Writing with Courage in 2013

My Friend Karen read my Espy the Bat story and commented that she felt like I was thinking too much about the words. It upset me. I felt if anything I had ever written told the stories of the Swaggart church years and the current years, it was this little allegory.

I do think about words, I studied Tolkien and Lewis, two great lovers of words, I enjoy finding out what words mean, they are important. Each word we use and how we use them is important. So, maybe I do think about them too much. Maybe because I have an audience. Maybe I think too much about writing for the audience.

In the heat of all the church drama last year, I had an email exchange with a pastor friend, he accused me of throwing words around carelessly because I used the words "pure evil" to describe the way I saw some of the handling of the situation. I guess in that case, from his perspective, I did not think enough about the words I chose. But I spoke from my heart, from what it felt like. It was a private email.

One night not long ago, after drinking a glass of wine, I wrote a blog post that I knew very well I would never post. It was full of my passions, my anger, my sadness. It needed to be written, just not published. I felt better after I wrote it. I shared it with Karen, she liked it. It was cleansing to my soul really to get it all out-felt good.

I've kept a journal of some sort since I was 11 years old. Writing has always been my outlet. Anne Lamott says we should write like our family is dead. I do that sometime, but most of those are saved to draft, they are not published. I don't want to hurt people close to me, church family and blood family. That is important to consider how others feel.
Some of my journals from the 80s and 90s, before I had a blog. Karen gave me one for my 21st birthday in 1988.

I have a few great frustrations as a writer, one is that I am horrible at grammar and spelling, second is that I don't have enough words, third is that I'm a lazy fearful writer. I wish I knew more words to throw around and over think about. I wish I could stop letting fear keep me from writing, it's what makes me lazy and unproductive. It's pure evil.

I read this quote today by GK Chesterton and it made me think of my writing life.

"COURAGE is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. 'He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,' is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide -- or a drill-book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier, surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry the Christian courage which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage which is a disdain of life."
G.K. Chesterton: 'Orthodoxy.'
How often do I attempt to play it safe in what I write? How often do I attempt suicide with what I write? How often do I truly die to myself and therefore gain my life when I write? I don't want to be "In your face" provocative just for the sake of being that. It cant be about shock value for it to be true art in my opinion. It has to come from the soul for it to convict, stir, inspire, acknowledge another persons soul. True art has courage screaming from it. I don't want to be Anne Lamott or C.S. Lewis,  I want to be me.

What does having courage when writing really look like for me? That is the question I will try to answer in 2013. 


Karen said…
Well that karen sounds like a jerk. Anyway, I wish you all the luck and goodness in finding your courage in the written word. I guess for me it's about the audience or the readers. I just find that when I write for me, I like it more. So that's really all I get out of it. And for the record, all your writing is not like Espy. You asked for my opinion. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. Love you.
Carole Turner said…
You don't sound like a jerk, you sound like a friend that can be honest with me. It made me think, that's good. Your one of my favorite writers and I appreciate your opinion. Love you!

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