News + Muse


A work in progress quickly becomes feral … You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.  If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.

-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, pg. 52

I’ve been away from my writing for two weeks.  No, three weeks.  Has it been four?  Maybe two and a half.

I tried to get back at it yesterday and found myself in a tense state of panic.  Every good thought I ever had seemed as-good-as-snatched away.  Spiders have taken up residence among the toppled chairs and dusty table of my inner work room.  Weeds have completely overtaken the garden.

I’ve read writers’ warnings of this kind of neglect; the horrors that ensue even after one day’s absence.  But my case — two weeks!  No, three (I mean four).  Is there any hope?  Is it all a loss?  I suppose one cannot know unless he tries.

So, I spent part of yesterday banging my head against the wall thinking maybe something would start to rattle.  When that didn’t work, I closed my eyes and danced oh so freely to music thinking maybe I could feel it back.  When that didn’t work I went childlike, belly to the floor, doodling on paper, hoping some line would come forward to meet me.  No success.  So I closed up shop, headed home to a late dinner, and read Dillard’s The Writing Life until bed.

And then, in the wee hours of this morning, a thought made a slight twitch in the corner of my mind.  I was on the hunt yesterday, wrongly, for some new, fresh trail.  But what this poor lost girl needs is not some whole new beginning, but to retrace her steps.  To see if I can’t find the path I was already on, where I was already working.  To catch a whiff of it, and proceed from there.

“O Blessed Notes!!”  I remembered all of my 3×5 cards squirreled away, holding clues.  There, there will be a good place start.  I popped out of bed in a dreamy delight and perked a chipper cup of coffee, eager to reacquaint myself with the ol’ scribbles.

News + Muse

With a Psalm

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

For God is the King of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm!

-Psalm 47:7

The aroma of picture books inside of me are like poems; they have a psalmic, hymn-like, quality about them.  Ultimately I see them as love songs to my Savior – addressed first and foremost to Him, and secondarily inviting those who read my song to join me in my contemplation and delight.  Almost like a missal.

News + Muse

Psalm 45:1

“My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;

I address my verses to the king;

my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.”

News + Muse

Good Job Anyway

“If you’ve worked in good faith for a couple of hours, but cannot hear the story, good job anyway for showing up.  Go have some lunch.”  – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird pg. 115

I opened up to my keyboard for another day of writing  this morning.  I strained my ear, pressed in with my eyes, stayed with it, and stayed with it … and nothing would come.  An hour or so in I switched to my sketchbook thinking perhaps moving my pencil around on the page would open some things up.  But there was more dryness.

I had prayed for help before I entered in to my work and got to it without a loiter.  And I prayed as I went, but still nothing.  I asked like I do everyday for a story, a place to enter in, a character (something!!)  and still nothing has come but wanderings in faerie.  At the end of it I cried like a toddler.

What if nothing ever comes of this?  What if I’ve just been brought out here to die?! 

Oh, wait.  That sounds like Israel in the wilderness.  That sounds like unbelief.  That’s not good.  No, I must keep trusting that God will take care.  He may let me get hungry, but I need to behave like a well-weened little girl.  He won’t let me starve.  He knows how to take care of me.

And so what if nothing ever comes of it?  So what if all is dry until the day I die?  What if I never tell a story?  Was having written a story ever the point?  I turned to Habakkuk:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”  If I never am given the ability to make squat I will always have the Lord, and that’s all I need really.  He makes me glad with His presence.

I can show up.  That’s all I can do.  That’s the best I can bring–trying to be faithful.  Produce belongs to the Lord.

I wiped away the tears on the back of my hand and got up to make some lunch.


News + Muse

On the Way to the Library

There is a gate in town to the right of the Presbyterian Church.  Actually, part of it.  An archway passes under the bell tower, into an alleyway, and on through to a community parking lot and beyond.  For a moment, under the tower, you are held in the shadows of a little hut before reemerging into the day.  The Lion’s Gate is in there on your right, always open.  The air teems with imagination in that space.  Teems.

News + Muse

Making Matter

“… I never know where the next word is coming from …” – Flannery O’Connor, Habit of Being pg. 343

How do I enter in when I don’t know where I am trying to go?

Jump.  Just jump and start making some stuff; a pile of material, a bunch of garbage.  Later from the heap I can pick out scraps of value and rework them.  But first job:  make matter.  No judgements.  No stopping to edit.  No looking back.  Just keep moving.

My strategy thus far has been to put my hands on the keyboard, close my eyes, and say a bunch of silly nonsense words until images start presenting themselves to me.  Then I write in the quickest lamest jot what I am seeing and hearing.  For a couple hours I stream it out, kind of like bleeding or vomiting.

This has worked remarkably well.  I am not hit with a mass of vision all once, but one image leads to another, leads to another, leads to another, and two thousand words later I find I have actually made some progress my imagination.



News + Muse


Of course, as soon as I sit down to write my mind is accosted with the suffocating knowledge that I am completely incompetent.  I don’t have what it takes.  I don’t.  I don’t!  Abort!!Abort!!

And then this fresh air blows in:

I remember I am just a womb, an empty vessel, and that apart from the Lord I can do nothing.  No plant ever came from soil without a seed.  I don’t have what it takes, alone, but with a seed some pretty beautiful things can happen.  And who is my seed?  God is the source of anything good I’ve ever done and anything good I’ve ever made.  He’s the one with all the ideas.  Why do I always forget that?  I am a God-dependent creature through and through.

I take a deep breath, let the pressure to be brilliant roll off, and pray, “God, you be the brilliant one.  I’ll take notes.”  Then I start to work.

“…sit in front of the computer and say, ‘Lord, unless you do it, it won’t get done, so you jolly well better do it.’ …” – Sally Lloyd-Jones


News + Muse

Start Writing

“When I turned 30 I had this epiphany that I was never going to be a writer, no matter how many black turtlenecks I wore, unless I wrote something.” – Kate DiCamillo

I read picture books.  I read about picture books.  I read about writing.  I talk about writing.  I have time.  I have resources.  I have a sense for the art form, some talent.  Yet, I never seem to make.  I am that obnoxious cloud that looks like rain and brings no rain.

What is the disconnect?  I am feeling acutely today that if I am ever going write, now is the time.  But, how do I do this?

It occurred to me that the one thing I’ve never tried, ever, is showing up routinely everyday – consistently, habitually, religiously.  I’ve never practiced the discipline of sitting down to a dedicated daily block of time, doggedly trying day after day no matter what happens … like all the writers say you need to.

So, what if I did?  What would happen?

What if I try and find out?