Monday, March 3, 2014

Prayer for the Written Page

I recently read Jim Denney’s prayer for the blank page. It’s a beautiful idea: pray before you write so you have the courage to start. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

Lots of people struggle with crushing fear of that first sentence. Of beginning. For some this keeps them from ever starting. For others, it causes severe procrastination. Others hit it head-on and cheer at their survival.

I remember watching my college roommate suffer time and again with the beginning of an essay. She would sit down and type and backspace and type and backspace and stare at articles and highlight books and get up and make dinner and come back and try to type again…

I’ve never struggled with fear of the blank page. In fact, as a kid I loved the opportunities represented by a sheet of paper. "Give me a pen and I will make it no longer blank!" Before I could form letters, I was squiggling and pretending I was writing—I still have some of the full, besquiggled notebooks to prove it.

I guess it’s like rollercoasters. For some, it’s terrifying. For others it’s exhilarating.

Opening a blank Word document is like opening the door to another world. I get inordinately excited about all the things I could write. Even now I have the details to SEVEN books laid out in my head. Plus a list of half a dozen blog posts I want to write at some point.

The blank page is my world.

But while I maybe don’t have to pray over the blank page to get myself going, I do have to pray over the sentences that scrawl rapidly across the white space. I have to pray that they’re good enough. That they mean what I want them to mean—and more. That my imperfect work is somehow perfectly what it should be.

That I always treat it as the holy, precious act that it is.

Writing is communication. Every word written isn’t meant to stand alone: it’s meant to be read by other eyes. To affect hearts and change minds. Words empower, discourage, impassion, and lie. The written word has the power to change us.

I know this because my own life is the evidence. Some of my biggest questions about myself and life have been answered not by people but by books. There's Gail Tsukiyama and Robert Jordan helping me contemplate the possibilities of culture in a different way; Gerald Durrell and Robert Fulghum making me laugh at myself while contemplating life's deep things; Gail Carriger and Hiro Mashima making me feel that life's hardships can be conquered and reminding me how precious friendship is. Madeleine L'Engle, Amy Bai, Patricia Evans...

I’ve been shaped by others’ writings in my way of thinking and that has come out in the way I treat people, the opportunities I seek, and the life I build.

I may not fear the blank page, but I do fear the written page. I recognize its power and what it can become. And so I pray over my words, that they will always mean the right thing and never the wrong thing.

Word count: 538