"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

03 August 2005

Blocked

I know writers who claim there is no such thing as writer’s block. I suspect if I had to make my living writing I would find this to be true. However, since I make my living teaching, with all its attendant components – creating syllabi, preparing each day's work, grading papers, not to mention actually meeting classes and conferencing with individual students – the writing is not as a rule immediately compelling. I would like to believe that the ability to do it periodically disappears for that reason. It would at least supply an excuse.

However, the block often occurs when I actually have time on my hands (relatively speaking). This is depressing, to say the least, and seems inexplicable. I know full well that the solution to my present difficulty will suddenly appear just as I am sitting in faculty workshop (no doubt while the dean or president is speaking on some absolutely vital topic and I am sitting in such a place that my mental non-attendance will be noted) or when I am finally getting the freshman comp website done ten minutes before the first class meeting. At which point I will tear my hair in frustration, at least mentally, and try not to curse my wayward muse, at least not aloud.

The pressure of a deadline or a great deal to do has always been good for my writing. Of course, this can be frustrating for me and for those around me, as I try to juggle the urgent (the everyday “stuff”) with the important (the writing). Is the writing worth it? I’ve read so many writers recently, the ones who say they cannot not write, the ones who say this is delusional arrogance, the ones who reduce writing to craft, the ones who elevate it to religion. I know that writing keeps me sane. That alone is enough to tell me I must be careful not to neglect it for the urgent.

But I want to finish something someday, something worth having spent the time and the energy it took and worth the sacrifices that I and others make for it. Today, my husband is 53 – which means I will be the same in just two months. Time is running out.

And now I read, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Wisdom. Ah, yes, wisdom is the goal, not publication. Is this writing contributing to my wisdom, my understanding of God and His reality? If so, and if that wisdom is applied in the urgencies of my everyday life, then the writing is worth it, whatever its worldly fate.

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15).

Thanks to Him once again for the check, for the eternal perspective. May I keep it clearly in heart as well as mind as the daily round of a school year begins again, and may I keep Him before all else as I enter it.

5 comments:

Lisa (Froggyhead) said...

Amen! I always have to remind myself that I am not writing because I love writing. I don't. I write because this "thing" that Christ has put inside my heart and mind is too much for me. I want to share it with others. At this point in my life my outlet for sharing is confined, mostly, to writing.

This probably doesn't help much since I simply blog with an distant eye toward publishing some day and you are actually writing a book. But I think the basic idea is the same. We always have to respect our motivation to do the thing as much as the thing itself.

I do wish you luck and I feel certain that you will "git-r-done."

Megan said...

"I’ve read so many writers recently, the ones who say they cannot not write, the ones who say this is delusional arrogance, the ones who reduce writing to craft, the ones who elevate it to religion."

All of those writers scream in my ears. Sometimes i think i can't breathe if i don't put my pen on a piece of paper or my fingers on a keyboard; at other times i think this hideous inadequacy will choke me... but, yes, it keep me sane. Somehow the knowledge that i can imagine a world that makes sense, see the sin nature and expose it for change, make someone think, makes it necessary for sanity. If it's so important and i don't make it urgent, what will become of my conscience?

Thanks for making me think. Yet again.

Megan said...

P.S. "The pressure of a deadline or a great deal to do has always been good for my writing."

Could we deconstruct that statement and twist it around for a while and infer that you are encouraging students to wait 'till last minute to finish their projects?

Bummer. Didn't think so.

Cindy said...

:::still chuckling at Megan's last comment:::

Beth--Thankyouthankyouthankyou for this: "Time is running out. . . And now I read, 'So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom' (Psalm 90:12). Wisdom. Ah, yes, wisdom is the goal, not publication. Is this writing contributing to my wisdom, my understanding of God and His reality? If so, and if that wisdom is applied in the urgencies of my everyday life, then the writing is worth it, whatever its worldly fate."

It's going in my journal AND my book of useful and intriguing quotes!

alaiyo said...

Lisa -- Yes, I am always struggling with the motivation thing. Easy to *say* that I've not got an eye on "fame and fortune," but the reality is quite different far too often! But He is good to keep reminding us, yes?

Anon -- thanks for stopping by! Would like to hear more about the site you linked.

Megan, good try, sweetheart! Good thing you aren't still a student . . . :)

"Somehow the knowledge that i can imagine a world that makes sense, see the sin nature and expose it for change, make someone think, makes it necessary for sanity."

Wow, you said that SO well. That's a keeper, and I will be using it in my upper level writing classes. So, so true.

Lucindy -- I am most honored! That's a good encouragement to me this morning!

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