Just Write It Down

In honor of my 100th post, I wrote the following essay as a clarion call for ordinary people to enter into the writing life, whether that be journaling, storytelling, scriptwriting, songwriting, poetry, short story, novel, novella, hymn, an email you’ve been putting off, or even that yellow sticky that will make someone else’s day.


There is something sacred about that first drop of ink on a blank page. It is a step of faith; an act of creation; a defiance against non-being.

It is boldness to put one’s life and ideas into words.

It is courage to swallow up the margins with presence.

Each word becomes an Ebenezer crying out “I was here! I have a voice!”

The ink becomes a trumpet blasting through the corridor of time; the words are sometimes heard and carried on in another melody, or another pitch, until time itself crescendos with a mighty peel from those who let their words become their voices: brave voices, bold voices, being read and whispered and shouted from the world’s rooftops.

Even the smallest voices carry. The ink bleeds into the hearts of children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, brothers and daughters who place their eager ears against the earth, hoping to dig up the faintest syllables of those words you are writing now.

Write them your story. Write them your ideas.

If your fingers tremble at the first, if your hand holds the pen against the page haltingly, uncertainly, then breathe. Remember there is only one other who reads what you put down. There is only one other who reads the words etched in love and hate upon the fabric of your heart, and He is not surprised. Though your words be good, bad, or ugly, He already knows what your peevish hands would scribe.

Write for no one. Write for everyone. Write for one. It is all the same so much as you write it true. So much as what is waiting, like a caged-up fox at the gate of your wrist, is let out for a few wild moments to race across the empty plains of the page.

Maybe its tail was on fire and it has torched the life you knew. Then cage it again–those wild thoughts–and thank the Almighty for the ash it left to seed a new world.

You may not like the ash. You may not appreciate the wild fox that was your thoughts careening across the page. Maybe you want nothing more than to trap them, cage them, and lock them away in a dark cellar in your soul. Maybe you want to burn the page and hold it responsible for the words it has mirrored from your heart.

But the page is just a mirror. It will only tell what you tell it. And if you don’t like what you read, it is because it has shown you the contents of a room you were hiding.

It takes faith to believe that what is fallen can be made well. Maybe the thoughts on your page are bad. Maybe they are the worst words written in the history of the world (I doubt it). Do you believe that the Father who brought the Son up from the grave can give life to your dead words? Do you really believe that your children’s children will only care about your victories, in the midst of their defeat?

We write what is true as an act of love. First for ourselves, then for the world. If my thoughts are wild, I will love them, until one day even the fox may lie down with the lamb.

If ever you’ve had a thought, a story, or an idea, just write it down. It is a wonderful adventure to watch an emptying heart fill the margins of a blank page. And I invite you to this adventure.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (1)  

The Writer’s Burden

The Writer’s Burden

The burden of a writer is to bring an idea into the world knowing that it will often be unaccredited to him. Like a parent who rears a child in the hope that it will do good in the world, the writer must release an idea, knowing that children rarely praise their parents.

And if a writer is gifted, and works hard enough at it, to produce an entire world from his imagination, he does so with the fearful knowledge that a well-meaning Executive-Producer-Director-Agent-Axis may entice him with a bag of gold to turn what was meant for print into visual fodder. In the hands of a gracious Axis, his work may survive in some shriveled, half-starved form; more often than not, it will find its end with a bullet in the back of the head before being kicked into a mass graveyard.

Few recognize the difference between screenplays and novels, and when enough zeros are thrown behind a $ sign, these lines become imperceptible, even to the writer himself.

And if anyone balks at this truth, remember that it is only under extreme variation that water goes from ice to steam.

“Why would anyone read a book instead of watching big people move on a screen? Because a book can be literature. It is a subtle thing-a poor thing, but our own.” –Annie Dillard

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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