Grist for the mill

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So much of writing is about sitting down and doing it every day, and so much of it is about getting into the custom of taking in everything that comes along, seeing it all as grist for the mill.

These words from Anne Lamott are as insightful as ever!  They pretty much describe my life over the last fourteen months since I formalised my research proposal.  Word by word.  Or Bird by Bird, as the book is called.

There’s a lot to be said for writing even when you think you have nothing to say.  I’ve done that quite a few times this year.  Sat down, got out my pen (because drafting on screen is just not the same) and pressed the nib to the page.  Some days I wasn’t even sure what would be the first word I would write.  But the habit of writing is a powerful thing.  And for me it’s also about when I write.  On the days I’m in college I’ll aim to get 1000 reasonable words down on the page between 8:45 and 10:45.  Because, if I can do that, I don’t care too much if I write nothing more in the rest of the day.

But it’s not just the habit of writing that has produced so many words this year.  It’s also the custom of taking in everything that comes along, the habit of reading widely and spending time with others.  It makes my head spin some days – I’m really not a natural at the big picture perspective and I have to work extremely hard not to lose the plot as I segue off into the nth level of detail whilst also trying to retain a panoramic view.  In fact, I have it on good authority that it messes with my whole demeanour: only the other day I was struggling with this, turning a concept over and over in my mind, looking for the Eureka connection I needed, and a colleague stopped me in the corridor as I strode past to ask if I was all right.  I can only imagine how distracted I must have looked; my answer didn’t seem to convince him that I was fully present either!

Still, hard though it is, I do think this kind of practice can be enriching for those of us who are called to think and lead and write – especially if we believe that God is working by his Spirit to reveal to us what we need to know at every stage.  I do think it can all be grist for the mill if we let it and I fully commend the value for writing of sitting down and doing it every day.  So, whether it’s your sermon, your own blog post, a book chapter or teaching notes preparation that you are procrastinating by websurfing right now, click off this page and GO AND WRITE SOMETHING!

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3 thoughts on “Grist for the mill

  1. Pingback: Writing as a method | The Art of Steering

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