Writing is a ministry. It’s ministry as much as as preaching or pastoral care or any other of the serving tasks.
While in the parish I would often spend afternoons working on articles for publication or blogging. Sometimes I’d feel guilty as I typed away.
Maybe I should have been visiting one more person?
Maybe I should have been a better administrator by filing away paperwork sooner?
Maybe I should have started sermon research earlier in the week? Or maybe not. As my friend, Beth would say, I was “shoulding” all over myself.
Yet, there was always something in me that said writing was important.
So, now and in the immediate future I am claiming the time that I spend writing as my primary ministry. I’m done with the guilt. I’m just going to do it.
And, I’m falling in love as I learn things like:
1. You can’t be afraid, as Anne Lamott would say to write a shitty first draft.
I would covet to be the kind of writer who can pour out her soul in perfectly constructed paragraphs and completely interested sentences the first time. But, I just can’t. I can’t tell you how many boring, throw away sentences I construct on any given day. Writing is always as much about a process than it is about the destination.
2. The more you write, the more it clicks and clicks faster.
It has been amazing to me to start reading like a writer. For example, now, if someone asks me to read a piece of theirs, I can more easily say things like, “You need to cut out the first two paragraphs. You don’t make a point til 3/4 down on the first page.” Why? Because when you spend your days editing your own work, you begin to see all collections of words of others in a more precise edge. You know a good piece of prose when you see it (and when you don’t) and you’re ok if others disagree with you.
3. The more you commit to learn the craft of writing, the more you begin to look at the world like a writer.
A big change in me has happened over the past couple of weeks. I walk into a room and think about how I would describe its smell, its texture, or its sounds. Why? Because as I’m trying to narrate a series of past events in book form right now, I realize that in real-time I never really noticed details of settings. I am a big picture girl who does not like to focus on the blades of grass. But, in the future, I want to know. I want to know what it felt like to walk through a crowded bus. Or what it smelled like stepping off an airplane. Or what the countertop of my best friend’s mom’s kitchen feels like. If I am going to keep writing, then I need to pay closer attention to the blades.
4. The delete button is your best friend.
I don’t know about others of you, but I can so easily become attached to sentences. I love them like they are birthed children or the finnest meals ever cooked on silver platters. In love, ignore the run-ons, out-of-place fragments or passive tense verbs. And, because I love them, I never want them to go. But, this can’t be! Though painful at first, the crispness of my narrative seems to thank me later (and so does my writing group when they read my drafts!).
5. You can love through words.
Words to me are tools of art. Just as a painter needs brushes or a sculptor needs clay to create what stirs the hearts of any who behold their creation, I need words. I need words to say thank you. I need words to show kindness. I need words to give hope. And in making art– stories, essays or even sometimes poems, I love. I love myself by creating the space of a sentence to say what is most real. I love those whom I know by paying attention to details which can be later shared back with them. I love those I do not yet know by selecting universal words so my words can be an offering of our common experience.
Other writers what are you learning?