Like a lot of people who publish blogs, I count myself as one of those compelled to write. I’ve been at it a long ol’ time too. Writing is one of my preferred ways of communicating and of developing my thoughts. I became serious about it as a teenager, though I am not a published (except for my own blogs and underground (guerrilla) publications). I don’t claim to be a GOOD writer; I claim only to be a writer.
My first college degree was writing intensive, and that is where I learned (to the degree I did learn) to write meaningfully and with excellence. I spent a lot of time with the tutor on most assignments, and it paid off.
However, since then, my writing has either been largely FOR myself or for readers who couldn’t care less about excellence as long as the point was something they were interested in, which was always Jesus and the homeless mostly. At that level, as long as the idea is generally conveyed, who cares about spelling, syntax, correct punctuation?
But I have spent the last year and a half to two years writing a book in my quiet moments. I spent a solid year before that researching it, so… so I want to step up my game on the excellence. I am rusty.
So, I have sought help. Free help. Help from readers here familiar with my writing on the blog. And wow! I got some. I am very grateful for it.
My favorite prof in school was an old guy known for being a stickler about everything. He was a Bible prof, but he would tell us, “Don’t be afraid to kill your babies.” That was particularly jarring to hear from the Bible professor. But, of course, he was speaking metaphorically about the ideas and words we get attached to sometimes that, in the final analysis, don’t help a paper. You gotta learn to let go of those things.
He also regularly refrained, “Nothing written isn’t better rewritten.” (Kinda a double negative thingy, but it makes the point. Just because you think you are done doesn’t mean you should quit yet.)
When, though, did writing get to be so important to me?
That’s a good question. (More for me than anyone else, but hey… if you are still reading….)
I remember once hearing my mother in conversation with another lady describing how she thought my sister was a writer.
That’s funny since all these years later, as far as I know, my sister doesn’t write her own name hardly. I write every day practically. I write stream of consciousness style, even meanderingly. I write every word in effort to capture it all on paper, though in the editing it quickly becomes clear how much overkill that usually proves.
I will let that whole paragraph demonstrate the point as I get back to the real point.
So, Mom thought my sister was the writer, and that tickled me into writing, it seems. But not right away. It was a notion that simmered a long time, and I never spoke of it until just now.
In high school, I took an aptitude test for the guidance counselor. It turns out I am a terrible test taker of many kinds of tests, and this one came with bunch of survey questions about my interests as well as my abilities. When I stipulated that I wanted to make a crapton of money without working at it much, the one, single, solitary option it computed for me was … drumroll please… writing.
That was sorta a stupid exercise in stupidity, really – except for the fact that professionals having the responsibility of educating me put me through it.
But there was this one anomaly experience to everything I have said so far – well almost everything.
I became a writer for my high school paper my senior year.
You wouldn’t know it now, based on the intense, severe lack of interest and readership on this blog, but I was extremely popular as a writer for my school paper. I don’t overstate it when I say I pretty much single-handedly “saved” the whole paper.
(Okay, technically the paper was not in danger of extinction, but it was treated with overt contempt for years before I started writing there, and once I did, both the paper and I became popular.)
Yeah. We started getting letters to the editor requesting more of my stories!
I really SHOULD have gone to New York City and sought a job on SNL, because the stuff I wrote was just not the news. Not even close. There is a whole story behind that which I am itching to write about now, but it goes so far astray even for me that I will just let it go this time. However, there is one more bit to it that I will indulge. I indulge it just to hammer home the point that I was popular and somehow “saved” that paper.
It was three years after high school, upon returning home one day and finding myself in a checkout line at the local grocery store that a young lady behind me stepped out of line to ask if I was [Agent X], which I affirmed. She then introduced herself and thanked me saying she had been a freshman the year I was a senior and wrote for the school paper, that I had inspired her to write, and that currently she was a senior and the editor!
Lemme tell ya. I mention that now because I NEVER experienced anything like that again. Not with my writing, at least.
But even after that, I didn’t really write for another year. It was a year after high school, after all my friends had gone separate ways, that I began keeping personal journals, books where I could work out my thoughts on things. None of it ever published, of course, but I wrote excessively like that for years.
So, yeah. I am a writer.
I should be more of a reader. Reading makes writers, as I understand it. But funny thing is, I just don’t read that much. Well, I did read a LOT of theology books in school and for years after. I mean a crapton! But funny thing is that especially fiction just bogs me down. And the fancier the prose, the harder it is for me to read.
I really wanted to read Sophie’s Choice. One of my favorite psalms is 88, and Styron features 88 in his terrible story, as I understand it, most poignantly. I have read a few novels, okay, but this one is written in a way you gotta work to read. And the bit about psalm 88 is not captured in the movie version! You really gotta read the book! And I tried a few times. But I just can’t keep up the reading steam to do it.
But I notice that Walter Brueggemann describes Styron’s handling of 88 in his scholarly theological books, making me want to read it. Still, I just bog down in fiction most of the time, and this one was harder than most.
Then I recently saw on Netflix a documentary about Joan Didion. I never read her work, and it took me a few minutes to appreciate what I was watching. That documentary is really all I know about her, and so between getting my information from a single source and my lack of academic interest, I may have some of her story completely botched, but I felt both liberated and intimidated as a writer by her story.
To mention her name along with my own is, of course, shameless. I may as well lump myself in there with Shakespeare while I am at it! But she described herself as a young writer going to work for a magazine with a tough editor (I don’t recall the name), and the experience forced her to write fast and write well. She rose to the challenge.
She married another writer, and they edited each other’s work. I gotta say, I envy that!
But she was eccentric too, and the documentary claimed that when she was working on a piece that seemed to get stuck, she would literally put it in the freezer and leave it on ice until she was ready to attend to it again.
They claimed she had, not only the skill to write, but an eye for the story. She could look at a subject and find the story in it no one else was finding.
I don’t mind saying, I felt something akin to THAT PART. And I felt free to get eccentric (though I don’t feel compelled to freeze anything).
So, there’s that.
At any rate, I said all of that so I could say that I am working on my own book. Slowly, but surely. A few readers here on the blog have looked at it now in it’s current draft, and a couple have given me some very valuable feedback, and almost all of them have given me even more valuable encouragement.
Some readers here surely have an understanding that I write here regularly distracted by children at my knees. We have five adopted/foster kids in this house, the oldest one being five years old. If you think I get quiet time to write… ha! Only late at night when I am dog tired. So, there’s that in the mix too.
I am at a point now where I will likely step back from the blog for a bit again as I devote myself to that other work, which I am very excited about and which I want to share with the world soon. I especially hope that I can get readership among the homeless and church leaders. I expect that if I can get a hearing, I will open new kinds of thoughts and attitudes which surely will change a lot of behaviors too – for the better. And I really, really want to do that.
If you are still reading this far, I invite your prayers on it.
Also, thanx for reading.