I think a lot about writing. It’s gotten into my bones and won’t leave me, I suspect, ever since that time I was 16 and wrote my dad about the speeding ticket instead of talking to him about it, face to face. It was then I realized how much better I was saying things on paper.
I think a lot about writers. I think about how we tick, if we are just born with it or if we can ever just be made into good ones. I think about how we are often too hard on ourselves and how sometimes, especially we God writers, get the Messiah complex and feel like the fate of people is up to us. It’s exhausting sometimes, living in the writer head, really. We are a wild, bothered bunch.
Most, I think about the people who read – what they need to hear and what books they are drawn to and what words in the end will really even matter. It didn’t used to be for me this way — to think about the people who read the most. This embarrasses me, but it’s true. (I know, new writer. You want to be heard. Your story is epic. But if you really want to help people, this can’t just be about you.) I just wanted to write what I wanted and tell things I wanted and leave things I didn’t want out. I realized somewhere along the way that writing wasn’t even almost about me. Funny, how growing up kicks you in the teeth and straightens things out a bit.
I have been writing now since 2004, except that’s just the official date because like most writers, I’ve been writing much longer.
I’m asked on different occasion to give the other writers some advice – what is the one thing you would say to them, the people ask, and when I mull it over in my mind, no sound bite ever sounds good enough. How do you relegate all you’ve walked through and learned in your own hard learning into 5 words that change the writer’s life?
I really just want to tell them plain things that don’t make for a glossy quote — the same things I tell myself — to be who they really are and mostly learn to be less selfish. I want to tell them to seek to do a really solid waltz with their words instead of trying to impress with a flashy hip hop dance they can’t pull off. To the God writers I really just want to tell them to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit. I’m pretty sure that’s the necessary all.
The truth is, the good writers are fighting to be good people and have just decided to bring others along. The best insights are the ones we love people enough to share, just like that amazing deal we got on a pair of boyfriend jeans…the skincare that really works…the fiction book we couldn’t put down. Why learn the important things to keep the things to ourselves?
But I know our need for a sage one liner. I know our desire to package and shrink wrap and deliver in the same neat way. I just don’t know how to tell a writer to do that because I believe the words sound better after they’ve been beaten out of you. Ask any writer: the life writes the words for us, really, after it beats us half to death.
So I would just say, today, to that budding writer or the one already writing and wanting to get better (whatever better to them is), this one thing: Just move the needle. Since I’m not the Holy Spirit, and I’m not able to change someone, of myself (I wish)…It’s honestly all I know, as a writer, to do.
- Move someone closer to resolution or forgiveness or hope.
- Move someone to be a better something, if it’s a gardener or a manicurist or a drummer or a preacher.
- Move yourself out of yourself and into a space where the reader’s heart is all you can see.
Move them with your words. Move them with your humility. Move them by telling the truth, sharing what you know, helping them feel seen and understood and hopeful.
Move them to be better. Move them to change something. Move them to love God most (the One who does the actual moving). Move them to a more productive life.
Just move the needle.
Even if you think moving a needle is not big enough or shiny enough or precious enough or Godly enough or important enough. It takes a lot to move the needle in someone else’s life. Moving the needle is an incredible gift, burden and joy.
And if in the end we are able to move the needle, even just a little bit…where it breathes hope inside someone who once felt hopeless…or pushes them off the couch and into a less stale daily…or turns them into the most amazing gardener, manicurist, drummer or preacher…remember that is a gift, not a given, and really isn’t even almost about me or you.
p.s. Hey writers? You are my people. I stinkin’ love you.