Today’s post is by my dear friend and fellow spiritual nut, Rachelle Mee-Chapman. I’m honored to have her write here for us – I hope you love her writing as much as I do!
I have always been a writer.
As a child I wrote a novel, long hand, in a series of spiral notebooks. It wasn’t very original. In fact it could have been pitched as “Narnia meets A Wrinkle in Time.” Nor was it subtle. The male lead was a dead ringer for my 5th grade crush. But it was mine. Page after page of me — of my words — spilling out of a ball point pen, with small round bubbles dotting all of the i’s.
I soon became dissuaded from writing fiction. Somewhere along the line I got the idea that writers were celebrities, and that celebrity was hard to come by. Only a few writers could Make a Living. And the point of high school, and of college, and of life-in-general was definitely to Make a Living. Writers—at least anyone who was not Judy Blume or C.S. Lewis—could not Make a Living. It was common knowledge that writers were regularly found dead with nothing but peanut butter in the kitchen. (Or maybe it was whiskey?)
Even though I gave up penning fiction, I never stopped writing. Journaling became my modus operundi. From little red diaries with tiny locks, to composition books, to files opened on a computer screen—I measured out my life in alphabets. Fights with friends. Longings for boys. Poetry. Letters to God.
In 2003, I started blogging – which is basically just journaling in public. I suppose all writers are very mild narcissists – and bloggers more so than most. I was new then. New at parenting. New at pastoring. New at living a life detached from the ivory tower. It is not, perhaps, advisable to write in public when one is new. Why would you want to show off your mistakes? Shine a light on your missteps? Put your obvious lack of know-how out there in black and white?
Why write? Because writing is a way of becoming. I didn’t know that then – when I was in 6th grade and new at romance. I didn’t know it when I was a teenager and new at being an individual. I didn’t know it when I was new at parenting, or pastoring. I didn’t know it because I was just becoming to be the kind of person who knew wise things—chief amongst them, that writing is powerful. (Ballpoints should come with a label. Warning: May Writing May Cause Gradual or Abrupt Metamorphosis)
If you are a lover of words, you really must take the risk.
If you are a dancer, or a painter, or a person who for some ungodly reason enjoys running marathons, then writing might not be your thing. Other art forms might be your way of becoming. But if you love syntax, and rhythm, and the way “onomatopoeia” feels on your tongue, then you should, perhaps try writing.
As the words flow out onto the page, as your handwriting curls, as the blank white glow of your screen fills with precise black symbols, you yourself will unfold. You will find the phrases that help you define yourself. The length of page that lets you encapsulates or expand. The turn of phrase that makes you sit up and say, “Oh. So that’s who I am today.”
If you do this in public – say, on a blog – then you will find your way in community. Whether you experience yourself as a blank slate, filling yourself up with definitions as you go about interacting with others; or as an old soul, discovering your identity as you emerge from the collective pool, this much is true – self-discovery is one part solitude, one part community. Writing in public puts you in touch with that community, and thereby enhances your discovery of self. (It’s like mama always says, my love, “There ain’t no place to go, but together.”) Not all times or all topics are ripe for public display. But when they are, if you put them up there—exposed and generous—your thoughts will mature by bumping up against the thoughts of other. The ‘ah-ha’ moment will drop into place when someone else ads their words at the bottom of your box. Your firm stance will arrive when someone pushes against your values. You will find out if they time has come to do this, simply by starting and seeing if the time has come. (You will know what to do. And if you do not know, you will discover it in the doing.)
Writing is not for cowards. It is not for people who like to hide, or who are afraid of the sound coming out of their own throats.
So remember this: whether you write in your cloister or leave your words in tall letters in the sand – you do not write in vain. You write to become. And that has made all the difference.
Rachelle Mee-Chapman is a life coach and spiritual director specializing in creating right-fit spiritual practices. She writes for her clan at Magpie Girl, and hosts an online soulcare community for women at Flock. Her current writing passion is Relig-ish, a series for misfits, heretics, and other unique souls.