Because all I seem to do right now is write, I am not reading.
Or, to be more accurate, I am reading all kinds of things. Things about feminist hermeneutics, liberation readings of Scripture, backgrounds to Torah and approaches to Wisdom. Things which are interwoven yet further with texts about food, hospitality and community and overlaid with readings on the incarnation and basic introductions to sociology. Things at once fascinating and confusing, but not things for this blog!
So alongside all of this reading I have been writing. Not writing creatively but writing as discipline. Churning the words because an hour or two of writing can produce at least 1000 words and 1000 bad words are better than no words at all when there are research pages to be drafted, sermons to be articulated and lectures to be crafted…and still dreams of putting out another academic essay this year for consideration by a journal and wonderings about what I might usefully do with 20,000 words of a Masters dissertation. Wishful thinking in the case of the latter two, perhaps, given current workload but a girl can toy with the idea, at least!
And so it is that I have not been reading for pleasure, that I have not been reading the kinds of books that I like to blog about. But because I have been writing, today I am borrowing a little excerpt from Anne Lamott in her book of ‘instructions on writing and life’, Bird By Bird. Have a listen to this:
I talked earlier about the artist who is trying to capture something in one corner of his canvas but keeps discovering that what he has painted is not what he had in mind. He keeps covering his work over with white paint each time that he discovers what it isn’t, and each time this brings him closer to discovering what it is.
I think that what Lamott says is true both in writing and in life. The 20,000 words of research drafting which I have so far sound as if I may have some idea what I’m talking about. But the truth is that I didn’t before I started. Indeed, I’m still not sure that I actually know what I’m talking about! But when I started, the best that I could think to do was to string sets of 500-800 words together with no sense of where they might take me or how they even hung together. I would write some words and then do the equivalent of covering them over with white paint, knowing that they didn’t say what it seemed was in my heart to say, every time discovering what wasn’t and thereby being led closer to what was.
That’s true in life too. I find it so much easier to tell you all the things which I am not. All the things which I’ve painted and then shrouded in white paint and left to die. Those I can tell you. But what I am? That is harder. Sometimes it’s only as you paint it – or write it – that it becomes clearer. This A&P – academic&practitioner – thing, for instance. It had to be painted, it had to be lived, before I could discover that it was something which was there to be captured on my canvas. And even now I am having to paint it out, stroke by stroke, to see what it looks like on the canvas, what is the unique Yes of my life and what must be the Nos.
Now, every time I paint it in the corner of my canvas, there are some bits that I end up having to cover with white paint – things which I have said Yes to and then realised that to say a continued Yes to those opportunities would preclude the bigger Yes. Things which could have been in another life perhaps but which are not what the Artist has put in my heart to paint. Yet there is also – with every stroke of the paintbrush and every whiting-out of the Nos – the revelation of what is, the unique Yes which the Artist put in my heart to discover and then to say.
And that – that Yes – is worth all the bumbling drafts winding their way slowly towards the finished literary marvel (yes, I can but hope!!), worth all the white paint splatters on the canvas, and worth all the difficult Nos. That Yes is the artistry of the One who has already dreamed this canvas’s creation combined with the Yes of my heart to risk wild grace.
It is enough.