Sunday, April 01, 2007

Writing As Prayer

In my sidebar, I have a quote from Jane Yolen, comparing writing and prayer. This month's Sun Magazine has several quotes in the "Sunbeams" section on prayer. I thought I would show how I think a few of the quotes about prayer also relate to writing: you may have your own interpretations!

1. "I have been driven many times to my knees in the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." --Abraham Lincoln

Does this really need explanation?

2. "Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish."

Give a person a story, you'll feed her soul for a day; give her all the techniques she needs to write stories, she'll crash and burn (unless she finds a way to put her soul into her writing).

Alternatively: You can starve while praying for inspiration to come.

3. "I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." --Frederick Douglas

You don't wait for inspiration to come to you; by living like a writer, you learn to find inspiration everywhere. Pretty soon, you have more ideas than you could ever use.

4. "Most people do not pray; they only beg." --George Bernard Shaw

Most people don't do the soul work it takes to be a writer; they only want the successes.

5. "Sometimes I think that just not thinking of oneself is a form of prayer." --Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

When you write, you can't be self-absorbed. The writing has to go out to somebody. You have to love your reader.

6. "If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick every day." --Leonard Cohen

If you don't enter the life force that comes from writing, the healing force, the tumultuous force, you'll be soul sick every day.

7. "As my prayer became more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. ... This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard."

My best writing comes out of this silence.

8. "A Jewish grandmother is watching her grandchild playing on the beach when a huge wave comes and takes him out to sea. She pleads, 'Please, God, save my only grandson. I beg of you, bring him back.' And a big wave comes and washes over the boy back onto the beach, good as new. She looks up to heaven and says, 'He had a hat!'"

Your creative work will seldom, if ever, come out the way you envisioned them. Maybe your works had on a hat when you imagined them but lost their hat when you wrote them down. You are not Zeus and your works are not Athena springing perfectly formed out of your head. There will be disappointments in your creations. Let them go and make more. Perfect as you go along, rather than trying to create the one perfect piece (it doesn't exist).


Erin said...

I greatly enjoyed this entry, Theresa. And it actually makes me think about one of your questions on my blog recently--if I'm writing and if I've written the accordion story. I did start the accordion story. I wrote the first half (two of a planned four parts), and then started writing the third part and became very frustrated because it was all wrong. I set it aside and have been working on my children's writing. But I'm just about ready to go back to it. This entry will inspire me to do so soon!

emmapeelDallas said...

I needed to read this right now, for a lot of reasons.

Thank you, Theresa.


Anonymous said...

What the hat story reminds us- In the midst of the greatest tragedy, there can be a glimmer of hope, whimsy and humor- Shakespeare, Chekov always demonstrate this. A kind of resurrection of the spirit. Thanks for encouraging the process toward this.

Anonymous said...

love is the every only god




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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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