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Entries in Writing Life (22)


Writing from the depths of our heart

I just finished a fascinating book, L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture. It is a collection of essays which evaluate the writings of Montgomery with regard to how culture shaped her writing, and how her writing shaped culture.

Montgomery, an orphan herself, wrote about others like her. She wrote from the depths of her heart. In her last novel, Jane of Lantern Hill, you can read in between the lines and see a woman who, even five years before her death, was still resolving the reality of a very hard life.  She was raised by harsh grandparents while her father lived across the country with a new wife. She was not a woman easily assimilated into the culture of rural P.E.I.; being an author was not really considered respectable. She endured a very hard marriage and a husband with serious mental illness, followed up by conflict with her own children. She was, actually, the antithesis of her heroines. In her last novel, Jane Stuart is finally reunited with her beloved father and mother, far away from the overbearing grandmother, a resolution Montgomery could only have dreamed of for herself. The longing of a little girl who lost both mother and father is echoed in every book where the heroine is an orphan or a child living in isolation.

As I look back at stories I wrote as a child, I can see that I wrote from my heart, too. Every heroine, every conflict, every ending, reflected what was in my heart. Do I write from the depths of my heart anymore? I hope I do, but somtimes, I think the advent of social media and the possibility of others reading has led me to compromise that and instead, write to feed the fascination of the day. I don't think I like that. 

Recently, I asked myself what I thought was the greatest concern in my heart. I concluded that it was the need for Christians to be in God's word. That is what I should be writing about. I should be using this space to share what I'm learning about God's word. It will mean, though, that readership will go own from its already paltry numbers. But as a friend recently encouraged me, using those posts as an offering to God should be my intent, anyway.

When I do write posts about bible study, I can assure you, they are the least read of anything I ever write. Perhaps they're just garbage and no one has been kind enough to tell me. However, if I was to write a post about how I suddenly decided that homeschooling was evil and I wanted to repent of my ways, you better believe someone would read it. Any "tell all" post garners attention. We do love the drama of others, and it is a particular occurrence that homeschool haters can sniff out a "I've repented from homeschooling" post in a minute.

More and more I see my need to be in God's Word and to encourage other Christians to do the same. I feel a restless urgency about it. Like Montgomery, I hope anything I write, whether it's read by one person or twenty, I want what's deepest held in my heart to be evident. Ultimately, if it's God's Word I'm concentrating on, it will be the best thing for me.


"It is in me."

From Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery:

"Oh, I must write, Aunt Elizabeth," said Emily gravely, folding her slender, beautiful hands on the table and looking straight into Aunt Elizabeth's angry face with the steady, unblinking gaze which Aunt Ruth called unchildlike. "You see, it's this way. It is in me. I can't help it."

... to give up writing stories - why, Aunt Elizabeth might well have asked her to give up breathing. Why couldn't she understand? It seemed so simple and indisputable to Emily.

Can you relate to this?

Writing is so much a part of us, and we can't dream of not doing it despite living with the anxiety of wondering, "Was it good enough?" Or despite that longing feeling we have as we watch someone who has done what we could have done ourselves get that encoueagement we may lack.

Since I've been blogging, I've seen how the notion of marketing oneself so that others will read, collecting "followers, " making friends, and branding has the potential of taking the joy out of writing. As an aside, I will never be able to think of "branding" without hearing the sizzling sound of smoking iron on the flank of a steer.

It's  vulnerable thing to let someone see what we write; sort of like that feeling that comes over us when making new friends. Will they like me?

Yesterday, when I got my cast on my wrist, I was so happy when the technician said I would be ble to type, albeit slowly. Slowing down may be good.


Risking the absurd - Ferlinghetti on writing

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be

       For he's the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap

      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

Writing to be remembered?

Nellie McClung was a woman of many talents. Here in Canada, we remember her as a force for change in the lives of women, whether it was her work in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, or lobbying for the vote. However, Nellie was, at heart, a writer. 

Writing is not like any other kind of work. There is a fervor in it that overcomes fatigue or even pain. It is a fire in the blood, a shot in the arm. It holds us when life begins to unravel, just as all the earth gathers itself into brief brighteness of Indian Summer before the stillness of winter falls. I wonder if it is the desire to be remembered?

I'm not a real writer, I suppose. I was paid for writing something once, long ago, something about dating and courtship. But, in comparison to the accomplished ladies I know elsewhere, I'm not "officially" a writer. But I understand Nellie's words, "a fire in the blood." Somtimes, I think a good way to describe it is a churning in the belly.

Nellie knew how to use words. I think if she was alive today, and I asked her if I should keep writing, she'd tell me, in whatever lingo was used in her day, to "just do it."


The best writing advice I ever gave myself

Writing advice abounds. From the one who suggests reading until it's coming out of your nose (good advice, by the way) to the one who suggests walking as a motivating activity (also good advice), there is any amount of advice one can partake of to guide her writing activities.

While I definitely make an effort to read and to walk, I have found that the best thing for writing frustration or "writer's block" if you prefer, is to work with my hands; to create something tangible.

Since getting home from our holiday in the Yukon I have made jam, cooked and frozen pumpkin, toasted pumpkin seeds, reviewed and edited a batch of photos from the trip, and finished knitting a scarf.  I have been reminded about how incredibly soothing is the repetition of knitting. I loved it so much I started a vest, which currenly boasts a length of about four inches. Those brilliant jars of ligonberry-banana jam line the shelves of my pantry space, and taste really nice on my multi-grain toast. But more than that, I feel like I have done something even if I feel like the writing task has been onerous.

Often, with writing, we feel like we're spinning our wheels. We can't put into words what's in our hearts; we can't think of how to approach something, or we end up banging on our keyboard for a couple of hours only to read it and say "Yuck!"  Maybe we just sit there looking at a blank screen. There's a feeling of helplessness. When my hands won't co-operate with translating what's in my head, I just apply them to something they can feel constructive doing.

So, next time you have a writer's block, get out some knitting needles, make some cookies, bake some bread, or take a picture.  I think it will relieve some of that frustration. It does for me, anyway.