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!

What You Might be Missing

My youngest daughter is a free spirit.  She’ll turn anything—even work—into play! It drives me crazy! When I ask her to do the dishes, she fills the sink with bubbles and makes “shakes” in the dirty cups or spreads the suds around—bubbles on her face, on her arm, on her sister. “Look!” She’ll exclaim with every new creation. I’m not impressed.

It was worse when she was younger.  I would be brushing her hair when suddenly I couldn’t find the hair tie or comb! Frantically, I’d scour the seat or the hair box with one hand, still holding a tuft of hair with the other– “where is it?!”  I’d yell. 

Oh, here. The sought-after accessory would be carefully wound around the brush my child was holding as she mumbled lines from some scene in her head. Oblivious to my agenda–in the span of 10 seconds–she had gotten lost in her imagination. The brush, comb and hair tie, now, key players in her kitchen table production! Ugh.

But, if I say I value creativity, why don’t I appreciate my daughter’s creative play? Because the messiness and unpredictability don’t fit into my daily grind.  I have appointments, reports, errands, and bills—I don’t have time for play!

Yet, in the rush to quantify success, perhaps we have discounted the value of creativity which doesn’t manifest in neat and tidy outputs. Creativity is play and work.  It is messy and disorderly. It disrupts norms and laughs at standards. Yet, without creativity, we would have a world full of neat and orderly sameness, uninspired—even if efficient—activity.

In her book Cultivate: A Grace-FIlled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life, Lara Casey describes her daughter slowing down their daily walk to pick up twigs and leaves, “trying to get me to see the beauty and wonder that she was seeing,” but this detour was not on the itinerary. Taking the scenic route delays progress to the destination; but, Casey points out that “God is in the small and unexpected nooks and crannies, if we are willing to unrush our pace to pay attention to what’s growing” (158).

“Harvest work is intentional” she says. It’s “noticing the fruit that God has grown in your life and doing something with it. But if you are rushed, or are constantly distracted by what isn’t growing, you’ll miss it.” (162)

So, what am I missing?

There’s plenty that isn’t growing when I sit down to write, but there’s also fruit that God has grown in my life that has the potential to be food for thought—food that brings life. Too often, instead, I rush past my writing desk–too busy, too distracted or too defeated to consider the potential that’s there. Someone once said that the greatest novels lie dead in the grave because those who would have written them never took time to explore their creative gifts. This can’t be how my story ends. Rather than confine myself to the orderly path, I must take a lesson from my daughter and reconsider creativity.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.

So, what about you? What ideas might you explore if you slowed your pace and paid attention?  What creative venture might you try that you’ve put off because you don’t “have time”? It’s not just the destination that matters. There are lessons and growth that happen along the way.

Let’s not miss them!

Ready to explore creativity? Look out for more on this subject in future posts. In the meantime, get inspired by these creativity sites:

The Creativity Post— a platform dedicated to sharing the very best content on creativity; facilitates dialogue between various disciplines of inquiry 

Creative Thinking— unveils the secrets of creative genius and brings life-changing creative techniques within everyone’s reach

Creativity Portal— host to a wide library of original content and features including prompts, articles, and interviews

Cover photo courtesy of Derek Thomson on Unsplash