Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Attacking Blogger’s Block: Meet an Inspiring Guide

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

You might note the non-existence of my October entries. My last posting to this blog was on September 17, a whopping 58 days ago (an eon in blogging lives!)

In the midst of COVID19, when one practicing social distancing and attempting to self-quarantine could expect time to blog would become plentiful and the impulse to put words into print would manifest itself explosively, I have failed to organize a single entry to post for two months. I might be overdoing my championing of faith at ease.

I don’t blame the pandemic, however, for my stalled pen; it seems I have been jotting lots of notes to myself, but simply have not organized anything I wish to bestow with ether wings.

So, I’m taking a simple route here in posting advice to myself, focusing on one particular note of inspiration.

Anyone stumbling into my posts over the past 13 years will discover I saunter in the direction of leisurely musings dominated by a desire to become better at poetry and prayer. Thus, I searched my notebooks for inspiration.

It was at this point during my pandemic-induced scrapbook searchings that Marilyn dropped into my life.

She didn’t arrive in any scurrilous manner you might think I’m leaning into; nevertheless, she has awakened me, taught me, and is slowly guiding my reading, writing, and spiritual travels, largely by modeling in her writings the wonder and beauty of bringing words to life (and, more specifically, by bringing life to words).

Enough of my snarky fantasy. You should read for yourself the writings of Marilyn Chandler McEntyre to understand better my pedestrian meanderings.

Begin anywhere among her published volumes, but here is my beginning chronicle:

It started when I read her book When Poets Pray (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019). She ensnared me with the opening paragraph of her introduction:

“In prayer, as in so many other areas of life, we ‘learn by going where we have to go.’ Many of us took our first steps on the path of prayer as children with lines we recited at bedtime or mealtime, or with innocent prayer lists that included blessings for guinea pigs and dolls [or for baseball players and country singers]. We may have come to prayer through crisis or loss, or through those who, when we didn’t even realize what we most needed, offered to pray for us.” [my insertion]

If you have an inkling of following my advice to read the reflections of this wonderful guide to life, and if you can appreciate God’s gift of skills encasing her prose, I suggest you begin with McEntyre’s collection called Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), where you’ll find entries for every day of the year coming from a writer who whispers inspiration in your ear as you read.

Trembling While Writing

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

I write; therefore, I tremble.

I want to record and recommend what I’ve picked up from Carol A. Wehrheim’s reflection on “Trembling Together,” from the devotional booklet, These Days, published by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation in Louisville, KY.

Think about “trembling.”

One might even consider it a sacred word for use with Centering Prayer or Lectio Divina. To be sure, we tremble before God in our weaknesses and fears.

Wehrheim reminds us that even the Creation, i.e., the geographic/geologic features of our lives force us to stand in awe if not to tremble with fear.

Think hurricane or tornado; think landslide; think flooding rains; think forest fires and damaging hail storms. Think of raging seas and blasting winds. [Think of missionary doctor Wilfred Grenfell stranded on floating pack ice off the coast of Labrador and facing the doom of death!]

The reflection Wehrheim wrote for September 12 (one day after the memorial recall of the terrorist skyjacking and suicide attacks on 9/11/2001) reminds us that trembling also accompanies great joy. I tremble with appreciation at the hospitality of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland on that day, when so many strangers “come from away.”

Recall parents who tremble at the birth of a new child, or think of the medical personnel who tremble when one in a coma blinks and murmurs back to consciousness, or think of the shivering explorer rescued from the grip of icy waters.

We need, the writer says, to remember God is a part of our trembling community, whether in times of fear or joy. Our relationship to God—be it in contact with the Almighty Creator, the Redeeming Son, or the Guiding Holy Spirit—causes us to tremble, perhaps in fear, but often in joy. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” writes the Psalmist, “I will fear no evil.” (Though, I may tremble.)

The traditional spiritual musical lament at the Passion of Jesus–“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”–repeats over and over in its chorus, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

The Christian journey inevitably passes through times of trembling.

Wehrheim tacks this little prayer onto her brief commentary:
“God of mercy, I pray that my heart and soul will be open and responsive to your work in the world. AMEN.”

As is my exercise in following the so-labeled Hemingway challenge to write six-word stories by attempting to reduce prayers to six words, here is my edit of Wehrheim’s prayer:
“I pray my heart be ready.”

And as I tremble: “I pray my pen be ready.”


How to become a writer–just do it.

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

When Bill DuBois, the managing editor of The Muncie (Indiana) Star during the ’60s and ’70s, asked what moved me to give up graduate school and apply for a job as a reporter, my response was: “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

I had this interview in the late 1960s when I was in my 20s. DuBois gave me an editing test, told me he’d get back to me, and a week later called to offer me a job as a county reporter.

I spent a year in Muncie covering the Delaware County government. Mostly, I wrote about the county commissioners, the courts, the school board, and several other county officials.

I got to cover state officials when they visited Indiana to campaign for some project they were pushing or showed up to support a colleague seeking reelection.

When DuBois learned that I’d spent a year in graduate school mostly trying to master statistical analysis (the psychologists I worked with called it multivariate analysis), he assigned me to do a pre-election survey of the county and try to predict the winners. (We predicted every winner but one!)

DuBois turned out to be one of the best editors I’ve had in my twenty years in newsrooms (and he is among the best of colleagues I’ve known in another two decades in classrooms). He not only was an excellent hands-on editor, but he was an intelligent and caring teacher.

However, DuBois did not (nor did any other editor I’ve worked under) divulge journalism’s dirty little secret; which is: Journalism does nothing to make one a writer, except perhaps introduce you to an army of generally competent line editors, few of whom are committed writers.

Incidentally, I’ve discovered that colleagues at the places where I’ve served as a teacher also lack a drive to write unless they are in writing departments where they would, for the most part, rather write than teach.

Journalism does provide an exciting playground for someone who likes words; one gets to play with them all day.

The author W.H. Auden once was asked how one could learn to be a poet. He responded that it appeared to him that people who become poets “like to hang around words.”

Journalism will provide a chance to hang around words, but if one wants to be a writer, the best advice comes in one word: WRITE! Or as the Nike ad puts it: “Just Do It!”

That sounds like something Bill DuBois might have said decades before Nike.