On Writing

Afternoon sun and shadows.

Over the weekend, I read The Help in the span of one and a half days. All 525 pages of it ... I just sped right through. 

It's been a long time since a book has captivated me so thoroughly, and it felt absolutely wonderful to be swept into the story of a book again. I spend so much time reading screens that books rarely get the attention they deserve -- and used to garner -- in my life these days. 

So after that delicious experience with The Help, I started a new book tonight.

It's called Jesus, my Father, the CIA, and Me (a memoir of sorts), and Kirk has been reading it the last few weeks. I keep hearing him chuckle as he reads his way through the pages, and the chuckles are enough to compel me to read the book as it is.

But also, the author is someone with whom we've recently become quite taken.

His name is Ian Morgan Cron. Last month at church, we watched a very moving and powerful short video clip of him speaking to prodigal pain and our need to embrace the fullness of our stories, and Kirk has been reading the book ever since. 

So tonight, after a day of not feeling my best, I lit a few candles, turned some good music on my iPod, and enjoyed the first few pages of the book while taking a bubble bath.

There are so many lines I could quote from just those first few pages -- the book is really that good already, I can tell -- but these words here, on the vocation of writing, are ones I thought I would share right now:

Memoirists work with bones. Like paleontologists, we dig up enough of them to make intelligent guesses about what a creature looked like a million years ago. But here and there a femur or rib is missing, so by faith, with imagination, we fill in those gaps with details we believe are consistent with the nature and character of our upbringing.

... This is a record of my life as a I remember it -- but more importantly, as I felt it.

When I became a writer toward the end of my undergraduate life, I carried inside myself so much of a tortured soul. I tried my hand at short stories, then novels -- each an attempt to write my story into existence. I poured my memories and feelings into those stories. And when I eventually grew further along into spiritual memoir years later, I still wrote my story from a place of attachment, regret, anger, and pain. 

I haven't tried to write my story in any kind of permanent form in a really long time. It's been several years at least since I thought I was supposed to write it all out. The most permanent form my writing takes these days, besides what I write in my various online spaces, is the journalling I do on a semi-regular basis on my typewriter. 

I really don't know if I'll ever try to write out the greater fullness of my story again. But one thing I have noticed lately is a shift in my attention when considering the possibility of ever doing such a thing.

Whereas I used to write from the memories of pain, from the places that required transformation, from the places of real woundedness ... these days, I'd rather the focus be on Jesus. He's the main event. He's the one who matters. My pain is not the most interesting thing about me. Jesus is. 

It's given me something to think about, a new lens through which to recast and recollect my story. And I must say, I am so very glad for that.