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.
“… 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.
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
“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?