There are moments when I hate what’s inside my heart, tarry and thick with things quite undesirable. Learning to be comfortable with yourself, and equally discontent in order to be transformed, is one of life’s most difficult lessons.
I’ve just completed year two of “Being a Writer.”
As I have received affirmation from other writers and publications it amplifies to me the incessant poverty of my soul: the need for attention. Like a sacred signal, others have the power to bestow and to validate. And the bedevilling truth is that my soul craves it. To know how others perceive your work. The challenge has been to confront that gnawing need.
I want to write from a different place—a place of purpose. I have learned to question the longing for endorsement, which is particularly challenging when we all know that it is through others that we will become more influential and be read.
As I search about for evidence of my ability I have seen signs of it. I can admit how good this feels. I feel honored and humbled to be included in projects, and I fly for a while, intoxicated by seeing my words in places other than this little blog.
LISTENING WELL & SHARING PARTS
This year has been less about perfection and more about process. As I settle in to liking my own ideas, the words collected on the page, I fight a little less with each sentence. Hold less tightly to what Anne Lamott calls “little darlings.” Precious sentences are usually over heavy, causing the reader to stumble and perhaps even give up.
Though writing is difficult work, I am learning that reading should be a delight, smooth and sweet like cream. I have also learned that editors can make you sound better than you imagined possible, if you will only listen.
The responsibility to scratch words down is about more than cleverness, more than holding truths in my two hands and hammering it down on the page, more than dazzling others and more than pride in my work. It is about letting go of sacred totems and knowing when to hold back. It is accepting that your soul truths are precious and must only be shared with intention. One’s life and experiences, the anguish and pain must (at times) be sacrosanct.
Too much spilling over, with emotions a rushing avalanche, crushes the reader. People look away if the ideas are too stark and as they do you are left alone with the sorrows. Then you must take care with what you share of your own life.
So, I was drawn to a new prayer life this year, to solitude, and came to the understanding that to be a writer is a grave, holy responsibility.
In a language of prayer then I returned, after a time. Open-handed with God first, then to the pen and page. Collecting the words pooling up from a tuition paid in the blood of one’s life, letting go of some things. My suffering is sacred to me but it is only after the dross burns away that it grows suitable for others to read.
I look ahead with eyes blazing, fiercely determined to learn from my life. And as I peer into the mist of tomorrow’s sure ache, I am conscious of how little I know and yet I find myself strangely satisfied.
To write is to be exposed. While uncomfortable this is also a revelation.
Year one was a stew of fear and childlike developing aspiration. I was a little too comfortable with my naïve perceptions. Year two has been a rich smelling curry of risk-taking and yearning but had a stench of feeling left out. For even online there’s an in crowd, the A-team, the coterie of the Elite Lists.
I hope in year three to let go of “I Can’t” and of “If Only” and face things squarely. This is who I am. This is what I have to offer.
As I set down goals, and slowly begin to achieve them, I feel purposeful and ambitious and aspiring. I will write about things that are heavy on my mind: a deepening faith, mental illness, the injustice of racism and sexism, and my ongoing sobriety.
This year has been mostly survival and “writing down the bones.” Being a mother, wife, daughter and friend has invaded my personal goals and aspirations. And, living with ash in one’s mouth all the time, you only offer the remains, hoping these odds and ends are meaningful but knowing in your deep places that they were sometimes artless and ghastly, often self-indulgent.
This year as a writer has taught me that life is to be lived well—in order to have words worth reading—which often requires that I step back and reserve the parts that are too hot and holy. This is the growing up of year two.
This year was hard.—
With lusts of envy and greed creeping in,
with personal heartaches and deepening spiritual awareness,
with “real life” weighing tragic and heavy in ways that I have been unable to express.
—All demanding balance and requiring a maturing of spirit, soul and mind. Admitting it here is the easy part. It has required honest and brave time alone, necessary no matter how long it takes.
Although I live often in the darkness, I’ll fight to write no matter the grief.
Over and over this year, I have been surrounded by awareness of Women, witnesses in the Holy Scriptures and all around me in life; the women who were and are faithful to Jesus. They went back to the tomb, were greeted and commissioned by Jesus to bear the good news of the resurrection.
I’ve struggled with my role as a woman in the Church and in my church. And out of a desire for unity, out of fear of being misunderstood, from a place of insecurity I have shut myself up. In year three I hope to become a stronger advocate for women.
I am a witness. I have a voice. I intend to use it.
Life is hard. You cannot write about all of it.
Work on internal integrity.
Learn to trust yourself and your voice.
Take risks. It is usually worth it.
Don’t let life overrun your goals and aspirations as a writer.
Listen to the places where your heart breaks and write about it.
Thanks for sticking with me in the writing, growing, and dreaming. I’m grateful your hearts, following along this journey.