Writing Life

I spend all day working on a pivotal chapter in Presences of Absences, condensing a couple of pages into a single paragraph. Papa Hemingway advises us to write “hard and clear”. I spend hours trying to craft such a paragraph.

I tweak and tweak again, rearranging words and sentences, and reading the thing out loud. I take a break to go to the community garden, then return and pick at it again.

In the early evening I sit down and watch a heartbreaking movie. I question my choice when I’m preparing for bed and scenes replay in my mind.

Maya and I climb into bed. She, nervous at the wind, curls up under the covers at the top corner next to my head. Awkward, but I rearrange things to make space, then reach for my iPad, go to my Dropbox, and open my manuscript to the troublesome paragraph and tweak it some more.

Enough, I tell myself. I put it aside, pick up my Kindle, and fall into the book I’ve been reading. And there, big as anything and smooth as honey, is a paragraph saying the exact thing I’ve been wrestling with all day.

I could be discouraged or I could remember Madeleine L’Engle’s wisdom:

Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.

Some time ago I set a writing goal. I keep it on an index card on top of my writing desk: Find fresh ways to write timeless truth for the benefit of others.

It’s exciting that this thing I’ve been writing about was touched on by another (in reality, others). It is timeless truth after all. So, I’ll return to the page today (and probably that paragraph) and do my writer-best to make it fresh.

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Here’s one of the images I shot at dawn yesterday. I’m glad I captured it. We’re back to gray today.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. “Find fresh ways to write timeless truth for the benefit of others.” I love this. And I think each of us has a fresh way to tell our stories, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. The hard part is “butt in chair.” Thank you for always being here for me, Linda. Your blogs matter to me.

    1. I agree, Karen. We all have stories that can enrich the lives of others. Whether we tell them with fiction, nonfiction, or POETRY, the important thing is to share them. It’s a generous gift.

  2. I love this reminder that we’re not trying to invent new ideas to write about, but to tell our own stories. So often, this is what keeps me from writing, feeling that I have nothing new to say. And Karen’s comment about ‘butt in chair’ is really what it so often boils down to. Thank you for this post, Linda.

    1. I always enjoy reading your blog, Karen. I KNOW you have stories! And I know they can help another along their way—they’ve helped me in some seasons. 🙂

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