Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting Honest About the Past, Present and Even the Future

All the forms of personal life writing (see the list in the first post to this blog) have one thing in common.  They help you get in touch with things that you need to be honest about—whether those things are in your past, in your present or in your future.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to get honest about in my past?” and you might find yourself writing a letter to another person (to mail or not), or a journal entry about a past set of circumstances, experience or relationships and what it felt like then that you’ve been trying to avoid admitting to yourself, much less to anyone else.  You might find yourself making a list of feelings that you are holding in from the past.  Here’s what I wrote:

What things in my past still cause me upset?  Specifically, what things, events, happenings, etc. caused me fear?  How about what made me mad?  Or sad?  What about things that I feel responsible for (i.e.—guilty, ashamed)?

Or you can focus the same questions on your present.  What in your present makes you afraid, worried, upset, mad, sad, guilty, ashamed?

You can even do the same thing about the future!  What do you picture in your future that makes you feel any of those feelings?  Shall I rehearse those feelings again?  It’s really easy to forget them.  We want so much to forget them, to pretend that they don’t happen to us, to pretend that we’re living in such a way that they don’t bother us or matter to us.  But the truth is they do.  It is because of those feelings that we are as troubled as we are, even though we are doing all (well, most, anyway) of the right things according to our personal value system.

Pretending there’s nothing saddening, maddening, frightening, guilt-tripping enough in this life to honestly admit to myself and to God is what keeps me unsettled, upset, and that makes me do the same thing I did when I was nauseated during my pregnancies—eat crackers, bread, etc—anything solid and floury.  This is why doing personal life writing (just for me to see what I think, feel, hope, fear, . . . by seeing what emerges on the page) is one of the most important tools in keeping me sane around food.  (As I’m discussing in my blog on eating addiction.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wondering How God Deals with My "Mistakes"

No one initially listens to a written utterance except the quiet accepting page. The writer is their own first reader, their own primary interlocutor. So writing is, in the first instance, a private communication with the self. (Gillian Bolton, from the article, “Love Again the Stranger Who Was Your Self,” posted on

And this act of writing a journal entry can be a private communication with God in front of no one but one’s self.  It can be a place to talk to God 100% honestly, and have God talk back to you 100% honestly.  That’s what it has become for me.  Now, how much of that to share?  100% of what God has said to me?  100% of what I’ve said to God?  Probably a big “no” on both of those points.  But what if I already have?  Was that a mistake?  Is it possible to make a mistake?  In other words, is it possible to be outside of God’s will?  Is it possible to do something that God can’t amend and redeem by weaving it into His purposes so seamlessly that you can’t help but think that He knew it would happen from before it did.  And that’s where we get fooled (by the enemy of God, the “dark side of the force” to use a term most of us “moderns” are comfortable with) into thinking that God must have made it happen, must have set us up to have it happen—that we’re just the pawns of God.

But, you know what?  If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, you are well aware that the characters you thought you were making up and that you could do whatever you wanted with, aren’t really that pawn-like.  You may introduce them into the story-line, into the plot, but before you know it they’re telling you the story and you’re the one finding out what they are really like.  Instead of what you thought they would be like.  Maybe it’s that way with God, too.  You know what I mean?  Maybe by creating us, God just gave us our start.  After that, we’re the ones living out our will, while He does His best to keep up and weave us into the lives of others in our life, or in other words into the epic adventure of  those other characters who are part of our epic adventure.

Getting Started

There's probably no passion (but one which I reserve for God) that God ignites in my heart that is greater than the passion I have for pretty much every form of what many call "Life Writing."  In my lexicon, this broad term includes any of the following "genres":
  • personal letter writing (whether mailed or not, whether saved or not)
  • "log" or day-planner entries; notes on a calendar page
  • diary entries (which I think of more as expanded log entries--going into a little more detail of what happened, not doing much personal interpretation or reflection)
  • journal entries (doing a lot more reflecting, interpreting, exploring, etc. -- whether to keep or to destroy)
  • personal essay writing (sharing your reflections on virtually any subject--person, place, thing, or situation)
  • autobiographical essay writing (writing your life story in increments/"chapters.")
  • memoir writing (using creative writing techniques to show in scene(s) one season or slice of your life and reflecting on it from your own totally honest point of view.)
More to come! 

You're welcome to write to me (and email it or not) if it will help you gather and express your thoughts.