A Prayer of Someone Who Knows He Cannot Write Well
I am beginning to realize (how often I use that phrase!) that I know nothing, nor am I wise.
When people ask me for advice, I have absolutely nothing to say. Words fly in front of me like mosquitoes.
I am not only bad at giving advice, but a repeating offender at leaving questions unanswered. I could justify this by claiming that most questions are vapid, but other people are never vapid. They exist as themselves, where no one before or after ever will. Even the worst criminal deserves a response to his questions, whether or not the answer is satisfying.
When I am young, it is so easy to look at old sages and say, “Yes, but I could be wise too if I just had words.”
I used to think that wisdom was a set of words. As long as I could speak words or mold some clever statement, then I was wise. Wisdom is a turn of a phrase.
How wise we would all be if we memorized the Proverbs!
But now I am beginning to see that wisdom is not words, but life. To be wise, I must be alive, I must have experienced and felt.
Wisdom is empathy.
It is the experience of traveling through some dark valley and living through it. Or so, wisdom appears to be empathy in this small passage of time.
Wisdom is not witticisms.
Sometimes, it is a nod of the head and a hand on the shoulder. Sometimes, it is saying, “I know what you’re going through. But trust me, God bestows grace on those that request it.”
Lord God, if those words don’t sound cliche to my ears, I don’t know what does. I don’t know what that means, I couldn’t possibly know what that means, because I have experienced so little. I haven’t experienced anything in my shortened life.
I could easily say words, but there would be little wisdom in them if I have gone through nothing. They would be empty; vain promises. I would be like the unregenerate sinner declaring, “Don’t worry, you’re forgiven.” There is a superficial truth to it, but damn it, how does he know?
I am foolish, especially in the realm of the skill I think I am good at. I have at least some remote facility with the skill of writing. It is equal folly to look at a basket of fresh apples and say, “Oh, God, how they are all so woefully rotten! Piety, God, piety! I am so…so wormish!” Christ did not say that the mark of a true disciple is guilt. He said that His disciples will bear fruit and grow, not live in constant ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit.
But each day I learn something new and am reminded how little I can do.
We are all in the process of quickly forgetting whatever comes into our heads. We might know many things, but those things are hidden away in our subconsciousness and temporarily forgotten. We cannot remember everything all at once.
All of the worlds that I see in my head are vague and foggy – my imagination, Lord.
But are you beginning the process, where my imagination is illuminated? Let me see the worlds with clarity and sharpness.
Continue your work, so I can continue mine.
One small fruit: I am beginning to forgo the training wheels of literary allusion and metaphor in favor of the more advanced and difficult wheels of actually describing and relaying a story.
This is difficult, but is evidently the heart of writing – the ability to see things and then show them to people.
I must show myself first. I must be able to see a world and continue describing it.
I am on track and balanced and feel as though I am alive – that I am finally above the clouds and seeing the world for what it really is – but as soon as my mind stops or I lose track, I have trouble lifting off the ground. It takes days or weeks to get back to that place.
That place of creative exhaustion is the place that I long for more often, but remains a subjective and elusive process, whereby I merely bare my soul and never focus on the quality and quantity of my discipline.
How I wish I could!
Perhaps, the answer to this problem is to stop thinking of writing as an elusive and subjective thing.
Writing is a place.
Let me remember the painting. Let me remember what I am seeing.
If writing is a place – the place of imagination – then I can return to it. I am either there or not.
It should be more difficult to leave than to enter.
Do not write. Imagine. As soon as I can imagine entirely – if I can imagine rooms and worlds and places and things and people – inside my head, then I have written a book. If I faithfully explore and visit these worlds, the more quickly I can enter.
Lord, thank you for all of this. Thank you for staying with me through all of my idiocy, folly, and sin. May I be a help to the poor and needy and may I not grumble and complain. May I not lose track of the end goal, but may I also stay firmly in the present, where your servants stay and lay and die. May I go into that Room of Dreams and leave, refreshed to do your work.
May I not become a curmudgeon, nor may I become too full of myself. May I be a good friend. May I accept what you tell me, may you give me the answers you wish to give me, and may I learn and grow to trim them and train them to share them with this world and your servants. May you teach me what good writing is. I do not know.
Fill me with wisdom, so that I can think less of myself and more of the sufferings of others. Put me in a valley, so I can look up to you. And when I come out of it, may I be full of joy and words to share that only experience bear.