Why Writing is About More than Words

You might think that because I know what you should do to improve your writing skills and reach your goals, I must be already improving my own skills and reaching my own goals, right? Wrong.  The reality is, developing writers aren’t the only ones who struggle. All of us have to make a daily decision–are we going to push through what’s hard, or break out before the breakthrough because we have to go to work or go to class or just…go? Writing is a process that involves the writer and the writing. What I have come to discover, after nearly two decades of working with developing writers, is that my work as a writer runs parallel to theirs. There are days when I don’t want to do it either. There are times when I’d rather rush the process to just get it over with, and there are moments when I, too, slink into my chair in defeat, resolved that “I’m no good at this.” But “writing is a process” that is not linear nor entirely linguistic. In fact, the writing process has as much to do with the writer as it does the words. Part of the process is perfecting the craft. The other part is perfecting the person, which means the process is ongoing. We begin with one thing in mind and discover as we write that there’s something else we should be doing. We think the writing moment is an external exercise, then discover things about our inner self we hadn’t known before. Critical thinking is an integral part of writing, which inevitably leads to deeper knowledge and understanding—of ourselves and the world around us. So, my work with developing writers has led me to a more focused purpose: to move us from conception to production and from frustration to freedom! I expect that through this process all of us will discover something about ourselves even as we hone our craft. Happy Writing!

Are You Ready for a Change?

I have the privilege of working with different types of writers every day. Some saunter in bewildered by a mandate from their professor. Others stroll by because somebody said we could help them. Then there are those who rush in, breathless and impatient, thrusting their paper at us because it’s due in an hour; others slink in with a penitent confession: “I’m not good at writing.”

What they all have in common is a sense of helplessness. They are either frustrated by what seems like a senseless detour on their path to the professor’s dropbox, or have long ago thrown up their hands at this mysterious thing called writing. They are bound by obligation, but kick against the goads out of mistrust and misunderstanding; they doubt their own skills and our ability to help them. They come to us hoping for a quick fix and, glancing at their watches, become restless as we walk them through the process. Some quit before the breakthrough because they have to go to class, have to go to work or just have to go…but for those who stick around, for those who loosen their grip on assumptions, and slowly let go of defenses, there is always a breakthrough–a moment when a tiny window opens and the light begins to shine in.

Writers who come to our writing center know that writing is hard, but what they learn is that if they push through the hard, they can reach what’s good on the other side. Don’t misunderstand–these are small victories. Cynics might call them inconsequential, but I say that little moments feed into larger ones and those who are brave enough to return will push through a little more.

So, if you’re ready for something to change, my advice to you is: keep pushing!

Happy Writing!

“Are You With Me?” How to Manage Loneliness

The pain in her voice is so clear I can see it, even through the phone. “Are you with me?” She asks, seeking affirmation and assurance. It is a dark season filled with rejection and loss. All the usual sources of support have been withdrawn. Now she turns to me, her only hope.

“Are you with me?”

It’s a question I’ve asked so many times before. So often I have sought compassion and understanding from those I considered friends. Being “with me” is both physical and psychological. When I ask this question, I’m really asking “do you understand where I’m coming from, how I feel, what I’m thinking?” Understanding is everything! For someone to literally and figuratively stand under the situation with me is to share my pain and simultaneously lessen the sting.

Being “with me,” physically, means going through this experience at the same time that I am—by my side. You will know what I feel, know the difficulty I’m in because you’re in it too. Going through it with another person somehow makes it bearable. At least I’m not alone because you’re “with me.” Sharing one another’s burden, listening with compassion and understanding, it’s like gold to a poor man or breath to the dying!

Yet, so often, you are not “with me.” Often I feel disconnected because people—for various reasons—are not able. They don’t share my past, my mind, nor my emotions; they merely observe from afar. So, what then? Must I walk alone?

No.

“The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The reality is, God is the only one who actually can say this with assurance. He is the only one who actually does know my past, my present and my future. He is the only one who has already walked through my hardest night. He’s traversed the valley of the shadow of death so I don’t have to fear. He actually is “with me” all the time because He’s omnipresent and because He made me and knows me better than any person can. I can call out to Him in my mind or from my mouth, and He will hear me either way. What comfort!

But, perhaps you are thinking, “yeah, but even if I believe He’s real, He’s not a physical presence. I still need the warmth of human touch.

“Are you with me?” Her voice drifts through the phone line and my heart throbs with her pain.

“Yes.” I understand what she is going through because I’ve been through it too. As I offer her comfort I recognize the comfort that I have also received. The knowledge of His presence strengthens me. I’m able to walk through my own difficulties and extend my hand to her as well. He demonstrates His presence through the presence of people. If we trust Him and wait, He will always send us a physical manifestation of Himself.

So, together, we move forward onto this dark path, but we go with courage–not because it’s easy–but because, in every sense of the word, He’s with us.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Life is hard sometimes, but we don’t have to walk this road alone. Help is available!

If this topic hit home for you, see also Michele Cushatt’s “A Bad Rule That Needs to Be Broken”