Friday, September 30, 2011

Edging into mystery

It's amazing how many bloggers are out there.  I mean, I click on this real time world statistics website, and a number flashes across the top of the page, the digits spinning, telling me how many blogs have been posted today worldwide.  It opens at 2 million five hundred something thousand and two minutes later it's still spinning, increasing.  Now it's nearly reached 2 million eight hundred thousand blog posts just for this day, but I know it'll just keep spinning its constant updates.  

It appears we have a great deal to say about an endless variety of topics.  

As a younger writer, I always thought I needed to write about something I knew really well.  Be an expert, or close to it.  When people asked if I wanted to write a book, I'd scratch my head and do a quick mental inventory of subjects I knew fairly well and also felt inspired to write about that I could possibly have enough words inside me to write a book about.  I'd usually come up empty.  Not sure, I'd confess.  Maybe some day I'll know enough.  

I'm not exactly sure when I first realized I could write about what I didn't know, outside of an argumentative essay or research paper.  I guess I was ripe for it, life converging in the perfect conditions for this type of writing.  Before I saw it as a type of writing, though, I saw it as a way of living.  There's a slew of buzzwords and phrases zapping around our culture, and two of them just happen to be near and dear to my heart and writing this year: authenticity and living in the moment.   I've never much been one for liking the things considered trendy or popular.  If I like something, I want it to be, well, authentic, an accurate representation of me, not because everyone else likes it.  So as much as I hate to admit it, I jive with this word and phrase, but not in a pop psychology, self-help sort of way.  They just coincide so well with my journey as a writer, and more, as a person.

This year, I've been learning how to see.  Learning how to look up from the madness or monotony or whatever we want to call it that can be our everyday lives, and truly see the beautiful little details of a moment.  The more I see, the more aware I become that life is indeed a profound, mysterious, glorious gift.  Not just the "good" moments, but every moment.  It's all grace.  The only way I've been able to see all this is through a perpetual learning curve of studying and practicing a life of gratitude.  Changing my language, which shockingly, changes me.  This has transformed my writing.  It still is.  I didn't know there's a name for this kind of writing.

Writer and pastor, Eugene Peterson, says in his newly released memoir that this type of writing is called "heuristic."  He describes it as "a way of writing that involve[s] a good deal of listening, looking around, getting acquainted with the neighborhood.  Not writing what I [know] but writing into what I [don't] know, edging into a mystery... Writing as a way of entering into language and letting language enter me, words connecting with words and creating what had previously been inarticulate or unnoticed or hidden.  Writing as a way of paying attention.  Writing as an act of prayer."

I alway appreciate when someone else is able to articulate something I can relate to, something I care deeply about, in such a way as to bring insight and relief.  Yes, there's actually a feeling of relief to be able to put words on something that previously I didn't have words to describe.  I don't feel the need to start calling myself a "heuristic writer" or anything, but I like to know that someone else gets it.   

And by the way, the numbers are still scrolling.  I'd better get this blog posted to toss my pebbles into the worldwide stats pool.

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