When All Else Fails: Write
"What will be left of me, Mrs. McGrady? If I had died, what would anyone have to remember me by?"
My darling student - a kind, brave, beautiful young lady who miraculously recovered from a horrific ATV accident in September - stumped me with her question. She was right. At 14 years old, she nearly died, and even though her injuries had mostly healed and her body was no longer broken and bruised, she was mentally distraught at the idea that had she died that day, there would be nothing left of hers. As we sat there talking, she shared with me that as she laid in a hospital bed, conscious of her surroundings but limited in her movements, she was able to scribble three words down on a slip of paper and hand it to her friend. "I love you" the note said. Her scribbly written words on that crumpled sheet of paper are framed in his bedroom. Her written words: he had them to hold onto, to read when she could not speak...to remember her by if, God forbid, she had not survived.
I, like every warm-blooded American, am obsessed with the Broadway smash "Hamilton" from modern Shakespeare, Lin-Manuel Miranda. I first listened to it (in full) on a 3-hour layover in the Charlotte airport. There's no better place to listen to a musical than gate D 34. For months now, lines from the soundtrack have been stuck in my head. At the most random moments, an ear-worm will repeat t in my mind, occasionally leading to a vocal outburst that proves delightful for no one but me. One line in particular has haunted me, especially in the moments when I find myself sitting at my desk, cursor blinking on an empty word document. In the midst of a breaking scandal, Alexander Hamilton sings a heartbreaking ballad about his tumultuous and difficult life. At every turn in his life, in the midst of pain, destruction, confusion, and fear, Alexander Hamilton would write.
"I wrote my way out, wrote everything down far as I could see..." he sings. "I wrote my way out, I looked up and the town had its eyes on me."
He wrote. He put pen to paper. He furiously scribbled his thoughts down, and word by word, line by line, page by page, this man created a new life for himself and so many others. He wrote his way out of sticky situations, painful moments, fearful thoughts. He wrote, because if he could control nothing else, at least he could control his thoughts and his words.
Hamilton knew, and I've slowly discovered, that to write is to create. Writing crafts images. It builds worlds. Written words incite emotions, rally troops, start movements, and end wars. The full pen, blank page, blinking cursor and powerful word processor are the canvases upon which beautiful things can and will be formed. And we, the inspired writers, are charged to create - to write our way out of the mess in our minds and this world and into the Truth.
When I find myself frustrated or confused, tired or lonely, spiritually weary or even internally joyful, I sit down with my small Moleskine notebook and begin to write. Sometimes it's a list of pros and cons, especially if I'm faced with a decision. Other times, it's just random snippets of one line ideas, in the hope that a line here or there will eventually clear up into a cohesive train of thought. More often than not, I write free form on a topic I assign myself, whether it's the state of politics, my frustrations at work, or how much I love cheese. I once wrote an entire 800 words on cheese. When I put my pen down, I felt worlds better then when I'd picked it up. Those 800 words on cheese were the brain dump I needed to write chapter 7 of my first book...
When we write, we find clarity and understanding. What we write becomes a visible, tangible outline of our thoughts. The hurricane that is our restless minds weakens just a bit and there's calm in the storm, because the words we put together give a cohesive map to what's going on inside. What we write becomes a map to our very soul, giving clues to the external things that affect us internally.
And so, I implore you: write. Write because you have a thought. Write because you have something to say. Write even if you have no words. Write simply to see what comes out of your mind and onto the page. Write to see a pattern. Write to see a theme. Write for yourself or write to share. Just write. Write your way out of the torment inside. Write your way into the Truth of the Word. Write because you can. Write because you should. Write, because when all else fails, it's the only thing we may have of you someday.
Write. Write. Write.