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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Beware of the Writer Who Isn't Writing

I didn't make it out of the library parking lot before gently cracking the cover of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come and absorbing page one and two. I had to crack it gently because it is a very old book -- written in 1903. This particular edition, published in 1931, is probably a second edition. Nevertheless, it's very old, and the crispy, yellowed pages are fragile. I was so enthralled by the first two pages, I probably would have finished the first chapter, sitting right there in my car, had I not been on my way to pick up my son at school.

First of all -- no, this is not a book review, so read on.

Just by reading the first two pages, I already knew some special things about this book. I knew it was going to be visually rich and stunning. I knew it was going to weave historical truths into fictional beauty. I knew it would flow with a poetic rhythm that would make me feel like I was dancing from word to word, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and chapter to chapter. And I also knew that I would need to go to the online library catalog tonight and order another book by John Fox Jr. and have it delivered to my local library -- afterall, this one will only last a few days.

As I drove, the book laying in the seat next to me, I was thinking about a friend from my writers group who just lost her husband, whose visitation I had just attended earlier in the day. It occurred to me that as I was leaving the visitation and telling her goodbye, she had said she'd be coming back to our writing meetings soon.

Well, of course, I thought as I drove along. Because that's what writers do. We write no matter what. We write in spite of everything else and probably because of everything else. We write because what else would we do?

I've read that people who truly love to write, especially those of us who who love to write fiction, must have some degree of schizophrenia. Well, I say BEWARE OF A WRITER WHO LOVES TO WRITE WHO ISN'T WRITING. Has your husband or wife, who loves to write, been irritable, short tempered, or moody lately? Ask them what they have written lately - I bet the answer will be, "nothing." A true writer must write because it balances our psyche and keeps our pseudo schizophrenia under wraps.

Back to John Fox Jr. -- from The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come:

"The days of that April had been days of mist and rain. Sometimes, for hours, there would come a miracle of blue sky, white cloud, and yellow light, but always between dark and dark the rain would fall and the mist creep up the mountains and steam from the tops -- only to roll together from either range, drip back into the valleys, and lift, straightway, as mist again. So that, all the while Nature was trying to give lustier life to every living thing in the lowland Bluegrass, all the while a gaunt skeleton was stalking down the Cumberland -- tapping with fleshless knuckles, now at some unlovely cottage of faded white and green, and now at a log cabin, stark and gray."

Ahhh... as I stand between the mountain ranges in the lifting mist and steam, I relax but only for a moment as the author shatters my calm with the sense of brewing conflict. If it does that to me as a reader, imagine what a release it must have been for John Fox Jr. as he wrote it and twiddled with it until it was just right. When you have something like that inside you, it has to come out because if it stagnates inside you, God help anyone who comes into contact with you. In those first two pages that began with the quoted passage above, I knew why John Fox Jr. had to write.

And I questioned -- why do I write?

My answer:

I write because it helps me remember -- and I write because it helps me forget. I write because sometimes, oftentimes, this wretched world just doesn't make sense, and writing relieves my agitation. I write because it allows me to let go -- and I write because it forces me to grab on. I write so I can sleep at night -- and I write when I can't sleep at night. I write to protect my sanity -- and I write when I need to be a little nutty. I write to reclaim something, anything -- innocence, love, anger, security, fear, pain.

And most of all, I write because God makes me -- and I write because the devil dissuades me.

Why do you write?


  1. RealMe said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  2. sweetthang said...

    I always tell my husband that he should be able to always know f I'm close to the Lord or not by whether or not I'm blogging. When I am far way from HIm I cannot do what I was made to do. I guess it takes another writer to understand that. Thanks.

  3. warrenjc said...

    The reason I write is exactly like your reason, because God makes me. For years I watched as people served God with their talent and purpose and yet all I could do is sit in the pews.

    Then my world got very busy. God gave me three nonfiction books to write and I had such an unction in my spirit to finish them that I felt badly when I wasn't writing. Now God has given me another project.

    "I got behind Lord," I told Him. "Sorry about that." I can see Him smiling as I said that.

    I found myself clearing my schedule and eliminating projects and chores just so I could get back to serious writing. However, I feel better for it. (Might have agitated a few people in the process when I had to say 'no' a couple times, but...)

    I believe that God's purpose for our lives can be found in our passions, and writing is definitely mine. It is all I do now from morning to evening. (Oh, and I am half way through my last writing mandate from God, an eight part series on "Seeking God."

    God bless you Karen and keep writing. This is definitely your passion and gift.


  4. Angie Vik said...

    I love the paragraph near the end when you talk about why you write. I relate and understand. I write because it helps to process my life. Hope things are going well with your writing.

  5. Smile Awhile said...

    Goodness, I'm speechless. Your writing is so profound and yet so simple.

    I'm not sure what drives me to write. But one thing I do know is I'm ME when I write.

    Everything I have ever written that's worth anything has always been written begging God to help me put it on the paper.

    I write for the same reasons you write, and I know I'll be reading your October post several times, no -- more than that.

    I'm still speechless.....

  6. Vonnie said...

    Ha ha... I totally understand "I write to remember- I write to forget."

    When I have something on my mind that I want to remember later, I have to write it down. Sometimes, I don't get a chance to sit down and write...then I don't feel settled, can't sleep, etc. until I do. My mind is repeating it over and over so it won't forget it. Once I write it down. I can forget it because I've written it down, and I can rest.