I sometimes say I am not a preacher, but a writer who preaches.
I especially feel this way after a Sunday when someone complains about not being able to hear me well.
I just heard about a writing program that includes little cork boards on which you can post sections and then move them around. The ensuing discussion compelled me to reflect on how I write.
Most of the time, I write in conversation with someone else's writing, in composing a sermon. I read the texts early in the week, and I walk around with them and I drive with them and I sleep with them, and I occasionally take notes at my lectionary group meeting on Tuesday morning on a big post-it and stick that paper in my calendar or my Bible, and around Thursday I think, "Maybe I should make some notes," but usually I simply pick a title and write down a word or a sentence or three and close the Word document and don't look at it again until Saturday.
Then, I despair.
Then, I do laundry.
Then, I go out for coffee.
Then, I do a few other things, which usually include very important checking up on blogs and Facebook and the 11th Hour Preacher Party, whether or not it's my week to host.
Then, a little more laundry.
But somewhere between 1 and 5 in the afternoon, usually, and just after I convince myself it will never, ever happen, I become possessed by the ideas that have been wandering around my head all week, and I start writing, and I lose all contact with the world around me, and an hour later, I have 1500 words or so, and that's a draft.
Then, I walk away.
Later, I look it over again, and usually the way I do that is to cut and paste it from Word to Notepad, and then from Notepad to Typepad, where I often catch things that were obviously wrong or repetitive or just silly. Something about looking at it in a different box makes things come clearer to me.
This week I wrote at a coffee shop and due to a wireless hot spot failure got right down to it, though perhaps the attempts to get the wireless to work and the choosing of the coffee stood in for the usual home distractions.
When I'm writing for the newspaper, the process is similar, if abbreviated, since the deadline is Thursday and I have to do other work on Thursdays. But in every case there is that moment of possession, a sense that something has come over me and nothing could stop me from finishing. And there's no question that I bring on that moment of possession both by preparing and by avoiding.
Which is all very weird.
I suffer when I compare myself to Madeleine L'Engle, who wrote all her novels while simultaneously stirring
spaghetti sauce, playing Bach on the piano and reading improving books. But I have a feeling that most writers dance with distractions much as I do.
It's been suggested by a few people that I might consider writing a book, but I don't know what I would write about in that form. One of the freedoms of semi-pseudonymity has been the opportunity to say things about my childhood, and other parts of my life, that I might not want in print with names attached. I'm not a fiction writer, it doesn't attract me, so I suppose I fall into the category of vaguely religious memoirist. Aside from Anne LaMott, is anyone selling those books?
Although I will admit that there are times I hear a little voice on the inside saying, "Write a book," but thus far the inner writer hasn't said what sort, and since I relate to all meaningful work as calling, I suppose I'm waiting for the message to be more complete. Today I don't know what it could be.
All I know is that writing solves things for me; I am compelled to write things out and through; writing has taken the place of talking to other people endlessly about my minute experiences and my perceived injuries and my activated complexes. Writing here gives me a chance to hear what others think without, I hope, exhausting any particular friend, for as my husband says, I have "high internal conversation pressure."
Sometimes I think about looking for a job at a multi-staff church, perhaps having a less demanding position than the average solo pastor has, but then I wonder, in what other work would I be paid to write every week?
I am a writer who preaches and being a preacher allows me to write, requires me to write.
Perhaps I ought not give that up so readily.