In Defense of the Invisible Writer

We see the world through an odd-shaped lens.

We are observers, watching and waiting for moments of significance that we can connect to concepts and form into new realities.  Yet we are often unseen.

Sometimes it is because we escape to a secluded place in order to do this work–the irony being that in order to capture the essence of lived experience we must remove ourselves from it.

Yet, even when visible we remain unseen as conversations inevitably turn to writing as grammar and punctuation, writers as mere trivializers of experience and writing itself as mere trifles. A conversation with a young math and science scholar reveals the devaluation of all things English. “Science,” he says, “is useful. We can learn things about the body, about the physical world, but in English classes we only talk about words and ideas. It is a waste of time.”

Really?

How else would scientists discuss the body and the physical world if not through language? How else would history and psychology be studied and understood if not verbally or in writing? Beyond that, how else would individuals know how to express their thinking on these subjects clearly if there were no discussions about writing and thinking?

Too often intellectuals, in a hurry to get to their destinations, disregard the vehicles that carry them there. Yet, I suppose, if those vehicles broke down they might miss them and, perhaps, then take note of the craftsmanship that made those vehicles run. The same is true of writing and the mastery of language. They are the vehicles by which knowledge is both generated and shared. The study of writing and how it is produced and perfected is not a waste of time, but a science in and of itself. Certainly it will not interest everyone, but neither should it be dismissed as unimportant. We use language everyday. We rely on it to conduct  our business–it is not relegated to the classroom and neither are the principles that are learned there.

Yet, the invisible writer is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that writing is taken for granted may also be a credit to the skill that is employed by writers who produce such good work that they disappear! The slogans on your cereal box, the catchy phrases splashed on the wall at Zaxby’s, even the clever little phrases on the Taco Bell hot sauce packets were the work of an invisible creative mind. The application forms you fill out for employment, the instructions you rely on to assemble your new gadget, the news you follow on social networks–all the work of a writer you will never know. When the writing is bad, the vehicle breaks down and you wonder about the craft, but when the information flows there’s no thought to the work that went into every jot and tittle.

But believe me, it is work. The words don’t appear magically. It is by blood, sweat and tears that the vehicle is constructed. It is not only in coal factories that work is done, but also in coffee shops, in quiet corners, at raggedy desks in lonely buildings once students have fled and janitors are sweeping through the hallways. Invisible writers tap away at keyboards reflecting on the world they’ve observed, trying to make sense of the chaos, hoping to reshape meaningless moments into objects that can sit in the mouth like peppermint—sweet, refreshing, enlivening—and leave a pleasant, lasting impression even after they disappear.

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Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: Advice to Writers–Keep Going!

Overwhelmingly insignificant. Those are the words that I wrote down. It was the only way I could think of to describe how a beginning writer feels when she’s trying to gain her footing on this overpopulated landscape where writers come a dime a dozen! What sets me apart? What makes me different? Special? Worthy of attention? These are the kinds of questions a writer asks each time she sits down to write. Perhaps these are the questions that others ask as they set out to make their mark in the world as well—singers, artists, athletes—all those whose gifts feel special to them and to their loved ones, but look so pale in comparison to the esteemed greats of society–those who have achieved the highest heights and honors in their class, whose garments we can only hope to graze with the tips of our fingers in a crowded street if we’re lucky.

It’s hard when you’re buried under a mountain of crumpled papers and unfinished manuscripts, and discouraging when the rejection slips come in faster than the book proposals that go out. It’s demoralizing to sit, shivering in the corner of crowded coffee shops, pleading with God for inspiration while trying to tune out the distracting chatter as the blank page of the computer screen is mocking you and the blinking cursor keeps time with the fleeting seconds you have left before your other responsibilities invade this small space in time.

How, exactly, does one move from the crowded streets of insignificance, obscurity and non-productivity onto the fast track of notoriety, achievement and fecundity? I’ve been listening to some authors’ success stories and the same answer emerges from each one—“keep going,” they say. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep writing. Easier said than done, huh? But, the consensus is, there’s no magic pill, no easy answer and, unfortunately, no shortcut. There are always exceptions, of course, but for the vast majority, the path to success is an arduous process of putting one foot (or should I say word?) in front of the other and refusing to lose faith. That feeling of insignificance is simply the reality that you’re not the only one who can do this—that is, write stories, articles or books—but it should be countered with another reality: you are the only person who can be you. At the very least, there’s that. So, they say, the trick is to infuse your work with your self—something that is unique to you. Do you know what’s unique about you? (Take this personality test to find out: My Personality)

Rather than focusing on the successes of others, focus on being your best self. Focus on improving as a writer, an artist, an athlete, etc, not so that you can be more like someone else, but so that you can be a better version of yourself. With your own past and future successes in sight you will have less time to drool over the achievements of others and your own significance will loom larger in your eyes. After all, each of us has been given an assignment. Let’s not waste time wondering why someone else’s assignment looks more interesting than ours.

In the grand scheme of things we do matter and we can and will make our mark in this world. We just have to keep going!

Happy Monday

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Cover photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Soul Sisters!

So, this has been an AMAZING week for the writer in me! In this one week I have had the opportunity to engage with two inspired writers who have had major impact and reach and both of them have had an impact on me.  The first person I met was W. Paul Young, author of The Shack who visited my class and spoke life into me and my aspiring student writers.  I will share more about his visit in a later post.

The other person is Chrystal Evans Hurst, author of Kingdom Woman and She’s Still Here whom I have just spent the past two days with in her home town of Dallas, TX.  A few months ago, on a whim, I responded to Chrystal’s call for interns to be a part of a six month project to help her build on her current media platform.  By some fluke–one might say God’s Providence–I was one of the 15 chosen! Now, as part of her “Mastermind 2018” team, I will help her to create and manage the content  for her podcasts and social media in order to further develop her ministry of encouraging, equiping, educating and empowering women.

Although Chrystal is a brilliant writer and speaker, she is also the most warm, kind, down-to-earth person you will ever meet. So when she told me that she thought that I was a “good writer” and that she knew she wanted me to be part of the team in order to “put my writing skills to use,” I can’t tell you how much that seal of approval meant. Validation matters–especially when it comes from someone you admire.

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But, this is not all about me! This is about the beautiful women that I met this weekend. Amazing women with an array of talents and vibrant personalities. Chrystal’s core team did an incredible job of pulling together a group that clicked immediately! I LITERALLY wanted to spend more time with every one of these ladies. We just did not have enough time together!  Each one exuded such a spirit of Godliness and love that I wanted to know them more. I wanted to hear their stories. I wished we had two more days, at least! I know that this group can and will do good work together simply because we connected so well, so quickly, which can only translate into good things for Chrystal’s ministry, which is a win for all of us. I’m truly excited about the possibilities and I am looking forward to everything that is to come.

The title “soul sisters” popped into my head because that’s what it felt like. We made a “soul” connection. First with Chrystal, then with each other and soon it will flow outward to all of you! Big things are coming, so get ready!

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Never heard of Chrystal or her book, She’s Still There? Well, this is one that that very well may change your life–for the better! Don’t just take my word for it, click here to see what others have to say.