Writing isn’t for sissies.
I have been journeying with a friend as she’s worked on her doctoral dissertation. A while ago, she’d asked me to do help her with some editing and offer some constructive criticism on her content. I reminded her that I do not possess even a bachelor’s degree*, but that I’d be happy to look for misplaced modifiers and call her out on her use of passive voice in her sentence construction. It’s been a lot of fun to watch her progress as a writer – and the subject of her dissertation has the potential to change the lives of many struggling elementary-school students.
Besides serving as a proofreader, I have occasionally been called on to rally her spirit. Though she’d written plenty of papers for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she’s never done anything quite like the kind of writing she’s now doing. She needs to have precise, well-crafted communication in order to create a compelling case for the kind of ground-breaking study she’s planning. She has a team of experts who are evaluating her content in terms of what it will do to advance their professional field of study, and a couple of lay-readers (like me) who have been tasked to read her work to see if it makes sense to people like us.
She’s expressed all the emotions of every serious writer’s journey: inspiration, hopefulness, frustration, self-doubt, confusion, exhaustion, joy, sadness, courage. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
“How can you do this?” she asked me a few months ago after a particularly bumpy stretch of bad road. “I don’t understand how you can keep writing.”
When I hit a bumpy stretch of bad road (in the form of a form rejection or too much mindless internet surfing to distract myself from the fact that my ideas are coming as far apart as exit ramps on a North Dakota highway), I ask myself the same question.
And then I keep writing. Or surfing, as the case may be.
I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. I don’t know how not to write. The sweetness of shaping a string of words into a sentence that moves a reader is simultaneously addictive and freeing. It is the way I connect to God – writing is at once prayer, confession, absolution and worship.
My friend is apprenticing into this life now. I know she thought she was getting her PhD., but she is learning the writers’ vocation as well. Whether she continues after she completes her dissertation, I am certain she will never look at the printed…the written…word the same way again after this experience.
* * * * * * *
A nice note from my own writing odyssey: Last week, I received a hot-off-the-presses copy of Hope Journey, a book penned by the father-daughter team of Bob and Amyann Hartley. A young woman I once mentored now serves in Bob’s ministry, and suggested I help with editing of their self-published project. Their book was a combination of memoir and Bob’s teaching about how to bring the hope of God into every arena of life. They were a delight to work with, and as I held the finished product in my hands, I believe they have been changed and stretched by going through this process.
Writing isn’t for sissies, indeed! Congratulations to their team!
*There was talk about me completing my degree when I first got a full-time position at Trinity two years ago, but I left the job before anyone there got serious about making me actually take any classes.