Thursday, June 27, 2019

The need for conversation

I realized this morning that it's been more than a month since I blogged anything. I have lots of reasons for that, of course: day job, a Boundary Waters trip, other writing projects, the delights of a beautiful Minnesota summer, lots more. But overall I've just had kind of a malaise about writing anything.

Been thinking about that malaise the last few days. I realize that throughout my life, writing has been an uphill battle not because it's work (it definitely is, and it should be) and not because I'm a perfectionist (that's complicated but not the reason I get funky about writing). No, the reason I back away from writing is the lack of dialogue. I realize I have always wanted writing to be a conversation. Maybe it's part of my impatience. I want the conversation NOW. I want immediate feedback. Currently I'm slogging through the process of writing a novel as an exercise in self-discipline, knowing that I won't get much feedback until I've finished the first draft and then completed a significant revision of that. At that point I'll allow myself to put it out there where a few people can read and offer insights. Until then it continues to whirl in my head until I put it away in frustration, then force myself back to the slow-growing manuscript. When there's no conversation around the project, I retreat to parts of my life where there are conversations to be had.

When the conversation isn't there, the writing spirals inside my head as the echoes fade away.

Part of the struggle is needing the right conversation partner. Just to test my own perceptions, I posted a chapter of this work-in-progress onto a writers' site for feedback. Three immediate critiques said it's boring, it's hard to understand, it doesn't work. Good for me to hear, and sent me back to seriously revise some things. But at my core, I began to doubt the overall value of the project. Then yesterday I got a note, not even a critique, from an individual who ran across that chapter. Totally different demographic from the first three people to critique, and this individual was eating it up. Looking for more. Intrigued by the story and the characters. Resonating with theme and style and all of it.

For me, at least, conversation is a huge source of hope and encouragement. Lacking it, I end up inside my own head like a whirligig beetle (check it out) on the surface of those Boundary Waters lakes. Spin and spin and spin.

Self-discipline is a good thing, and the lack of feedback forces me to rest back on my own volition as a writer. Maybe it's good for developing character, or maturity. We are, after all, inherently relational beings, but we also need a little suffering in this life to develop strength. Guess I'm still a work in progress.

That said, I frequently think about this "commentary on Luke" project I've been blogging through here. I'm up against the final chapter. Just a couple more sections to write, and they're the fun ones, focusing on Jesus' resurrection. So for all you starved blog readers, know that I'm working on it. Pondering it. Reading it. Living it. And soon I will be writing about it.