On Writing and New Life from Ashes

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I came across this quote from Dillard years ago as I began to think of myself as a writer and started researching other writers’ insights about their craft.

Colby, Our [Former] Ornery Stray Cat

Colby, Our [Former] Ornery Stray Cat

Like an ornery stray cat, this quote from Annie Dillard pops up in my life again and again in unexpected times and seasons. And lately, it keeps coming to mind. As I think more diligently about writing this month and seek to post daily, I’m also struck with the conviction that I don’t want to throw junk out on the blog just to check a daily achievement box. To write every day and feel like I’ve actually got something to say requires more planning and structure than I’ve ever given to blogging before. Attempting to be disciplined feels like trying on clothes that don’t quite fit yet.

It’s a necessary growing phase, I think. I’m learning how to draft, set projects aside and come back to them. To jot down ideas that I can come back to and develop later. Skills that I see other people practicing, but that always seemed foreign to me.

But to become the kind of writer, the kind of thinker I’d like to be, these are skills that are useful in forming the kind of voice I’d like to have.

I want the things I write to matter, be real, honest and life-giving. I’m haunted by that Annie Dillard quote, particularly in conjunction with the quote, which I posted on the Ragtag Reveries Facebook page last week, from C. S. Song’s Jesus the Crucified People.

“Leper and Beggar do not have in the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ a theological axe to grind. For them it is a question of life and death, the question of whether love is rich enough to fill an empty stomach, strong enough to restore a disfigured humanity and powerful enough to create life in the midst of death.”

Song’s follow-up point is that we all ought to come to Jesus with that urgent life and death question, not just our abstract intellectual exercises. And indeed, if Jesus isn’t relevant to our everyday matters of survival, to cries for justice and to our thirst for hope, how could he really help us?

Life Springs UpTruly, with the way I write and the way I live, I want my response to Song’s quote to be a resounding “Yes!” In the midst of my best days, my worst days, my brightest moments, my darkest hours and everything in between, I cling desperately to this hope: Jesus is powerful enough to bring new life forth from dead ashes. Not just in eternity, but also today. It may not be the life I thought I’d have, but maybe, just maybe, it’ll be way better. This confidence is what gets me up in the morning and moves me through the day, particularly on mornings when I’d rather pull the blanket back over my head and hide from the world. And it’s what pushes me back to writing. Hope that as I write somehow Jesus brings new life to me and you. That somehow through my musings here that God shows up and does some really cool things.

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