Most days, give me a pen (I am a big fan of the thin, sharpie color pens), paper, and a cup of coffee and I’m good to go.
I sit. I think. I ponder. I pray. Suddenly, like smooth rocky rivers, innumerable words rush onto pages; a collaborative, collision of ideas fall upon my mind and yes! The real sweet spot of a writer flows steadily and effortlessly. It’s not about posting blogs, planning book content ideas, or even creating a masterpiece of art. Simply, and truthfully, it’s liberating to access the depth of expression that writing brings. You have access to language and words and phrases in a way that no other process allows. It’s intimate, real, and authentic.
Yet, for whatever reason, like a barren, dusty, over-cultivated field, writing has been strenuous, empty, and blank for nearly three weeks straight.
Ugh. It kind of sucks, frankly.
I have hardly been able to muster a short paragraph in the morning for journaling on daily life; much less work on anything I would like to publish, blog about, or invest creative energy into.
Confession: I stared at this very blank white word document in Microsoft Word for a good 15 minutes, trying to muster a good writing topic. Should I write about Paris? Burundi? Should I talk about The Women’s Bakery training happening right now? Or, maybe, as usual, I should just talk about what God is teaching me lately…?
Nothing felt right. So I sat. Fiddled a bit. Fidgeted more. And then, I figured, oh whatever. Whatever comes, comes.
In thinking through this a bit more, I’ve also been immensely busy, exhausted, with my mind twirling in about 20 different directions. We all struggle with this, don’t we? No matter our circumstances – rural, urban, employed, unemployed, man, or woman – our minds are pulled and prodded in all kinds of ways on a daily basis.
So overwhelmed by this, I had to take a time-out from work last week and find an escape in the city. I went to Caiman, a lovely restaurant-bar on one of many Kigali hills and just stared at the sunset over hills (and more hills). I asked myself, when was the last time I had done this – watching the sunset I mean – when was the last time I just sat here, for the sake of sitting?
Needless to say, it had been too long. I had hoped my time away from work and our home in Kigali would be a way for me to get back on track with writing. I was wrong. It was about just sitting and enjoying the moment. Being still; giving God thanks for the very small, little things that make life worth living. I finished my ginger tea that evening at Caiman, feeling full and rested. I amusingly laughed on the motorcycle ride home; I’m often racing to finish just one more task and I end up working far harder (and eating up way more time) to reach a point where I think I’m ready to rest as opposed to just resting moment by moment and approaching my obligations with a full (not half-hearted) heart and mind. Just some food for thought.
Still, being unable to write was even more frustrating because life has been happening boldly, quickly, and intensely since my return from Kenya a few weeks ago, and I have been feeling like I can’t capture it. Just in the last two weeks: I’ve been called to immensely challenging conversations that God has prepared me months for; training for the bakery has enabled some fantastic opportunities for new connections, friends, and experiences here; and suddenly, transitioning back to America (NEXT WEEK!) is simultaneously exciting, crazy, and undefinable.
That’s it. My creativity to pen stories not about myself, but about people, about God (the things I always love to write about) has been sequestered because I feel limited in my own capacity to define them (by the way, I’m making this realization right as a quarter-sized cockroach crosses my feet. Gross.)
I’ve been reading Esther in preparation for my final bible study this week in Rwanda, and something very clear to me is that God prepared Esther and her situation for years before and years after so she could fulfill the place he had her. When you sit with the impact of what that really means, your mind will seriously (as we like to say) “be blown”. Wherever you are in this moment, in this time, is meaningful. Whether you can write about it or not.
It means that our lives are in a constant ebb-and-flow of preparation, action, patience, and revelation.
I’m fearing the undefinable – and thus avoiding writing – even though it’s in this time and season of the unknown where creativity looms largest. Think about it: the most resonating pieces of art exist because they capture the universal human experience of confronting that which we cannot define; that which we do not know.
Life is in fact, undefinable much of the time. Even if we can point to words to explain the reasons behind things (like, evil as a supplication for the terrorism that’s enveloping in every corner of the world) we still can’t explain what it might be like to be a friend of someone who has been killed. We can’t capture the precise explanation for the very real presence of panic in witnesses, in citizens, and victims.
We can’t let this keep us from communicating. It’s more than just a little writer’s block – the unknown and undefinable in life leads to fear which keeps us from talking to people in our immediate communities, our connections outside our day-to-day contacts, and the world at large.
It’s uncomfortable – maybe even annoying – but keep expressing yourself. In meal-times with friends, in messages, in journals, in prayer. Whatever it is for you, don’t stop. Especially in times like this.
Feeling “blocked”, as it were, can lead to isolation. Which, let’s be real, is not what this world needs right now. That’s why I’m even writing this at all. It might be frustrating that I feel limited in my creative capacity, but I know, I trust, it will be back. It’s real, it’s life. These things happen and yet it doesn’t change the importance of sharing with one another. Express yourself.