The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt: Quick Thoughts on Writing

I'm writing a lot right now, but I'm underground. I'm putting something together that will emerge in book form some day... but I'm not one of those authors who can put up her thoughts on a blog while formulating a book.

It's not that I don't appreciate and rely on the opinions of others. It's that I appreciate and rely on them too much. I'm easily swayed by the comments you leave. Which is wonderful, once I have sorted out what my own voice has to say about a matter, but if I stay in constant conversation while I'm writing, then I tend to never settle on an idea long enough to write it down.

So, I found that I need to let a book grow inside of my belly, let it have some strength and maturity before I can expose it to the world. I have to have some confidence in my own opinion, thoughts and ideas, before I publish them in any form.

I'll be checking in again soon. I have a couple of things out there that I've written that I'll be cross-posting.

Until then... here are some writing goals that I've been concentrating on for this week.

Guard your thoughts gingerly and carefully until you've done your research, soul-searching, and put something on paper.  See above.

Make space.  This might mean calendar time, physical space, or psychological energy. It might mean turning off the Internet so that you can work (I literally have to unplug the modem and go to another part of the house so I won't be tempted to plug it back in).

If you have to let some drama at work slide so that you can write, then let it slide. (Pastors have an endless source of drama that we can obsess over if we want to avoid writing.)

If you're in the middle of something that is taking your time and energy, and it would be unhealthy to avoid it, then put it in the creative laboratory. Try to dissect your thoughts and feelings. Open yourself up like that frog in ninth grade, and try to examine the parts. What is your stomach doing? How does your neck feel? Can you label those raw emotions? Don't publish it, but get it on paper as much as possible.

[Aside... I keep saying "on paper," but that's an irrelevant term now, isn't it? How much of our writing actually makes it to paper?]

Say what you need to say, without trying to figure out the political ramifications.  I just wrote a post about this for Two Friars and a Fool, so you can read that later when it's up... but I'll quickly say that many times in my writing, I have been told to pretend that I'm something that I'm not in order to sell more books (usually, I'm told not to write anything that a conservative Evangelical might not approve of). I'm glad I never followed that advice. And neither should you.

[Taken with permission from Carol Howard Merritt's blog, Originally posted Feb. 4, 2011]