For the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve had about the most severe case of writer’s block I can ever remember. Maybe it’s because what little writing I’ve done lately has by necessity flowed into lesson planning, sermon preparation or study, and also because there’s been little if any creative writing involved in my professional life lately.
But what I’ve begun to realize, or perhaps re-realize, is that at heart I am and always have been a writer. Not an author, which is something completely different, but a writer. Someone who deals in the art and science of words. Whether as a journalist, copy writer, blogger, or even editing clients’ wording in a printed piece I’m designing, the English language has, on some level, always been the primary tool of my craft.
That may be in part what has led me into accepting more speaking engagements lately. As my freelance business has drifted more toward illustration and repurposing content and further from developing printed work from scratch, there is less and less space for real creative expression in my vocational life. Speaking and teaching opens that space in new and dynamic ways. Early in my career in marketing & public relations, I had to write a lot of speeches for corporate officers. I always found that to be an energizing experience, in its own way. But that kind of writing, by its nature, calls for a singular kind of focus. While it doesn’t necessarily constrict the space for exploring new ideas, it is limited by the context for which it’s intended.
I’ve always been fascinated by words, literally for as long as I can remember. I am captivated by both their power and their subtlety. Finding just the right word or turn of phrase is, for a writer, analagous to a painter finding the perfect interplay between light and shadow, a hockey player scoring a tough goal in traffic, a chef creating just the right balance of flavors, or a flyfisherman making the perfect cast to a rising trout in a difficult spot among conflicting currents.
That’s something I’ve come to learn more powerfully than ever as I’ve studied scripture and theology more broadly and deeply over the past few years. I’m realizing more and more that there is an amazing economy of language in scripture…that there are no wasted words. There is meaning and texture to everything. And so I’ve come not only to appreciate the words on the page even more, I’ve come to expect them to reveal something, because, like all of us, they are each there for a reason.
Gaining an understanding of Biblical history, and especially the cultural context of 1st & 2nd Century Israel, is critical. The words from scripture that mean something to us today do so only because they meant something specific to specific people at a specific time. When we contextualize words to our current experience & understanding, we lose the thoughts & feelings they were meant to evoke in their original context.
But on a deeper level, we also need to understand how the words chosen by the various authors allowed them to give voice to their relational experience with the living God. That their words were chosen not only for instruction and inspiration of their audience, but also for the creative expression of their writers. It is more dialogue than monologue. It is, at its heart, conversation.
That’s why I need this blog. It not only gives me a workshop in which to practice my craft, it gives my ideas a vast range on which to feed and wander. It gives voice to experiences, both physical and spiritual, both material and ideological. It gives the words a place to land when they come spilling out of my head.
So here I am, trying to jumpstart the blog by writing about writing. Sometimes you just have to get words on a page to bust open all the dammed-up ideas that are piling up in your psyche. My hope is always that faithrants.com is always about creating conversation. Maybe by opening up a flow of backed-up words and ideas I’ve helped you find new and inspiring ways to express and ignite your own dialogue. Feel free to hit up the comment section or respond on Twitter or Facebook. How do your own expressions create meaningful conversations?