The other day I read a blog by author, Donald Miller. I’ve been a fan of Miller for several years. I like his candor. He says things that others have been to preoccupied to say. He says them in a way that I wish I had. I like it when i read something or hear something that I identify with so much that I find myself saying, “I wish I would have said that!”
From time to time I am brought nearly to my knees by the power of a turn of a phrase. It may be profound to none other than myself, but I love it when the power of it is like taking a sip from a fire hydrant. Last week Mr. Miller penned one such. He wrote that he was working in the French Quarter of New Orleans. That had my attention. I like Nola! He said, “the words are good here”. Jealous! That blog was only two sentences long; short and sweet and yet the conclusion was an amazing thought, “the words are good here”. It’s like I bent over to take a sip and the power almost blew my lips off! Refreshing.
I couldn’t leave that phrase just laying there. I took it with me for the rest of the day where it nestled comfy and secure in a prominent place in my mind. That day turned into two and then a week. Today it is still perched high in a corner of my mind for nearly two weeks, “the words are good here”! I told my wife about it. Her response was polite. I told my 18 year old son. He didn’t get it. I suppose if I had to explain he wouldn’t have understood anyway.
For a long time and even more so lately, there is nothing that I do that is quite so fulfilling, so soul deep satisfying, as writing. When the words are good and the flow cascades through the verdant canopy of imagination, it settles down a mist of intoxication that cannot be found in any bottle or substance. It is addictive. It is also allusive. You don’t always know when you are going to encounter the two. Although the space may have something to do with it, like the French Quarter seemingly being the inspiration for Donald, I think that it may have more to do with the space between the ears. That is the tricky place. If the whole process were just about geography then that would make finding it simple and replicable. That would also make finding good reads simple and replicable. Finding something that is nebulous, misty and without substance, not so much. That takes work, timing, and a whole lot of luck!
I find that my best writing flows from a full heart. The place and the time, the living ability to apply effort to the process are important, but nothing flows from an empty reservoir. I may find the kind of space that inspired Hemingway, but unless I bring an equally inspiring space within my head any product will be academic, a mere exercise.
I reluctantly admit that I am one of those people who have the misfortune and the blessing of not having had a gate valve installed between the brain and the mouth. The pipe is wide open so whatever the brain manufactures simply obeys gravity and rolls down hill until it falls out of my mouth. I could stand on my head, perhaps slowing the torrent, but that would give me a headache. I just give into Newton’s discovery and go with it. Open my mouth and out it pours. In the case of writing I just keep my lips tightly pressed together and let gravity once again do its thing, then viola! It finds its way to my fingers. The rest, as they say, is history.
The trick to this whole process is in the fullness of the reservoir, in my case the heart. My heart can be filled with many things. It can be filled with earthly things, even the baser things that should not be there. The Bible says that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Sometimes stuff gets in there that I don’t want to come out. The trick is to keep those things out or at least in rarity. The best way I’ve found to do that is to keep the space filled up with the kind of good stuff that I want to have come out. I stay close to things that inspire me. I want life giving things to form in my heart and in my mind so that when I open my mouth or turn on my computer those are the things that flow out. I don’t ignore the other stuff, that would be to deny the reality of humanity. Sometimes I try to write about those as well, but I put them in perspective with good stuff that is there.
My middle son loves to snowboard. It usually begins in September. Not the snowboarding season, that doesn’t start until November, but the conversations about it. At first it is mixed with other conversations of other interests, but gradually those are edged out and the entire content is within the context of mountains, snow, and boards, unless of course it is boards first, followed by snow and mountains. He dons his boots and board and practices jumping on the carpet while the autumn sun is still warm. This particular subject, of course is interchangeable with cars and motors which are not confined to any particular season of the year. All things car are all things with which he is also fascinated as well and will talk about them with anyone willing to listen. His heart is full of these things and they naturally pour out in conversation.
To some my son’s verbal fixation on what his heart is full of may be a bit overwhelming. I understand that, but I also see what it does for him. Talking about the things he enjoys energizes him. They empower his imagination and enhance the sense of savor at the tastiness of experience when he finally finds himself on the mountain or behind the wheel.
I spend most of my waking hours mentally pursuing the things that I associate with Jesus. I do that because I am crazy in love with Jesus. Even when I was beyond cruddy and sin-caked to the umpteenth degree, He still loved me, called me, cleaned me and began the process of rebuilding me. I had friends who said they were such. I have had family who were supposed to be such. No one stayed and invested when things were their darkest except Jesus. I owe Him all. I can’t repay even one lick of it. So I don’t try to repay Him. I simply try to let my life bring joy to Him as He watches and even as He interacts with me.
I talk. I write. It might be overwhelming to some, but both to me are as important as breathing in and breathing out. I have a wealth of experience because I have tried, failed, floundered and was rescued over and over throughout my journeys through this life. Within the story, each and every chapter, there was Jesus, forming, shaping, letting me go and rescuing me from myself. That is why I write, mostly about life and living, being and doing. That is why most of the time Jesus finds his way into my writing. It is because upon further examination I find Jesus in most of my story. The words satisfy me with a deep down yawn and stretch sort of satisfaction when I see the story, my story, and find that it was also His story as well.