I haven’t written one word yet.
I sat down to write and then I saw my bed wasn’t made so I made it. Then I saw something that suddenly needed cleaning immediately, so I cleaned it. Then I saw some things that needed to be thrown away, so I threw them away. Then I saw some surfaces that needed to be wiped, so I wiped them. Then I realized my coffee cup was empty and I was going to fill it, but then I realized I wanted my coffee hotter, so now I’m heating it.
When I returned I thought I had at least a paragraph written. But there was nothing. The page is blank. So I’m filling it.
That’s what a writer does. He fills a blank page. He creates something where there was nothing. Writers and artists and creative people and God get to do this; they get to create something from nothing. Perhaps my blank page gets filled with garbage. Certainly I’ve done that – many times. But I think if I keep filling those blank pages, one day they’ll become something useful, that there will be less garbage. To be kind to and honest with myself, I don’t think I’ve produced much garbage at all.
I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was 14 years old. I think I have a gift for this and I think I write pretty well. I also think I’m getting better. And I think I have room to improve. A lot of room? No. Infinite room. That’s how Purpose works. No matter how good we are at what we do, there is always something new to learn. When that no longer feels like the truth, then it may be time to find a new purpose.
At this time, however, writing, even after all these years, feels new and exciting. I love reading books, especially books about writing. I love the idea that even though I’m naturally good at something, there are always ways to improve. That is not discouraging; it is exciting. The fact that it is exciting is a good sign. When I continually feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the amount of learning, then I am probably in the wrong place.
So I write.
I fill the blank pages.
Sometimes, I go back and I look at the page that is now no longer blank. Sometimes I change something or delete it altogether, just as God does with parts of me. He doesn’t delete me, but he changes or deletes the parts that could be better. This too is exciting. As with my writing, so it is with me. There is infinite room for improvement because I have hurt and disappointed others. It’s discouraging to know I have hurt people. But even the pain I’ve caused can be deleted and healed. This too is part of the creative process, because healing requires creativity. Healing requires something new in the place of something that no longer works or never worked.
The creative process is a solitary process that cannot be done alone. I need others. I need mentors and friends and people I love. And I need to read and study. I define study as reading, taking notes, reflecting and acting upon what I have read. I need the wisdom and experience of other authors. There are times when I wish that all I had to do was sit here and read, write and study. Sometimes, when I feel like that, I don’t ever want to leave. But that’s not how Purpose works. Purpose is meant not only to serve the world, it is meant to bring about our own healing. Often that healing comes in the interactions with others. To contradict Paul Simon, I am not a rock. I am not an island.
The whole creative process then is one big wonderful contradiction. I need to be alone and I need others. I need to work hard and I need to let go. I need a schedule and I need to be in the moment. I need to improve and I need to know that what I’m doing now is perfect (even when I’m changing and deleting). I need to remember there is a God and there is a Muse who love me and there is an Enemy who hates me. I need to hurry and I need to work deliberately and carefully. I need to Get Started and Keep Going. Every day.