Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Afterthought #10

Here’s another of my last-day-of-the-month afterthoughts (a hybrid drawn from my writing and Quaker communities as a form for brief reflections on headlines, quotes, comments overheard, maybe even bumper stickers).

Sometimes my “Bum Glue” (see Oct. 29 post) needs a little reinforcement.  Today I turned to a new book by Dinty W. Moore, The Mindful Writer - Noble Truths of the Writing Life. 

Moore has come to understand that his “… lifelong pursuit of writing and creativity has helped to open me to the path of Buddhism.” Specifically, writing has taught him about the power of releasing control.  His new book offers quotations and reflections on how writing and mindfulness can intersect.  The following two especially spoke to me right now:

“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”  ~ Barbara Kingsolver

“There are significant moments in everyone’s day that can make literature. That’s what you ought to write about.”  ~ Raymond Carver

Time to get back in my writing chair.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bum Glue

Several years ago I picked up a valuable tool at a writing conference. The familiar Elmer’s bottle sits on my desk; reading its modified label always makes me smile:

to seat
of pants.

Many days, getting my bum into my desk chair is the most difficult part of writing. In my home office, I'm easily distracted by the phone, e-mail, and household chores. Then there’s Buddy, my yellow lab/German Shepherd, his tail tapping a rhythm like Morse code: W-A-L-K, W-A-L-K.

A dozen years ago I made a commitment to myself to schedule writing time on my calendar just as I’d always done for my jobs. It was one of the techniques I used to convince myself that, although writing doesn’t provide a paycheck, it is my work.  I came to this decision after a time of discernment about what God calls me to. For nearly twenty-five years I was clear that I was called to nursing, and I still feel led to that work part-time.  But now, I balance nursing with writing and am nearly halfway through a low-residency MFA in writing program.

Even with this clarity and commitment, I regularly dawdle when it comes time to turn on my laptop and open a blank document, or return to the memoir I’m drafting and revising. Even knowing the joy of discovery and the pleasure of crafting sentences and paragraphs into essays and chapters, I hesitate.

My stalling to get to my desk reminds me of when I postpone times of silent worship. Both writing and worship challenge my obsession with being productive, my desire to have something to show for my time. Evidence that I’m doing something. Results.

Hard as it can be, though, I keep putting my bum in my chair. At my writing desk. In my meditation rocking chair. Among Friends at Quaker worship. For when I do, I eventually get to that centered place where I open to the presence of the Divine.  And that’s always “productive.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review - Staying True

As far as I’m concerned, the world could use a few more spiritual memoirs. A lot more people of faith writing about their spiritual journeys.  Fortunately, lifelong Quaker Lynn Waddington did just that during the final two years of her life. And her partner, Margaret Sorrel, labored through her own grief after Lynn’s death to bring this story to print in Staying True­—Musings of an Odd-duck Quaker Lesbian Approaching Death.

The title should be the first clue that this isn’t your average memoir. Bruce Birchard, former General Secretary of Friends General Conference, calls it “a spiritual memoir for the twenty-first century,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Lynn took her spirituality seriously (though with a great deal of humor), explored it deeply, and shared it honestly. 

For Lynn, life was about constantly discerning her true leadings, and she generously takes her readers along on that journey.  I’ve turned down the corners of many pages to be able to return to her stories and experiences that speak to me.  Here’s one example:

We are seekers, not finders. For every profound experience I’ve had, I’ve been left with deep questions.

Lynn also wrote eloquently about something that often is beyond words, that experience of the presence of the Divine. She did find the vocabulary, though, when she wrote about one day in early adolescence when she took her questions of her identity with her to a favorite spot along the Delaware River:

I felt the calm seep into me as it usually did. And then I was wrenched open. . . I realized I was trembling and crying. Sweat was running down my sides. I was seen through and through. . . . Every flaw of my being was visible, but the fear that brought was dissolved by the sweetest, most tender love I had ever known. . .This was God—who saw me uniquely and bent down to touch me alone.

In Staying True, we have not only an account of the path of Lynn’s spiritual journey through young adulthood, her professional life, her role as a parent, and her relationships, but she also invited us in to her deep seeking near the end of her life.  Although she continued to ask questions about what she was meant to do, she also shared the peace she felt from her knowledge of being held in God’s love. 

Staying True is a source of wisdom, comfort, challenge, and more than a few belly laughs as well as tears.

To find out more about Staying True, visit Plain Speech Press.