A New Take on Living and Writing!
I was trying to get myself organised the other day, a constant battle, and so was attempting to get rid of the thousands of emails that have piled up in my inbox, 20,000 to be exact!
I know, I know, it’s outrageous that I have that many, but somehow I can’t seem to delete them. And I was wondering why?
But pondering this question has led to me to some home truths about myself. Maybe I find I can’t let them go, not because I might need them one day (which I sometime use as an excuse), but because of my inability to embrace the something new in my life, which is largely unknown. So I tend to stay in the past, surrounded by reminders of it, hence the emails. The emails detail what has gone before, and show me the life I and my family and community and the world have had, rather than facing and embracing what is going on now and in the future for us all. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have memories or photos, but if we get stuck in the past, reliving times that have gone, it affects how we live in the present and is counter-productive to planning a future. While we can learn from the past, sometimes we have to let it go!
But there is something else going on with me, which I only just realised lately. It’s a bit like any artist or writer, you are only as good as your last song, or last book, or last blog. I keep all the things I have written over the years, and sometimes revisit them to remind myself, that yes, I could write back then, and yes, I did have some interesting thoughts that may have helped a few people. When you come to a new page, you are again in that space where doubt can enter through the side door. Can I still write, do I still have some good ideas, will people still read them? I sometimes have this feeling when I sit down to do a service or write a sermon ( as I work part time as a minister in a local progressive church). Even though I am supposedly channelling the spirit, it is often lonely when the page is empty of words and meaning. And the spirit seems quiet. It is easier to go back and look at what I have written in the past then to be brave and write something new.
But then I read a lovely column by the writer Anne Lamont, “The 12 truths she has learnt about life and writing”. Although they all spoke to me, there was one that I loved, number 6..
“Writing. Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That’s the secret of life. That’s probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honour. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little. When my older brother was in fourth grade, he had a term paper on birds due the next day, and he hadn’t started. So my dad sat down with him with an Audubon book, paper, pencils and brads — for those of you who have gotten a little less young and remember brads — and he said to my brother, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Just read about pelicans and then write about pelicans in your own voice. And then find out about chickadees, and tell us about them in your own voice. And then geese.”
So the two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and really god-awful first drafts. If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.
You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.”
I am not sure I was born to write, but I do get that urge to put pen to paper, regardless of the fear that people might not care.
Maybe that doesn’t matter, and we become who we are by doing what we are called to do, regardless of whatever other people think.
For me, I write how I see the world, how I see God (whatever that term means) and my faith journey, how I see how my community and how I see myself. And I try to do it honestly and with thought and with love. But I don’t confess to have any more answers than you, whether it is a sermon or a blog or even some notes on a page.
But I am going to do it more often, and stop looking back but look forward, for as Anne said, I am going to “keep my butt in the chair”, and edit that awful first draft until it’s a 10thor 100thdraft! For in the end its my voice and I want to share “the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of my heart”, with you all!
PS. By the way I am slowly getting rid of the emails!!!