Today I spent time with a friend who understands what I mean when I say I want to be a writer. She’s a writer. Not just a wordsmith or a grammarian. A writer.
She’s all three, actually, this friend of mine. There’s soul in the arrangement of letters she puts on a page, grammatically correct soul that turns her words into melodies that swirl around and then stick in my mind, coming back to me again and again to reveal something new the second—or third or fourth time around—that they only hinted at before.
I confessed to her—this person I admire for her God given gift—that I didn’t know what the hell I was thinking when I decided to jump into NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo. I told her that I feel like I don’t have anything to write about, that I don’t have enough words after my work of words is done for the day.
Then I came home and finished reading Devotion by Dani Shapiro. I loved this book, written by a Jewish woman and full of words and rituals and traditions that I don’t know. I love the way Shapiro writes; how I feel as if I’m sitting across the table from a friend (a gorgeous, whip smart, articulate friend), sharing secrets just as effortlessly as we recount the ordinary details of our days.
As I read Shapiro’s take on tradition and ritual and the challenge of spirituality, I realized that what I really resonated with was her reverence for words. I don’t know if it’s intentional or just innate for her, but her respect for the words she chooses was so clear to me. I sat there for a few minutes, staring at passage after passage, realizing that words are sacred, too; perhaps just as sacred as the churches in which we gather or the chants we memorize or the prayers we recite.
Words. I’m in a deep, passionate, not-so-secret affair with words, and therein lies my problem. I feel like I cheat on my true love every single day by making a living through them. I toss them around for money, squeeze them into boxes and churn them out as if I’m piecing together a product on an assembly line.
It’s obscene, really, how many words I waste every single day.
So, the cold, hard truth of today is that I’m not stumped because I have no words to share. I’m stumped because I’m scared. Terrified that I’ll churn out words that lack reverence and grace, that the way in which I string them together will seem crass, and the practice I so revere—the ability to touch another soul with nothing other than pen and paper—is one outside my reach.
I am participating in NaBloPoMo, and posting every day in November.