pulls apart the tried and true method of planning to write – working towards a well conceived vision.  The vision of a piece of work is not what the final work will be or even an outline to complete.  It is a way to start, though, through the very act of writing, the vision itself may never fully be realized.   The material elements of paper, pen, screen and keyboard serve to limit, or change,that vision.  Words elicit other words.  Sentences, paragraphs, and pages evolve.

I’m not sure if I go along with Dillard’s spartan view of writing space.  Though, for me, maybe a seat belt may be in order to keep me sitting long enough to write deeply.  However, I’m with her in her call to living.  This book does not provide a path to writing success – go and find a spartan room and write.  Instead what the life in this book provides is a call to a waking life because “we still and always want waking”.

“There is no shortage of good days.  It is good lives that are hard to come by.”

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Writing Desks: Inspiration for a Reluctant Writer

 Def: Desk.  A piece of furniture with a flat surface, often made of wood, at which a person can write or do other work.

Over the years of visiting literary homes, I’ve always been drawn to the rooms and desks where authors wrote. Though the kitchens provide insight into their daily lives and the doorways elicit images of people who visited, the desks and studies are the highlights of the tour.  This is where the authors penned or typed their words.  Where the impetus to create became incarnate.  Where . . .

It would be easy to go on and on about high-minded ideals of the creative work that took place at these pieces of furniture and in these rooms.  In reality, I’m drawn to them because I find it so difficult to stay at my desk.  It’s the discipline of writing that attracts me.  So in the spirit of desiring to sit at my desk in this new year, here’s a look at a few of the desks that have inspired me.

  • The latest desk I stood near was the lap desk of Jane Austen in the British Library.  From one perspective, it was just a simple box of wood with a lid.  Inside were pens, ink, and paper.  However, from another viewpoint, it was the place where Austen recorded her observations of society, shared her trenchant humor, and, unknowingly, created the sources of many well-loved films and mini-series.  All this within carefully wrought stories that continue to draw people into her world.
  •  Though I’ve seen many desks, I always return to the first desk I remember, that of Louisa May Alcott.  In her second story bedroom at Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, there’s a built-in desk at the window that overlooks the Lexington Road.  Here she penned Little Women and other novels, while she saw the daily traffic walking and riding before her.  Sitting at her desk gave her one view onto the world that she eventually shared through her novels.
  • IMG006At Monks House, the final home of Virginia Woolf, there is a wonderfully cozy sitting room and library.  However, this is not where she did most of her writing.  Instead, her work desk was in a re-purposed shed in the garden.  In this small space, her desk looks out upon the gardens and the Sussex Downs.  Here she had that “room of her own” in which to leave behind the stories in her daily life and focus on her task at hand – exploring new avenues to express the consciousness of her characters.
  • In Jean Stratton-Porter’s offices at her two Indiana homes, she placed the desks in the middle of the room, interrupting traffic flow from one door to another.  But her focus was not on movement, but on vision.  She wanted to sit at her desk and see out of the house in all directions.  The environment was vital to her work and in this place she brought together narrative and nature.
  • Earlier this year, spending time at C. S. Lewis’s home, the Kilns, near Oxford, England, I didn’t get a chance to see his actual desk which is in a museum. Instead, a desk from that period was in the common room looking out the window to the rose garden.  Even though I didn’t see the actual desk, I was struck by this one of many spaces where he wrote.  This was a place of writing in the midst of life and community.

Each of these writers had different practices, different desks, different rooms.  Still each desk and room represented the place where they put the ideas in their minds into physical form.  In each of these homes I didn’t realize a mystical transfer of inspiration.  Instead, I was encouraged that these authors, too, needed to be disciplined in their writing.  Austen kept writing while people came in and out of the sitting room; Alcott worked tirelessly on her novels, writing in what she described as a vortex; and Lewis spent hours answering letters even though he did not enjoy it.  They didn’t run from the blank page but were drawn to it, or at least stayed in front of it.

As I begin a new year and a new resolution to write, these and many more desks inspire me to sit down at my desk.  Not recreating their space, but creating one of my own.

 

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Literary Pilgrimage – A New Look

Literary pilgrimage.

  • A journey to places of story related to literature and its writing.
  • A  memoir of reading and journey.
  • A narrative of place and story, parable and poetry.

The introduction to the draft of my forever-in-progress book on literary pilgrimage, Walking the Path of Story, describes what the book is trying to do – build a connection between pilgrimage, literature, and reader.  It even lists the books and questions approached throughout the chapters. Yet, something is missing.  However, it doesn’t really get to the heart of this writing, the why it’s important, a reason to read.  So what is that reason?

This book is not full on literary criticism or religious ritual.  Nor is it a random jaunt to a tourist site.  Literary pilgrimage could be a way of simply following in the practices of earlier pilgrims, the authors and readers who have trod this path before.  But it’s not a path of imitation that underlays pilgrimage.  It’s a path of guidance.  This guidance frees the reader’s own story to come out as she lives in the places along the journey – the novels’, the authors’, the sites’, the pilgrims’.  It opens up new paths into the original story and into the pilgrim’s life.

Sitting in a grove of olive trees across from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, I could barely keep my eyes open.  Jet lag was pressing in on me even as the breeze of this land drifted across my body and I sat before ancient temples.  My first evening in Europe felt like a dream.  I didn’t know what to expect over the next twelve days on this Mediterranean tour, but I was ready to follow our guides as we heard familiar stories and were surprised by new ones. The growing connection of place and story slowly dissolved the dream and I was soon on an unexpected journey.  Each day one story led to others, drawing me on to the next place – whether the Aeropagus in Athens, the Forum in Rome, or this book on literary pilgrimage.

Many times the guidance on these journeys comes in the language of the book itself.  Readers engage with words penned in a specific time and place by a specific author.  The contemporary interaction of the reader with the authored words brings meaning to life in the practice of reading.  So, what happens when this contemporary interpretation includes places along with words?  How does the reader encounter these places?  Definitely not in the same way as the author.  This contrast is part of the richness of literary pilgrimage.  It puts one face-to-face with the uniqueness of both reader and writer and allows them to be in a multi-layered conversation.

On an overcast day in July I spent several hours on Cadbury Hill – a possible site of the fabled Camelot.  Through the trees I could see a lone piece of land rising out of the earth –  Glastonbury Tor, the Isle of Avalon, home to the Lady of the Lake, the grave of King Arthur.  The grass underneath and branches above grounded me in an actual place, yet there was more.  While sitting in this place numerous stories came together as I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel, Mists of Avalon, and recalled other Arthurian legends.  Lives opened up.  Imaginations roamed.  A fullness welled up as I contemplated being in that place, at that moment.  Men and women had been walking across those fields for centuries.  Stories of kings and knights had been lived and embellished, given new life for others to retell.  In these connections I was drawn to the stories all the more.  Yet, many others had come this way before.  What difference did it make that it was new to me?

Similarly, what difference would it make for others to walk in the paths of stories that drew me on journey?  I had found connections that opened up the novels of Jane Eyre, Little Women, To the Lighthouse and The Girl of the Limberlost, but would others also find these connections inspiring?  Ultimately, these journeys shouldn’t only be about the pilgrim’s experiences.  Through the readings and the places, the writings will get into the heart of the journeys, the wanderings, the way of the initial interactions.  But, the should also provide pathways on which readers can start their own journeys.

On an overcast March day I was wandering through the ruins of Whitby Abbey on the eastern coast of England.  A storm rolling in from the sea made the place seem even more desolate.  Over the next days I also explored Bolton and Fountains Abbeys.  These immense skeletons of stone are all that remain of church buildings that were caught in the midst of a political and religious battle.  Grand architectural monuments now decayed.  Remnants of a religious legacy that people alternately romanticize and critique.  In these places men sensed the power of God; but, also abused human power in God’s name.  Now we only have the vestiges of these buildings calling us to hear their former stories and fill them with new ones.

Though the paths and stories encountered taken in this book are not through stone ruins, they do form a scaffolding that will hold a new story, a new community.  They can provide a path for others to understand these novels through new means.  This path won’t be in a stranglehold of rules and procedures for reading, but in the telling of stories.  It’s a journey into words, outside of the chains of expectations and into the grace of living a story.

What is such a book for?  To help other people engage in pilgrimage – first vicariously, and then on their own.  To relish literature, story, these types of journeys.  To show God’s story in the midst.  It’s not just about these authors, these places, one person’s journey.  It includes the readers.  It’s about their stories and our stories interwoven.  Through the chapters we walk down a pilgrimage path exploring the liminal elements of life – on a journey to stories and at home.

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Putting Life in a Spreadsheet

Rows. Columns.  Cells.  It’s all so neat and organized.  What’s not to like about a spreadsheet?

A few weeks ago the writing group I’m in challenged me to submit my writing life to a spreadsheet.  This practice would be a means to prioritize all the projects I want to do and which are greatly outpacing my can-do’s.  For a long time I’ve rejected setting priorities and choosing among all the good opportunities and ideas before me.  But as the list has grown, I’ve only succeeded in being overwhelmed, not in getting anything done.

My first response to this ever growing list has been to break down projects into tasks – manageable activities to accomplish in a given day that will direct me to the eventual end product.  A seemingly sensible way to respond.  However, I’m finding that I see these tasks as void of the meaning of the project as a whole.  Afraid that I may get too enamored and lose myself in the work – or be lost focusing too much on the end product – I create a utilitarian list of work and lose the heart and enjoyment.

In this place of frustration, I submitted my life to a sheet.  Each row was a project and each column was a pro or con response.  In each cell, the intersection of the project and the possible responses, I made a check or left it blank.  Tallying up the pros and cons, there are clear patterns.  I would like to say that now all my scheduling problems are objectively solved.  They aren’t.  But a larger picture of what and why I’m doing started to emerge again.  It is definitely subjective, but at least it reveals the subjectivity driving my decisions instead of hiding it behind a mushrooming task list.

It became quite clear that I most enjoy engaging with content – travel, reading, study, pilgrimage.  These are life-giving practices that I often set on the back burner until everything else is done.  This is the stuff in which I can get lost.  Yet this is the heart of why I want to write and teach – to share what has encouraged me and help others discover their better stories.  In my current mode of working, I fail to see how this is part of my current life and how to incorporate it in the future – whether in my life or that of others.

It’s time to write and teach out of these interests instead of trying to take on someone else’s methods.  For example, instead of looking around at what others are doing in campus ministry and attempting to copy methods that ‘succeed’ or that I think others expect, I could more fully incorporate ideas of story and pilgrimage.  I could also do some exploring on UC’s campus in the areas of literature and travel to discover ways to be a part of this world on campus.  Now to find a pilgrimage/study adventure with others.

Community is important to me as well, whether it’s built through the internet or in local groups.  It probably needs to be both.  Though this is scary as I think about stepping out.  I’m so used to being cautious, hiding behind limits posed from external and internal sources, making excuses for not being involved, and then fading away as I return to safe havens.  But there is much more to true community.  I want to go honestly into these groups, no pretension or hiding, but with a joy of living as the image of God that I and others carry.

Editing this darn book on literary pilgrimage is close behind building community.  Why is it so painful?  Why do I continue to put it off?  It’s in a place of limbo.  I don’t really know what it wants to be, yet haven’t really done research to see where it’s going. There is so much of me within it I am fearful that it/I will be rejected.  But I’m also afraid that it will die away.  It is almost a decade since I went on the adventures.  Oh, I just need to take time to dive into it again.  Maybe I need to integrate the pilgrimage of publishing within the other pilgrimage work.

This is not the end of the spreadsheet – the neatness of the rows and cells still call me.  Ironically, the stark gridlines have emphasized that something was missing from all this prioritizing – the heart, enjoyment, and life of work.  It’s not that these haven’t existed in the work that’s on my list, it’s primarily that I’ve forgotten them under the weight of planning to finish projects.

Heart.  Joy.  Life.  Who wouldn’t want to jump into work where these are found?

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News from the Writing World

Today Mo Yan, a Chinese writer, won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature.  Every year I listen for the name – and often quickly forget it.  Attaining such recognition seems so foreign to me that it barely registers in my mind.  It’s just another piece of news and affirmation that literature still matters.

But did you also know that The New The New York Public Library is recreating Charles Dickens’ library of fake books. and Patti Smith visited the Brontë parsonage and Sylvia Plath’s grave.  Now these may not be life changing events, but they do show that writers, and their related items and places, continue to engage people in tangible spaces.  There is a life of reading and writing that goes beyond the covers of a given book.

Both of these news bits came from a website I recently discovered – Writers’ Houses.  As you will see, this site contains archives descriptions of a number of writers homes along with a weekly update on upcoming events or other connections to these houses.  It’s a virtual place to gather with others who continue to find importance in visiting these homes and other literary sites.

This could be dangerous for me.  Reading the list from two weeks ago I’m ready to go to Manorbier House, a Welch haunt of Virginia Woolf’s, that is still used as a writers’ retreat or find a way to live in one of the castles in the UK used for movies and television shows.  Who knows where I will be drawn to go over the next weeks as I return to the site.  Some of the ventures will be doable, others not so much.  But merely reading about the opportunities and getting a glimpse of the actual lives lived by these authors have inspired me to sit at the keyboard once again and get to writing.

In my research on literary pilgrimages to writers houses, I have found that such journeys don’t only or even primarily draw people to follow in the steps of the authors, mimicking their styles and attempting to recreate what had been.  Such visits also encourage people to step into their own life, and possibly writing, journeys on a more engaged level. There’s something about knowing that it’s been done before in a given place, with all its attendant difficulties, that makes writing or even another activity seem possible.

Now I may or may not purchase Mo Yan’s latest writings in which he merges “folk tales, history and the contemporary” with hallucinatory realism.  But I do know that I will return to a writer’s house soon to explore the places and surroundings that inspired them.  But even before that time, I will make my own journey into the practice of literature – both reading and writing in the places that surround me today.

 

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A Writing Reminder – Courtesy of Wendell Berry

Is there a neat process for writing?  Something that could fit into a daily routine and be crossed off a to-do list?  I heard that ‘serious’ writers make time to write, sitting at the desk and honing their craft day after day.  So, wanting to be a ‘serious’ writer, this was my goal for the new semester. Wake up, write for two hours, edit, share it.

However, the last five weeks has shown this isn’t a panacea for solving writing roadblocks.  Maybe such a practice has worked for others and I should just keep on trying.  Yet, as I’ve tried to develop a regular practice, the time spent writing has dropped significantly and the heart of the content is slowly leaking away.  All I’m doing is trying to get a product out – and I’ve lost sight of the product.

It’s time to regroup.  To remind myself that writing comes not from a mechanical process alone, but out of the living of life.  Wendell Berry’s poem “How To Be a Poet” brings me back to this place.  Tomorrow morning I’ll return to the desk, bringing with me the sacred places I’ve encountered and the stories within them.

But for now, I’ll rest in this reminder and go for a walk outside.  Anyone want to join in?

How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)
 
i
 
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
 
ii   
 
Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   
 
iii   
 
Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

 

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Looking Out an Author’s Windows

After spending the morning at Andalusia, I headed to Savannah, Georgia.  This time no exotic name or farm house with expansive grounds drew me.  Instead I found that I was looking for a row house off  Lafayette Square just past the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  This non-descript building of beige stone had only a small sign on the front indicating that here was the childhood home of Mary Flannery O’Connor.  

I walked up a set of stairs that were right that off the sidewalk and opened the front door.   From the back corner of the the living room, a voice greeted me. The docent welcomed me to the home and asked if I had read O’Connor’s works and whether or not I wanted a tour. Just minutes later another woman entered and we were soon surrounded by the stories of this home.

A difference from Andalusia I noticed immediately was that recent renovations had brought the home up to a state that echoed the time when Flannery lived here from 1925-1938.  Pictures of work showed how a modern apartment kitchen was returned to a turn-of-the-century version, complete with ice-box.  I felt I was in the midst of the place where she lived as a child, not a place that showed decay from the time she left.

In this setting our guide shared stories of a young, mischievous Flannery with a very keen sense of self.  She kept other children at arm’s length, reading them stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales when they came over, and attending the adult, not the children’s mass at St. John’s.  In the library area (the former dining room) he pointed out a copy of a book in which Flannery started her critical work at a young age by writing “this is not a good book” on the title page.  Upstairs we saw the twin beds in which she had slept.  Since they were on wheels she could roll them to the window in her bedroom – not something that was encouraged.

From her parent’s bedroom windows she could watch the people in the square – their comings and goings.  She also saw the cathedral – the center of the community and also her faith life.  However, she did not blindly accept the teachings of the church or the expectations of others.  She asked questions, developed her own understandings of faith, and decided who would be part of her life.  As she melded what she saw from these windows, within her protected life within the home, and during the interactions she had outside, the foundation of her worldview was forming.  Add to this the times she listened to her father’s stories as she sat by near the fireplace in the living room – and one can almost see her future as a writer solidify.

Walking through the house I sensed a place of life.  But also of quiet.  Not many visitors came to to this out of the way home today.  It provided space to reflect as I looked out the windows where as a child, Mary Flannery, stood and observed the scenes before her.  What does it mean to look out the same windows and see the same view – though with a few more trees in the square.  Does this put me in a place of copying?  Or in a place to look out my windows more clearly?  What is the writing life that this home encouraged decades ago and encourages today?

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The Writing Life – Solitary or Communal?

What a solitary journey the writing life can be.  We create alone.  Only we as individuals can put pen to paper or fingers to keys to share the ideas that are in our minds.  We need time away from everything and everyone to reach the deep waters of creativity within.  Consider the image of a writer with well-worn clothes and crumpled paper at his feet, furiously working in an empty garret.  Or, within the walls of a beach house on an island looking out at the sea, typing away on the novel that has been welling up within her for years.

But do we have to be alone?  When working on individual projects it is necessary to spend time apart from others – sometimes many hours.  However, that does not mean that we are by ourselves.  We are surrounded by many who have gone before us – authors, teachers, family, or friends.  They are part of the community that has shaped and continues to shape us.  I can’t sit down to write without feeling a sense of the joy of reading.  That little girl who loved to hear her mother read books before bed is grown, but the comfort of those stories and of the people who shared them with me continues.

Walden Pond

In addition, as I write I am in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Heidi, Walden Pond and the Bible.  Books have and continue to be an essential part of my being.  I am drawn to the words and to the characters.  Sometimes I remember the plots and settings as if I had lived them.  I can return to them intentionally.  Along with their works, authors’ lives influence me as I learn about their inspirations, practices, and trials.  They are all part of this creative community.

Then there are those who are actively part of my writing today: teachers, writing groups, readers of blogs.  We sharpen each other’s art as we see how ideas play among a group.  To be honest, I’ve been reluctant to engage with such a community.  It’s safe to keep writing for myself and only dream about sending it into the world.  However, I’m more and more aware that writing is not only about putting words on a page in solitude.  It is also about engaging others with those words – and engaging with the words of others. The small writing group I’m involved with keeps me honest, provides thoughtful encouragement, and keeps me writing.  Through this blog I’m learning that there may be even more who are part of this community and who can hone this work.

Ultimately, that lone artist image isn’t so ideal or even true.  Writing and other creative endeavors do not need to be solitary practices. Why should they be?  The ultimate creator – God – created the earth in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and continues to even involve his ultimate creation, humanity, in this project.

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Seeds of a Novel – Uncle Tom’s Cabin

A two-story, white house, the only building left of what had been the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, is dedicated to telling the story of the seminary president’s daughter – Harriet Beecher Stowe.  It seems out of place now with a gas station across the street and a highway overpass just a stone’s throw away.  Still, it provides a sense of a story that grew to encompass much more than a small corner of this city on the Ohio River.

Four years after moving to Cincinnati, Harriet started her married life.  Eventually she moved back to New England with her husband and children.  However, the experience of living on the edge of the North/South divide remained with her.  Around the seminary and in her home she heard about and likely participated in the growing abolitionist movement.  Down the river in Washington, Kentucky she saw a slave auction and in Ripley, Ohio she heard first-hand accounts of escapes.  She learned from  friends and acquaintances how the Underground Railroad kept running.

However, this city inspired more than her stance against slavery, it provided her a place to practice writing.  During her time here she was part of a literary society – the Semi-Colon Club.  Within this group she and others shared their writing projects and found encouragement.  She honed her skills and early in her marriage published articles and stories to supplement the family’s income.  At some level this group likely planted and helped nurture the seeds that would grow into Uncle Tom’s Cabin – a novel that moved a nation to read and to act.  She wrote this novel after the family returned to New England, but it certainly had some roots in Cincinnati.

Who would have thought that the buildings of the seminary would be torn down, yet one house remains because of a book written by a woman?  Some of its views may appear dated and sentimental 150 years later, but it continues to draw readers into the story of slavery and its effects on the human spirit and larger community. This is the story that the volunteers at the house tell – of a family, a woman, a book – engaged with the world around them as they struggle to live out their deep belief that God created all humans to be free.

Together the abolitionist activity and the literary society created just the place Stowe needed to conceive and write this book.  I wonder what writing groups in Cincinnati are even now providing encouragement for the next Harriet.  What areas of town are housing young men and women that are stirred to tell a story?

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Words of Writing Encouragement

I’ve made many new resolutions to change my writing habits this past year: waking up early, committing to blog twice a week, and seeking out places of writing and reading. Still I fight the practice.  It’s easy to put it on the back burner for the day as I stay in bed for another hour, prioritize other activities, and even find myself wondering what to write.  If everything else in my life aligns for the day, then I will write.  Otherwise, it may or may not happen.

Even though I have this adversarial relationship to writing, I go to bed feeling something is missing if I don’t take time for it.  A deep desire exists to express myself and the world around me through words.  Part of my problem is hearing my inner self and others saying that writing is just a hobby, it’s not important.  However, recently several words about writing have encouraged me to take it seriously again.

Words of covenant.  Walter Wangerin, Jr. talks about his relationship to writing – and subsequently the readers – as a covenant.  This is not an insignificant word.  It reflects a serious intention related to writing.  An ethical response to this work.  It’s a bond of trust with the writer and herself, her writing, her readers.  A voice in me whispers that maybe Wangerin can get away with this because he’s a real, published writer.  But does that make my work any less respectable?  Probably the first person who needs to take my writing seriously is me.

Words of spiritual practice.  Often I have thought about writing as a spiritual practice.  I journal during my quiet times and find myself in a cathedral recording thoughts about God’s work in my life.  However, I’m learning that the content or place of the writing doesn’t necessarily make it more or less spiritual.  As we see Jesus as God incarnate – that mysterious intersection of God and human, spirit and material – we can catch a glimpse of what spiritual writing may be.  Not writing that is only about spiritual topics, but writing that comes out of an ever more incarnationally lived life.

Words of platform.  Suggestions related to getting published may not at first seem the best way to be inspired to write.  Often such things can even squelch creativity.  Yet, concrete ideas to develop a more focused means of getting my work to others is helping me to develop that writing self.  So often I allow the random currents of life to dictate what I write – or not write.  A little bit here, a little bit there.  Constructing a platform (or maybe a canoe) can help me ride these currents better and even provide a better way for readers to understand what’s coming.

These words of covenant, spiritual discipline, and platform, along with others connecting writing to play and as a means of forming and sharing stories are starting to pull me out of bed and to the computer, one day, one hour at a time.

What words and prompts get you to write?

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