Tuesday, January 18, 2005

the power of words

On the quotes page of my website I relate a story Sophy Burnham tells in her book, For Writers Only that goes as follows:

"Not long ago, a writer friend, sunk in apathy and despair, came to visit.

'What is it about writing?' he asked, striking his forehead with the flat of his hand. 'Why is it so awful? It's no way to live! Why do we do it?'

And then he leapt to his feet to walk unhappily around his chair. 'Look at writers. I don't know a single writer who doesn't hate his work. Writers hate writing. They're always talking about how hard it is. Artists don't hate painting. You never hear an artist talking about how much he hates his work. Sculptors don't complain all the time about how hard they find sculpting. But writers ...!

A few weeks later I had occasion to ask an artist if she agreed. Do artists hate their work? She looked at me, amused.

'You're forgetting something,' she said.


'Writing is so powerful. People rarely look at a painting and weep."

When I first read that story, I liked it immediately for the simple reason that misery loves company. I was in the midst a personal writing drought at the time and I liked reading that someone else smacks his forehead once in awhile and thinks writing is hard. But upon closer inspection, I appreciated this story for another reason: it reminded me that I've been given an awesome task.

We who deal in words have brought our little hands up to join God's on His plow. We've gulped, turned timid eyes upward and offered a squeaky, "Here am I; use me," to the the Creator of the universe. And He has accepted our offer.

I won't deny that writing is hard work. It can be so frustrating at times that it makes you scream, pace, writhe . . . and yes, smack your forehead. But it can also make your heart sing. It can connect you with the pulse of God and fill you with a rush of gratitude when, startled, you realize His rhythm drives your fingers.

When those inevitable moments of doubt, despair and discouragement arrive, remember this: remember that words are so powerful, so potent, and so filled with life-changing potential, that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God." Words have God's indisputable mark of approval. Words were His idea. He offered this form of communication to the world, and in effect said, "This is good."

His own book may be finished, but God is not finished talking to us. He reveals Himself day unto day, night unto night. He whispers because He loves us--and He can't keep silent about that. He wants to use you to further that message. If you invite Him in, He'll provide you with words that encourage, heal, correct and motivate. Whether you sit yourself at a keyboard or slide into a seat at a coffee shop or wrap yourself in an old quilt and perch on a chilly porch swing, when you next face that blank screen or page, stop for a moment and first offer your gift: "Here am I, Lord; use me."

1 Comment:

At 1/18/2005 11:03 PM, Blogger Lori Seaborg had this to say ...

Thank you for this post, Shannon. You just practiced what you preached by both encouraging and motivating me. It is good of you to share your words with us. Thank you for reminding me that my hand is on the plow (And yes, my voice is squeaky, too, when I say, "Here I am. Use me." Those are such scary words that I cannot say them in any other voice!). Please keep sharing your words with us.


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