Writing is thinking. No question about that for me. When I begin to write on any given day I don’t always know where the words will take me. Even when I have a clear intention or a vague drift.
At the same time, thinking is a problem. Writing might bring clarity and on the way there pass through layers of confusion that obscure that buried idea. This summer I attended a workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary — a Writer’s Workshop that foregrounded writing as a spiritual practice and the work of writer Frederick Buechner.
Often, particularly when faced with too much thinking that only complicates any intention I might have, I reread my notebook from previous months or years to see where I’ve been with the hope that I might move toward where I might be going.
Today I was lamenting my lack. Lack of skill as an academic writer. Lack of clarity that results from overthinking and my lack of confidence. Lack of proofreading skill that lets grammatical errors, unintended fragments, and sentences that just don’t make any sense disguise themselves as productive. I usually don’t reread these blog posts for fear of finding the same thing here. I did and I did.
So this morning I opened my notebook from the Writer’s Workshop and found this:
Writing as sacrament
- visible sign of individual reality
- outward sign of inward grace
- sacrament needs: matter, form, intention
- holy mystery
- grace in the everyday
At the bottom of the notebook page “mystery” is defined as presence of more meaning than you can comprehend.
Mmmmm. Why do I continue to write? Writing makes visible what I’m thinking, doing, feeling, being and how I interpret a world in that moment. Those thoughts, feelings, actions, and intentional awareness become material when captured in words; by the very act of being named. The paradoxical mystery is that at the same time those words hold more meaning than I can comprehend. The words alone don’t just represent; they are an action, a form of participation in the world that matters.
As Buechner says the deepest part of who you are is speaking to the deepest part of yourself. And occasionally, someone else might be listening in.