STAYING OPEN: WRITING AS AN ACT OF FAITH
For the next several months, I will be part of a writers group at a seminary in my town. The group is devoted to Staying Open – Writing as an Act of Faith. As we go along, I am sharing some nuggets on writing that have given me inspiration, motivation, and hope.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14- KJV)
1. Nuggets from Maya Angelou:
“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart. When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of , how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that.”
“But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.”
“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone — because we have the impulse to explain who we are. Not just how tall we are, or thin… but who we are internally… perhaps even spiritually. There’s something, which impels us to show our inner-souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.”
“I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool — and I’m not any of those — to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.”
2. Notes for the writer of faith from Acceptable Words, Prayers for the Writer, by Gary D Schmidt and Elizaabeth Stickney
“The writer of faith recognizes the call to live up to an identity as God’s image-bearer; the writer recognizes the call to use words in ways that bring honor to the One who gave us language; the writer recognizes the call to use all capacity to appreciate and create beauty; and the writer recognizes the call to offer up our small voices in the universal anthem of praise.
“When the writing day comes to an end, when we shut down the word processing program, put the vinyl cover back on the Royal, set the pencils back in the pencil holder our children made the summer they were four, and when we look at the word count for the day and it’s not even close to what we had hoped for, and when we read our stuff and realize that we didn’t manage to say something that might be unique and important – when all of this is done, then what matters is that we worked hard and faithfully at the task that we were called to do: to bring acceptable words into the world, to bring acceptable words into God’s world.”
“There are times in the writer’s life when the writing seems like a gift. An idea, a pattern, a structure, a sentence, a phrase, a word that comes to us unexpectedly, mysteriously, seemingly unearned, perhaps providential . . . . We had not expected it; we had not even been working at it. And yet there the thing is and the pleasure of its sudden appearance is the pleasure of true hope.”
3. If you write, you are a writer. Don’t waste emotional energy wondering if you are good enough.
4. Be ruthless on the words you write; be gentle on yourself as a writer.
5. “Write the same way you speak.” (from Kathleen Norris, author of Amazing Grace; A Vocabulary of Faith.)
6. The more you write, the more you write.
7. Advice for writers from Garrison Keillor:
“My advice to writers is very simple. It is to get out of the house and go look at the world. Go for a walk for two or three miles. Writing is about the world that we live in and when we lose touch with the beautiful surface of the world, it [writing] loses its way.”
“All of your relatives are in your writing and everything they gave you. You’ve inherited your voice from other people. When you have found your voice, stay with it and trust it.”
8. From The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied. ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp’ . . . . Maugham [recognized] that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration.”
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. ”
“Writing is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us out of your contribution. Give us what you have got.”