Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WRITING BY HEART

WHY I QUOTE OTHERS. I’m always quoting others. Sometimes I do so because I want to pass on a real gem of wisdom or “keeper” insight that I happen on to serendipitously. Sometimes I do so out of sheer appreciation for the way a writer articulates a truth or principle or experience. Sometimes I do so because some writing or unconventional perspective has so pushed me beyond my own comfort zone, that it just seems fitting to spread disturbing grace around a bit more. “Disturbing grace.” That’s what the Holy Spirit as “Agitator” (so called by William Stringfellow) offers us from time to time. Sometimes comfort. Sometimes disturbance. The banner for the Daily Oklahoman newspaper states: “To comfort the afflicted; to afflict the comfortable.” Lord knows we need both, in turn, throughout our lives.

PRIMING THE PUMP. Sometimes I quote others, however, because it’s easier than plumbing my own stirrings. Or because my own stirrings aren’t always very “presentable” or ready. Like half-baked cookies or pizza—give them some more heat and time. Sometimes I quote others because my reservoir seems shallow, stale, or empty. In such times, the stirrings, wisdom, poetry and insights of others refresh my mind, replenish my soul, jolt my senses from dullness, or season or redirect my own understanding of daily life. Usually, it doesn’t take much for reading or experiences to percolate a brew of grace. I try to keep from contriving; I’d rather write from what flows, like a gift. Reading and contemplation is like priming the pump of a deep well: the effort yields refreshment that quenches the soul’s thirst.

DISCIPLINE AND GRACE. There is a discipline to journaling as I have engaged in it over many years now. No doubt, I occasionally think about what I might share in “Grace Between the Lines” with friends each week. I bring myself to the laptop most Mondays without much notion as to what the week’s edition will contain. I just go over what I’ve read, recall what I’ve heard, consider current events, connect to a writer, etc. It’s a rather random but invigorating process. I’ve been challenged by a few friends to be more “thematic” in these publications. I suppose I could do that, but it would seem to me less creative and serendipitous if I did. Maybe someday there’ll be time to organize this stuff. For now, I prefer to pull these things from the margins of weekly living.

FROM THE HEART. I can’t explain my process other than writing by heart. It’s what hits me, moves me, connects with me that I try to quote. It’s what is stirring within me that I try to put into words. I find that when someone has shared that way in their writing, it sparks me. It inspires me to write from my heart and my experience—rather than from my head, from my limited authority or knowledge. I think I write from the heart only occasionally. I think others write from the heart only occasionally. There’s an endless sea of pages of heady hyperbole out there. Every now and then, though, you happen onto something heartfelt and genuine and your compass is reset, your mission is clarified, and the journey is reengaged. I pray for such findings, such soundings. When I am graced to find them, I’ll share them.

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