The first serious poem I ever wrote was in a spiral ring binder. This binder contained all of my first serious poems. Some of them have made it onto the early posts of this blog. My voice as a writer, my inner voice, was discovered as a middle school student under the tutelage of the late Ellen Kort’s.
Ellen was the state poet laureate at the time and was well traveled as a poet and authority on writing. I didn’t know her this way at first through. She was very grandmotherly as a woman, in the best, kind and calming way. At the same time her voice carried an authority that helped cut through the overthinking noise or moaning blankness that can come to mind when one first starts writing. She is the one who helped me discover my voice and I will forever appreciate her for it.
My first notebook was opened in her workshop, it has those first lines. It also has the salty tears of adolescent angst, long dehydrated but somehow infused with the lead.
When I lost that notebook several years later I couldn’t write for about a year and a half or more. I wrote assignments, including for some writing classes I later took with Ellen but other than keeping a journal I couldn’t get myself to write poems anymore. I couldn’t move past the sentimental sense of loss. I confessed this feeling of loss with my world literature teacher and she interrupted my doldrum with words something like this, maybe we were supposed to have this conversation and the reason is because you are supposed to write again. And so I began to write again and esteem myself as a writer. Writing is my art, I would think to myself in those days and I say about myself now.
Loosing my notebook was one reason I fell out of writing for a time. There have been countless others, university study loads, moving across the world, depression, and bad time management. But its time to fall back in. I am supposed to write again.
In order to cultivate this resettling into regular writing I will write 500 words a day for a month. That’s my goal, simply stated.
Sometime after waking my body after a pre-dawn run in the woods, I will write for about twenty to thirty minutes each morning before work. If this fails I can write as soon as I finish work. Prompts will aid me in setting aside the content of what to write about and center on my theme to “just write.” The immediate focus is habit building more so than the content of the writing.
If I succeed towards this end I will also accomplish a sub-goal which is to be blogging more consistently. Once this is set in a more perpetual motion I can think about more ambitious projects such as starting a book or short story or thematic writing about mission or the spiritual life.
One word summarizes much of the longings of the human heart. Why do I write? Firstly writing comes as a thing of a necessity. I write because I am. Like all communication, writing comes from somewhere deep within the inner life of a person. The energy and intention of the written word may be heavily gravitated towards topics of expertise, abstract ideas such as philosophy or strategy, or about subjective topics like people, biography or memoir. Whether the subject matter is objective or subjective all writing is something for or to another. It is addressed.
Its the addressed nature of our writing that personalizes and hopefully humanizes it. One writes a love letter to a distant family member or friend or they write a blog to other pilgrim travelers trying to navigate the complexity and strain of whatever niche they co-habit. Whether amateur or expert, what is written is meant to land somewhere and to someone who inhabits that space. It is the intention to share one’s life and thus give life to others that is humanizing energy of writing. However, this energy needs a personal and contextual field of thought to bring life into the words. It is this contextual and relational dimension of writing that seems to be under increasing threat in the world today.
The ubiquity of written and visual media and communication brought forth through the various technologies of the ongoing digital revolutions and information age threaten both the personal quality of our communication and the life that lay at the kernel of it. This is no less true of writing which has gone through its own revolution. For instance, typing is writing, and inputing things into a smartphone is at least called writing in the sense of labor. Or maybe this is just putting or texting. But whatever it be called, the life in the written word is cheapened by the demands of efficiency, expediency, and the relative anonymity that the inter-web has in flattening personal address into a global, public, and faceless address. Even the linguistic boundaries of the world’s cultures and people’s are pressed and squashed through technologies of online translation. It can help us reach more but it we reach with so much less.
So this two fold desire to share life so that others receive life and nourishment through writing is something I think must be fought for because it goes against the tide of much of the mediums through which one now writes. I have not addressed the flaws in our human nature which could charge our words with destruction, damage, and hate— a kind of anti-life. These are not new fronts but they are exasperated by the technologies of our emerging age. If it is true that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, NRSV) its also true of our writing. Spirited words bring life, not dead, heartless ones. And the hurried, harried, and anonymous landscape of our present time does much to diminish if not outright kill our hearts.
Thus I write for life, first for mine and then for the life of the world. And I trust a superior Word to aid and sustain me in the vigilance we all most certainly need to be a good neighborly people.