“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”—Maya Angelou
After more than a decade of writing, I have known the light and darkness of it long enough to name four seasons of the writing life—from where we begin to where we must go.
Here’s What I Think
All writers begin with themselves. It’s what we know. A healthy blend of narcissism, concern and purpose forces the writer to ask important questions that begin with the one asking the questions. It’s a season of self-involved introspection inspired by anything from a sunset by the sea to a few cups of coffee in quick succession.
Like a tourist fresh off the boat, awestruck by everything in his new world, he feels the burden to say something about everything. Nothing is without meaning. Everything he says is true. Like sailors on a sinking ship casting off extra burden to lighten the load, he writes not merely to say something. He writes to save himself.
Here’s What They Think
After the delusion of greatness departs, a writer may find there is nothing new under the sun. He must say the old things in new ways or search for something behind the sun. But good stories never get old, truth is never dull and hope is always alluring. So he listens to what others are saying and finds his soul in their words.
He begins to live in the company of other writers—men, women, dead, living, old, young, despairing and hopeful. They tell his story in their words. He writes a new story with his words. A monologue becomes a conversation. A person becomes a people. Strangers become friends.
Here’s What the World Should Think
When a person becomes a people, a movement gains momentum and the writer wants to change the world. He is a revolutionary with a better weapon than a sword and a greater purpose than an army. He writes not only to save himself. He writes to save the world.
Like a madman in the wilderness, he will empty himself to the desert even if there is no one to listen, even if he loses his mind. But the world is unkind to madmen. It has no room for dreamers, no time for idealists and no desire to be disappointed by hopes that are raised too high.
Words are insufficient. Ideas are not enough. The world has a mind of its own and it wants no revolution. It has a life of its own and it needs no reformation. Like a reckless lover, he put his heart on the line for a love that ran away with someone else. Now the writer must die to escape the sickness of a heart without hope.
Here’s Where Thinking Lives
Only a writer may know the pain of a pointless pen. He knows then that the writing life is not for the faint of heart. It comes with an anxiety for the world, a burden to change it and a sense of powerlessness when things go terribly wrong. It is a life of wrestling with hope and cynicism, fear and confidence, bitterness and love.
But the natural instinct to change the world is followed by the urgent instinct to tell the truth, in his own voice. After four seasons of writing, he tells the truth not to save himself or the world but to serve it.
All true creativity is service born out of love.
A writer is moved to tell the truth because he knows that though it may never be easy, it is never pointless, never lifeless, always captivating. But it is no simple calling.
God is the first writer who knew that His words would not be enough to save the world. So the word became flesh and dwelt among us. He is the first writer who entered His story and revealed it to us with love.
A writer must enter the world he wants to serve and tell the truth in the language of love. Any truth that is not told in love has lost the right to be called the truth. Love turns good ideas into great ones. It takes the truth past the mind into the heart where no lie can live in its light. It is God’s way of thinking. It is God’s way of writing. Love is where thinking lives.
Image Credit: Ritesh Nayak