For 15 years now, I’ve had this “thing” lingering in shadows of my mind like a winter coat in the back of an August closet: up high, out of my reach, shoved against the wall, and amorphous behind a bunch of things more practical and relevant. Every now and then, I glance at it and wonder when summer’s sweltering heat will fade into winter’s refreshing chill.
That’s my relationship with writing. Always appealing, always vaguely present in the back of my mind, but never in season. You know how life is–how we fill it and how it gets filled. Mine’s been full of moving (twice), teaching, managing chronic TMJ and an anxiety disorder, fixing a fixer-upper, and loving teens through the fabulous ministry of Young Life. Oh, and housing and feeding some nine international students over the course of a couple years to put the hubby through school. I hardly had time to form coherent thoughts, let alone “publish” them to the world.
In the midst of that madness, though, I had summer breaks. I’ve had 11. I could have found some time to do some writing, but I didn’t.
Because <<NEWSFLASH>> it turns out that offering hard-earned thoughts to the world requires more than simply time and skill. It doesn’t matter if you’re an English teacher or a professional writer or some prodigy. Clarity is the thing. And unless it is intentionally sought and nurtured, my friend, I’m afraid we might not truly have it. Our society is so distracted by social media, so inundated with news (or “news”), so taken by celebrities, overdosed with information, and isolated by our obsessions with our phones that clarity at first glance is but a blur.
Being a human in society myself, I had to do some serious spring cleaning in my brain to make room for the mental and emotional strength it apparently takes to offer (hopefully somewhat valuable) words to the world. It’s been far more daunting than mopping the floor, cleaning the fridge… even scrubbing nasty toilets. A lot of grime had to be scrubbed away to reveal words.
To be honest though, I wrote this because I need to constantly call out the doubts and lies that haunt me. I need to always be returning to the truths. We all need to be reminded of what is True.
Do any of the hesitations or truths below resonate with you? Have other thoughts kept you from writing or doing whatever it is you’re feeling called to do? I’d love to hear from you. ❤
My hesitation #1: It’s the internet. It’s all been said–there’s nothing left for my puny voice to contribute.
What’s the point? For every thing I write, there are probably at least 10 other people who have expressed the same thing (nod to blog’s namesake). One more voice just adds to the noise. There’s already so much out there to read.
all of the ideas have been conveyed;
all of the perspectives, shared;
all of the stories, told;
all the themes, expressed;
all of the laughs, had;
all of the doubts, voiced;
all of the evidence, presented;
all of the styles, crafted.
King Solomon penned (reeded?) it far better in these classic words thousands of years ago:
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
See? His verse perfectly and succinctly conveys the same point I’ve been rambling on about. Nothing new under the sun!
Hesitation #2: I have a phobia of cliches.
Through his infamous narrator, Nick Carraway, F. Scott Fitzgerald warns young folk that their profound epiphanies are often hollow:
“the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.”
If I were blogging in my early 20’s like I am today, I undoubtedly would have been compelling evidence for Fitzgerald’s case.
I still fear that my writing won’t produce any contemplation, any truth. I wonder how many of our “revelations” are simply regurgitations of the influences that surround us. And even if they are, so what? I’m afraid that I’ll just ramble on and on about what people already think or know. Ramble ramble ramble… uh oh… fears realized…………………… ramble.
I’m afraid my blog will be one huge cliche. I freeking hate cliches. The next time I pick up an essay that starts, “Since the beginning of time,” I’ll transform into one hulking cliche myself–the teacher that rips students’ papers straight down the center before their very eyes.
Then again, if content isn’t somewhat cliche, will people relate? Ah, who cares. I certainly don’t have to worry about being overly-original. I’m not writing to attract an audience, anyway. I’m writing to challenge and express myself–to see if I can capture in words the culminations of thought, be it hours or years worth.
Hesitation #3: How to Live Your Life 101
Some five years ago, this conversation happened between an old friend and I:
“I’m thinking about starting a blog.”
“Oh, cool! What will you write about?”
“Ummm… just like life, thoughts….”
We both understood the validity of blogging for instructional purposes: how to use trendy chalkboard paint, glitter, and fairy wings to make shabby chic whatevers; how to saute kale worthy of a photo-shoot; how to use beer to eliminate pesky snails from your shabby-chic raised garden bed.
But to have no topic on which to instruct? I’m not a philosopher or theologian. I’m just another person–not a member of that special echelon that parcels out words that mold and shape minds [actually, it turns out I am–teacher shoutout!]. What I mean is that I don’t consider myself to be of the same caliber as published writers… which matters because I want to convince myself that I should write about “things and stuff,” because well… I want to! It just seems so egocentric to assume that my perspective might be worth your time to read. I suppose I just want to share it, but then on the other hand, why exert the effort to be heard if people aren’t interested in listening? I’m not assuming they are. I would be wrong to write for approval or success. I would be wrong to write in hopes of affirmation or accolades.
I want to be vulnerable. But that begs so many more issues. Like my stories are not just mine, and yours are not solely yours. Entangled in my story is my mom’s, my dad’s, my sister’s, my brother’s, my students’, all whom I hold dear.
Theoretically, if no one were to glean anything from my blog, I suppose its worth would depend on the extent to which I value the process. So the question becomes, Will writing bring me life? It has so far 🙂
- My concerns and fears amount to this: My voice is unimportant, and my ideas unoriginal.
My central questions is this: How can I write carefully candid non-fiction from a posture of humility, acknowledging that I am no better than anyone else–and believe simultaneously that I am worth time to read?
Debunking the Hesitations
“Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another.”
When I consider others–namely, my beloved students–I 100% know Stenton’s claim is true. However, it took me some time to realize that its application to myself is equally valid.
I explored Chicago last summer while my husband slaved away at an internship. Wandering urban streets, I was “simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” (Fitzgerald, again:) Thousands of faces every day told thousands of stories at but a glimpse, and I could only wonder at their tragedies and victories, their loves and losses, their frail vulnerability and the veneers they hid behind. I realized that I, too, was one of those faces–each of us has a profoundly unique, poignant self and story. It’s a miracle, really. A really beautiful one. Despite the billions and billions of lives that have been lived, no two people have ever, or will ever, be the same–like music, like songs–we are infinitely original. As one within those billions, I am unique. I open that nature to you–I’m honestly not even sure what you’ll find.
Do as I say, not as I do?
Then another refutation came straight from my mouth as I tried my best to convince my students of how powerful their voices can be. Every year, inspired by Tim O’Brien’s masterpiece, The Things They Carried, I ask my students, “What do you carry?” They answer in narrative form, and in those narratives I have encountered some of the most powerful, aching voices.
So naturally, I encourage them to share that prose, and I bribe them with extra-credit. A few years in, I decided to take it to the next level, and I asked my students for their permission to anonymously post their narratives on my hypothetical blog. In attempts to empower them, I said,
Each of you has an incredibly powerful voice and story. You are all so important, and your voices have the power to move and help people, to affect change in our world, and help adults realize how much hope and potential your generation holds. Never forget the power of your words.
Now, compare that to what I previously confessed: My voice is not important, and my ideas unnecessary to share.
Um. How could I simultaneously dismiss my own voice while affirming the powerful nature of theirs? I must do as I say. I have got to practice what I preach. If every student has a story worth telling, why can’t I? Oh, what’s that? I can? Sweet, permission to blog, accepted.
I discussed all of these things with my younger literary friend, Megan, over burritos at Chipotle. We spoke passionately, which for me always means at an obnoxious volume, and fully understood the conflict that writing publicly presents. We found no answers that day, but she did teach me how to use Instagram (I felt like a grandma), so that if and when I do really get rolling on a blog, I’ll have a potential audience waiting. But mostly, I got an IG to maintain some form of relationship with beloved previous students who don’t hate me.
God gave us our answers through the YouTube channel of a local artist and role-model by the name of Justin McRoberts. Check out the glorious 2 min. 28 seconds below:
Writing fits the real me.
I have recently been reading descriptions of myself in articles about introverts who are outgoing, or in more academic circles, extroverted introverts or “ambiverts” No surprise there–we rarely (if ever) fit into purely black and white categories. Thanks “ambivert” for acknowledging shades of grey. And no thanks to you, Shades of Grey, for ruining a perfectly good idiom.
Here’s a couple of those articles:
“23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert,” The Huffington Post
“8 Things You Need to Know about Being an Outgoing Introvert”, HealthSpiritBody.com
One thing that is absolutely true of me is that “I live in my mind: The internal dialogue never ends.”
Sooo I have maybe 10 years of internal dialogue built up. It’s time to talk. I think I’ll do it here.
One effect of living with a never-ending chain of (sometimes deep) thought is um, I acquire lots of bruises. I’m not very observant when it comes to the external world. I have held the hard-earned title of “family klutz” for decades now. I am the one who tripped into a dirty urban street gutter in Costa Rica, the one who missed the trash can at McDonald’s and watched garbage tumble onto her feet, the one who slammed her fingers in a motel door while attempting a storm-out. Please, if anyone I know made it this far into the reading, please oblige me and share your memories of my klutzy moments in the comments.
All of this is to say that, um, maybe tapping some of my circling thoughts into this keyboard will lower my count of mystery bruises and shameful stories.
My love for gardening and the outdoors could also stem from this hyper brain of mine: natural beauty grabs my senses and overrides the usual abstract contemplations. Being mesmerized by the intricacy of a flower and all of its parts gives rest to my soul and wonder at the creativity of God.
There’s more I want to say, but I suppose that’s why blogs come in posts. So I’ll save some related stuffs for later. This post has already taken many an hour, and it’s the product of merging three separate drafts into one. That was tricky, structurally.
And I’ll end with this. I quit trying to get different pieces to meld together… and this one piece remains. Perhaps it’s a fitting closing anyway. ❤
This is my writing dream:
I want to write… to write something fresh. To breathe something fresh into my soul. Something smothered in originality. I want muscle in my voice. I want to roar that still small voice that rushes through my veins when I am most me, when I am in His presence.
I want to be a poet. A natural. I want to deal in proverbs and metaphors. I want to read all of the classics that I should have by now. Writing is a work of the soul: a mission to capture in concrete word that indefinable thread that binds each of us into one human race.
Thanks for reading–love to you<3
2 thoughts on “Why Writers Don’t Write”
I LOVE that you are doing this! You write, just like you ARE. It’s refreshing. It’s entertaining, & it makes me think. It makes me want to get the heck off social media & just dive into a REAL book. That is where we can get lost in our imagination & dream. I love that my 9 yr old grand daughter Sadie grabs a book – any chance she can get! She is an extraordinary young girl with a HUGE imagination & a huge heart. Her intelligence, & ability to create, is a direct product of her reading! You will get to meet her when the family moves to Imperial Beach!
THANK YOU for being an English teacher! Your students are lucky to have you. I will be following you, because I like what you are saying. Justin Mc Roberts is so authentic. That was a good idea to include him. Maybe YOU should make a video too. Scary thought, right.
I’m excited for you to be doing what you want and DESIRE to do. God is doing a good work in you! From your friend – just another human being – trying to figure out STUFF!
Beautiful to read about your heart Tiffany. Continue to take your own advice.