16 March 2011

Day 16: Just write

50K: Mar 16

At the beginning of March, I embarked on a rather foolish project: my aim was to write 50,000 (original) words in one month. I wasn’t sure I could do it, even after a late Feb trial run, copying and pasting much of what I wrote last year. (“Writing” 50,000 words in one day has never been less time-consuming!)

So here I am, at 5:30 a.m., to say: I’m halfway: hip hippo Ray!

It’s been easier than expected, in some ways, and more difficult in others. The easy part has been finding the words. For too long I’ve stored them inside, held back (in my writing), and been tentative at best in viewing myself as a writer. Needless to say, it has been a delight to sit before the blank screen each day and simply write.

On the other hand, turning off the Internal Censor/Editor has been a bit trickier. S/he wants to be heard! But I’ve turned a deaf ear. I sit down. And I write. Sometimes I even glance up at the screen—but for all intents and purposes, the monitor may as well be switched off, for all the checking I do during this very first draft.

Yesterday afternoon at Coffee Traders I read about 3,000 words to my writing accountability partner and she just smiled and nodded. Everyone needs an encourager (or two … or three): I highly recommend finding someone who can keep you accountable and/or offer constructive critique. In my case, Evie simply cheers me on as a writer. She doesn’t edit for me, nor does she tell me what to write. She just shows up and listens. I guess I already knew I was a writer when we met, a couple of years ago—I had co-authored a book by then—but I spent far too much time convincing myself that what I wrote was “just letters” and therefore not publishable.

A strange thing happened last month, when I turned 40. I can hardly describe it. Let me say only that I was given a fresh glimpse of who (and Whose) I am and what I’m capable of if I willingly surrender all of me and trust my Creator to fulfil His purpose in my remaining years ahead. Recent world events have once again reminded me how fragile and fleeting our days are, how unpredictable.

God willing, I’m only halfway through my life and have a lot of living left to do … but whatever the future holds, I yearn to write. And sitting alone in the back row of a plane last month, high above the Rockies, suddenly I regretted the emptiness of the past decade (from a writer’s point of view)—the many blank pages and uncaptured thoughts. Half-finished journal entries. Diaries with pages half filled in. Half-formulated ideas. Dreams half-lived before the new day arrived. A half-writing life.

Yes, I know I was busy settling into my new country and meeting new people and establishing new friendships and finding a new church home and studying (again) and then working at the seminary as an instructor these past half a dozen years … but I’ve known I wanted to write for decades already.
And yet.

This new challenge has been a wake-up call in many ways. I am reminded daily of the discipline needed to meet my word-quota; I realise I need to carve out more hours of solitude to get the work done, and I am finally embracing my part-time hermit lifestyle; I feel fully and freely alive. Every minute. (I did before, too, but something was missing. Now on those rare occasions that I wake at 4 a.m., I automatically get up and write. It’s as though my oxygen supply has been replenished.)

Don’t tell my editor, but I just wrote 750 words in what felt like minutes. And no, I didn’t mull over every word, the way I do when I’m polishing an article for publication. I simply sat down and wrote. The restructuring will come later.

Let me say in closing: I have never been more at peace with my life—my vocation—than in this moment. I have never felt more thankful to my Creator for allowing me the privilege to be creative. I have never experienced as intensely the particular soul-joy of doing what I know I’m meant to be doing. The deep-down sadness of last year has abated and my old joie de vivre has returned.

I am richly blessed.