The classic 1987 comedy “Throw Momma From the Train” has taught me two things:
1. “YOU’RE NOT OWEN’S FRIEND! OWEN DOESN’T HAVE A FRIEND!”
2. “A writer writes… always.”
I’m not sure I can do anything with the first, but the second has stayed with me for quite some time. I used to write for a living. Now I teach writing. When I talk about myself or my hobbies or interests, writing and being a writer consistently come up.
But I don’t write. Not with any consistency. Not with any drive. Not with any passion. At least not until recently.
Is there a word for a writer who doesn’t write? A musician who doesn’t make music? An artist who doesn’t create art? Several come to mind for me. None of them are good.
A beautiful and brilliant writer who I’m blessed to know says that writing is a muscle. If you work it out regularly it will grow strong and toned and will be able to do much more than when you started exercising it. If you neglect it, it will shrink and atrophy. She shrugs when people comment on how much she writes or how quickly she can produce something. She just sees it as the expected result of her exercise.
I think there’s a bit more to it than that, but basically she’s right. And having been stuck in a hospital bed for more nearly two months last year, it’s an analogy that’s painfully familiar and true to me.
So as the days continue to creep toward the new year, I’m left thinking about resolutions (a subject which I plan to write about this weekend). I don’t know if I’ll be making any standard resolutions. But I do want to get muscles moving, both physically and in this sense. Time spent exercising and developing gifts and talents that I believe are given by the Creator can be time spent in worship. I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite when I tell people I write, and even more so I don’t want to squander a talent that God intended me to have.
With that in mind, I’m thinking about reasons why I write and why I don’t.
Why I write:
- I feel like it’s something I’m meant to do. I see it in my family history, in the places I’ve felt drawn to since I was a child.
- I enjoy using words, turning phrases, making connections, telling stories, sharing ideas.
- It’s an outlet for me to share the gospel and for me to work outwardly what God is working inwardly.
Why I don’t:
- I’m scared. Scared of what people will think. Scared of being a fraud. Scared that I really don’t know what I’m doing (and convinced that everybody else does).
- I’m lazy. Writing can be hard. It requires commitment. Decisions to be made. The ability to finish. And it requires me to risk. But it also has the potential to reward.
- I’m busy or I’m just uninspired. Or more likely, I squash inspiration by filling my time with noise and nonsense, distraction and escape.
I look at these two lists and in the first one I see truth; in the second, lies. There’s no good reason to be found in that second list, only evidence for a lack of trust that I want to see changed in my life. So I know which list I’m going to embrace.
I believe that writing is meant to be read, and I always encourage my students to give their writing an audience. Thinking about readers shapes our craft, polishes it, refines it, challenges it and makes those muscles stronger.
If you’re reading this, you are part of that audience. The comments are open for your feedback. I have to approve the first one you post, because I still get some stuff that isn’t caught by the spam filter. But I don’t intend to shy away from comments. If you’re encouraged by this, let me know. If you have advice or even warnings, I’d appreciate that as well.
Thanks for reading and giving me an opportunity to stretch my limbs.