A funny thing happened on the way to this blog. I’d been thinking about writing, about writing processes—about my writing process. I was questioning whether my writing had an authentic voice. Wondering—then I found myself pondering specifically if I hadn’t had this very same thought before. A quick skim through the blogs I’ve published, and there was my answer. Yes, I had. I let myself get momentarily exasperated. Then I countered with a more positive attitude; perhaps I have more to say. Or, at least, I have the same thing to say, just a tad differently. St. Paul seemed to give credence to the process of rethinking when he said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
I called the earlier column “So It Seems.” Here’s my redux.
I might be considered a fast writer; once I sit myself down with my laptop, the words come quickly. What isn’t visible is my “before computer” time.
My writing begins with a nudge towards a topic. Writing a personal blog opens wide the possibilities. Finding my topic doesn’t involve my computer and doesn’t have anything to do with pencil and paper. Engaging a subject requires only time, openness, and a sense of curiosity. The presenting questions are: what catches my attention? What is asking to be written?
I know that for many choosing a title comes at the end of their writing process. For me, as soon as I’ve an inkling what my topic is, I need to find a title. I do love a good title—pondering what might capture the spirit of what I’m about to write is a favorite part of my writing process. Often a phrase from a familiar hymn will pop out as a possibility. A just-right title, though, could spring from any number of places.
Next, I head to scripture to ground myself and my likely topic. Following the scripture search is a quest for related quotations. I always feel more secure about my topic when I am bolstered up by people respected for their insights. Each and every time I’m at this part of the process, I give thanks for Google and all its riches.
Then begins my most creative period, the time when topic and title, scripture and commentary bubble about in my brain. I am happiest when that fertile time comes when the weather is warm and sunny and there’s a waterside bench waiting. However, the wondering/brooding/try-it-out process can happen anywhere.
Paper and pencil come next. Paper and pencil—never a keyboard. I jot notes, cross out sections, draw arrows to connect related points. It’s always a hodge-podge, always rich in potential. Most of my physical writing time occurs during this step in the process.
Finally, I go to my laptop, with all my notes around me. This is finally the point where others can see that I’m writing.
One member of my writing group suggests periodically that we could engage in some writing exercises. Something like “here’s your prompt, now one-two-three, write!” The idea gives me cold chills— “jump right in” is so not my style.
On a recent Sunday, our pastor titled her sermon “They Shared What They Knew.” Her comments revolved around the early disciples sharing their new relationship with Jesus, the “good news” they were learning from their new rabbi/teacher. The sermon encouraged all of us to share our beliefs as well.
Those words led me to thinking, again, about my blog, about my pull to tell my own truth, as I understand it.
It’s easy for self-doubts to slip in. Who am I to say “this is how it is” about anything? The doubts slip in especially quickly when I’m talking about matters of faith. So many of my readers are theologically trained, have been preaching/teaching this stuff for years. Who am I to interpret, to explain, to clarify?
An old (written in 1868) hymn from that same Sunday’s service spoke to me. Verse 4, of “I Love to Tell the Story “says: “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ‘twil be the old, old story that I have loved so long.”
I know this verse of the hymn to be true. I see it over and over in my own life. I relish the times a speaker, preacher, or presenter is talking about material I’m familiar with and they put a new twist on old, familiar ideas. I love that sense of “I never thought of that before.” That’s now my goal, to create “I never thought of it quite that way before” options for people.
These are familiar words to many: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)
My homepage includes these words from T.S. Eliot “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Increasingly, that’s the aim for my writing. To visit what I’ve known and to know it fresh and new.
Dear Reader, never doubt (even though I doubt it still at times) that you have a new way of seeing the world. As Mary Oliver said, “Pay attention, be astonished, talk about it.” The world wants to hear from you, and I do, too.
I always enjoy reading your blogs, love the way you put words together!
Thank you, Cathy. I enjoy the process and it feels wonderful to know that others — that you — enjoy the reading!
Well said … or written, my friend. The wall I’m up against these days is the “Who am I to say?” Others have written and taught for years … yada, yada. Dani Shapiro says “just keep writing,” and so, now, do you. Thank you. (As “I love to tell the story” begins its journey around and around in my head today.)
Dick, sorry (but, not really sorry) that I planted “I love to tell …” in your head. “Who am I to say?” has been a huge issue for me. Guess I’m getting more comfortable with saying to myself, “well, I’m Amory, and I’ve got something to say.”
Interesting blog, Amory. I loved learning about your process, and I am impressed that you turn to scripture as part of that process. I think most of my pre-writing occurs when I am walking and sometimes as I am falling asleep. Isn’t it wonderful to revisit something and learn about it from a different angle?!
Linda, thank you for reading and responding. I’m certainly not surprised to hear your pre-writing comes while walking! I don’t have falling-off-to-sleep insights, but often do in the shower.