Friday, February 15, 2008

Reluctant Writer

This is, evidently, the season of disturbing self-discoveries.

For example, Christianne is just coming to terms with the fact (and please correct me if I'm misinterpreting, Christianne) that connecting with people on a heart-level is more important to her than her writing is.

Personally, I've known that about myself for years, but the thing that has dawned on me this week that is rocking my world is that I don't think I like to write.

This comes as something of a shock, since I have always identified myself (somewhat perfunctorily, as it turns out) as someone who "likes to write," and furthermore, I have in the last month been permitting myself to call myself a writer. I am starting to wonder if the reason I never did before is because I didn't want to have to take responsibility for it. But now I have a book coming out, and I'm writing freelance articles for New England Condominium magazine, and I'm reading books on writing and wrestling my way through a second novel . . . which, by the way, is terrible. It seems that I could vindicate the mild embarrassment I feel for being a barista at . . . this age . . . by implying that, sure, I work at Starbucks to pay the bills, but really I'm a writer.

I wonder if what I like about writing is the self-broadcasting potential, and the fact that I can do it with a modicum of flair. But I very rarely enjoy it. This is making me uneasy, but also illuminates for me why I keep having to browbeat myself to get any writing done. People ask me how "my writing" is going, and tell me I'm "a good writer" or even (this was my favourite, because of the respect I have for the literary savvy of the person who said it) "an unusual writer." And every time someone says it, I feel guilty. Stephen King says that the sign of a true writer is that they have to write and it "blisses them out." I'm pretty sure I've only ever "blissed out" when I was writing once. Maybe twice. Mostly I sit down to do it only when I can no longer find some other worthy excuse not to do it, and then I try to find some other worthy excuse to stop doing it as soon as reasonably possible.

Why would God give me a gift that I use so begrudgingly? Why is it so hard for me to apply myself to it--out of gratitude to him, if for no other reason? Why do I find this gift such a hard thing to be grateful for? I feel like the guy who buried the king's money in the ground.

I have friends who love to write and would love to be published (and deserve the credits, too, no doubt), and heck--I like that I'm going to be published, but I feel like I don't deserve it, since I view the process with such distaste. It's kind of like those friends of mine who are all, "I never wanted to get married--it's so funny that I'm married now!" Well, I've always wanted to get married, and those kinds of statements are a little galling to me. (They also feed my Murphy's-Law-esque ideas about God which are supposedly false--that the things I really want I am unlikely to get, whereas what I don't want will no doubt happen.) I feel that my publishing opportunities are likewise unfair, though I don't particularly want to trade them or anything.

This whole thing is baffling to me. Including the ironic fact that . . . hey, look! I had to write, in order to tell you this!

16 comments:

Annelise said...

I think Stephen King is unusual (well, yeah, for sure he is!). I can't remember if it's Madeleine L'Engle who talked about what discipline it took to sit and write, and I think Phil Yancey sounds he like procrastinates a lot. And Dad loves to preach, but seems to have a tough time sitting down to write. So, I'm not sure about this.... I'm not sure what I really wanted to say either! :-)

Annelise said...

I should say that I can understand you're liking to connect with people more than the work of writing. Because you are really, really good at that, and it is clearly a God-given gift as well. So we pray that God opens the door to use whichever gifts He wants to use.

Anonymous said...

hey jen - liking your writing! thanks for your kind words on the bwc blog. feel free to check mine anytime - gravenrecords.blogspot.com

matty

Jenn said...

Mom--yeah--that's good to remember to balance it out, I guess. As is the fact that just because I agree with SK on some things doesn't mean I have to on all. Thanks for keeping on praying . . .

Matty--welcome! and cheers! and ditto! and . . . could you call me "jenn"?

Christianne said...

i'll chime in with mom and say that lots of writers have different modes and beliefs about this whole writing business. some other famous writer, who in my mind goes by the name "anonymous," said he hates writing but loves having written. meaning, i think, that it's much easier, calming, and overall relieving to have something concrete to edit and tinker with than to be faced with blank white space needing to be filled.

i feel for you in this. and i guess i also agree with your mom on a second point (even though i've never seen you in action in person), that being that you do have quite a gift for relating to people. your small group girls. your starbucks customers. your coworkers. etc.

i feel like i have more to say here, but i'm not getting at it very well. so for now, i'll just leave it there. i hope you find some encouragement around the bend.

ps: nope, no representation there, by the way. though i was mega-surprised to see my own name staring back at me from the beginning of your post! :)

GreekGeek said...

Hey, I'm IN theology and I still think those "Murphy's-Law-esque ideas about God which are supposedly false" function in my life, in a somewhat annoying way. I try not to believe in them... But then they happen, and you have to wonder why you get to be the one who proves the rule!

All I'm saying is that I hear and 100% echo with this post (not saying "I understand exactly where you are", just that you nailed me on the head) -- I wouldn't trade living in Scotland, the opportunities that have come my way, etc, for anything... Except... well... it's not the life I would have chosen if I had ever gotten a choice! =}

and I guess that's where for me the choice for contentment has to kick in... blech...

Scott said...

Hi Jenn; I feel the same way, too . I do love to write yet I hardly take the time daily to do that. I fritter away a lot of time. I also identify with your view that some people get blessings and some do not. But remember God deals out the cards. You have your deck to play in the game of life. And God is the other partner in the game. He wants you to play your cards in the best way. some of the cards may not be the best, but it takes trial and error and some luck as in the game of gin in choosing the right discard. peace

Christianne said...

oops, i just came back here and realized that i put "representation" when i meant "MISrepresenation." i'm pretty sure you knew what i meant -- sleight of fingers and all that -- but just wanted to clarify. :)

chris said...

Yes - to echo the earlier comments, plenty of writers have reported really struggles with even strting to write. Wasn't it Samuel Pepys who used to get his servants to steal his clothes so he had to stay in and write?

To interject an slightly pious note - how much do you think Jeremiah wanted to be a prophet.

Stanley Jordan used to say "If you want to be a musician, don't. It's a terrible life, you'll never earn any money, you'll be constantly ripped off and you'll meet the worst people. If you have to be a musician, it's the best life you'll ever live, you'll be continually satisfied and suprised by everything that happens to you, and you'll constantly meet the most wonderful people"

Jenn said...

Christianne--I felt like you said it pretty well--and yes, I figured out the typo! ;)

GG--what's it like, being "in" theology? Heh. I loved the "blech--contentment!" vibe. So true. You're right, too--I think that really is the point.

Scott--too bad I'm terrible at cards . . .

Chris--I don't recall ever having heard the SP story, but it's AWESOME. Of course, on my days off I stay in most of the time, but it still doesn't mean I write. I also liked the quote. And a pious note? With a "u," no less? ;) Yeah, I have often identified with Jeremiah. I am thankful to report that have yet to be thrown into a cistern, however. Also, I still have friends. Maybe I should be more antagonistic . . .

L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I see now why you were kind of relating to my latest post on Seedlings. It's an interesting question... what does it mean to love to write? I gave you my answer (before I knew you were struggling with the question!) but I think there are probably many answers. And not all of them have to do with wanting to sit blissfully with pen and paper.

Thomas said...

congratulations on the book and thanks for the comments on my blog...

Jenn said...

LL--yeah, it was funny. I read your post and thought, huh. That's apropos! And I think you're right . . .

Thomas--thanks! and you're welcome. (I decided I had better comment again, since you said "commentS.")

Nikki (and sometimes Daniel) said...

I surfed over after visiting Seedlings.

I find the question you posed of whether God would give us gifts that we use only begrudgingly to be a rather interesting one. I know some of my "gifts" have often struck me as liabilities when using them is inconvenient or downright painful.

For some reason this question brings to mind the Levitical priesthood. Surely being set apart for God's work must have been a "gift" of a rare magnitude, but being born into it must have been a burden for the occasional priest who would have preferred to be a musician, shopkeeper or shepherd--anything but a priest.

Moses didn't exactly embrace his calling (and felt he lacked one of the gifts he needed--speech), and Jonah ran headlong away from his into the belly of a whale. Mary, on the other hand, embraced the gift of bringing God-incarnate into the world, and Job put up with more of what you might call "Murphy's Law" than anyone in history with a song in his heart. God somehow used all of these people to change the course of history.

I'm more of the Moses/Jonah type myself. It sure would be nice to always want to do what I think I somehow ought to do. If you figure out how to do that... please tell! :)

The Cubicle Reverend said...

To quote Solomon, there is a time to rejoice and a time to weep. This is a time to rejoice. C.S. Lewis felt that the enjoyment of life is a blessing given to us by God. Read The Weight Of Glory if you don't believe me. :P Rejoice and give thanks to God for the opportunity you have been given.

Jenn said...

Nikki--thanks for visiting. (Daniel, thanks for visiting, too--if you did.) Those are really good parallels, of which I had not thought, for some reason. I don't think I was really doubting the gifting or the calling--I think I was just sort of startled that after all this time, I had finally realised I don't enjoy it all that much. It's been more of a gradual, "Heyyy . . . I'm not sure I like this one," than a Moses-style, "Please send somebody else!" On the other hand--see next post.

CubeRev--you preaching? ;)

There was an error in this gadget