On Being a Writer, Part 2

I’ve realized two things about myself, the writer.

WP_20160202_16_07_52_ProFirst, I tend to write best in complete isolation. No distractions, other than some music over my headphones, in the background. I’ve taken to writing via Microsoft Word, instead of in the browser, so that the endless temptations of Facebook and ESPN don’t beckon. Sometimes even this doesn’t work. I’ve come to sympathize with author Sarah Bessey:

I hear from big and good writers that they require regularity and discipline to write: I am the same way. I know when I write the best stuff (early in the morning) and I know what helps me to write my best stuff (time outside in the wilderness, a clean house, a plan for supper, quiet, solitude) and yet I am rarely in that sweet spot.

Second, I write best when I ruminate upon my topic several days, instead of forcing myself to write daily. This means fewer posts but better quality.

Bessey said something else in that post I loved:

Now that I’ve published two books and countless articles, I have some legitimacy to my scribbling hobby. People call me a writer and the big miracle is that the word doesn’t make me feel like an imposter anymore, I even say it out loud when people ask me what I do (“I’m a …writer….”)

I am studying to be a minister. I also want to be a teacher. I will be called those things. I hope to be called “Doctor” one day. But most of all, I would be so proud to be described as, and to describe myself as, “Writer”. Perhaps that is what I am working towards here. I feel that one day, there will be a moment when I will feel ready to apply the title to myself. Probably, that discernable moment will never arrive.WP_20160202_16_07_58_Pro

The first book I’m reading as part of my seminary education is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It’s a beautiful book. Absolutely beautiful. I may write more about it when I finish processing it. But it made me realize: I don’t read nearly enough literature anymore. I read books galore, generally history or theology or some such thing. But I don’t read enough literature. And my writing reflects that.

My favorite writer since high school has been Hemingway. I admire the simplicity of his prose. Robinson is much the same. I always wanted to write like Hemingway, but never felt I could match the genius of one who could pull such profundity and feeling out of such simple words and turn of phrase. Perhaps I should revisit my volume of his works, invest more in the beauty of great writing. Perhaps I should not try to be Hemingway.

I’ve always been terrified of writing by hand. My brain tends to run along ahead of my hand, and I conceive of clever phrases and ideas and then lose them again before my pen catches up. I have a beautiful leather-bound journal that periodically I determine again to carry and use regularly. I’ve had it for five year. It is perhaps an eighth full, if I’m generous in my estimation.

But this piece I originally wrote by hand. I determined that I would write, and instead of worrying about what I wasn’t getting to, I would simply cherish the thoughts that come and the words that flowed as my pen and my brain met. I think it worked quite well. I think I will try to make more of a habit of it. Perhaps then I will honestly feel myself a “writer.”

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One thought on “On Being a Writer, Part 2

  1. One of my favorite seminary professors assigned a novel in her pastoral care classes. She believed, and I’ve come to agree with her, that novels get at the human condition better than textbooks. Keep up the good work.

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