Tip-Toeing in Quicksand
Ah, the writing process! How might I describe it to you, dear reader?
I am a natural communicator but an untrained writer. My long-standing technique (if you can call it that) is to write like I talk, which is fine when I'm writing a speech, but falls woefully short when writing a memoir. Can I tell my story? Yes. But what I am attempting to do is to show it to others through carefully curated words on a page. That has proven to be harder than it seems.
At the risk of sounding cliche (which I’ve been told a good writer should never do) the writing memoir process has been a journey of one step forward, two steps back...Literally. And all that moving forward, then falling backward business is emotionally exhausting. There are times I find myself flat on the ground not moving in any direction at all.
By “literal” I mean this: I will hit a stretch of writing forward in my story - that is, moving forward on my timeline - then wake up in the night with details from an earlier part of my timeline that seem too important to pass by. So, I jot them down on the clipboard I keep by my bed, then pray that my handwriting is legible come morning. As soon as I can, I transpose those details into an appropriate place and try to continue the story-telling from where I left off. I realize that sounds efficient (and maybe it is) but here is the exhausting part: scrutiny.
How does one edit their own life story? What details are important to maintain and what details bog down the pace? And when I spend so much time dwelling on the past in order to relive it on the page, how do I not feel those same feelings again? I mean, imagine going back to the pit of quicksand where you almost died and putting your toes back in the mire. Yep, there’s that slimy muck you remembered. But calling it “slimy muck” doesn’t quite sum up the danger of it - so you put your whole foot in. Now you can feel the pull, and the words “murderous life force” make it to the page while you sort of wobble on solid ground with the other leg trying to stay balanced. Oh, but there’s something else missing in the narrative so you sink in a little deeper, then deeper still, until OOPS! There you are, flailing in the muck, in need of rescue, wondering who in their right mind steps into quicksand for the sake of illustration?
A memoir writer, that’s who.
Dear reader, there is an enemy of our soul whose job description is to steal, kill, and destroy the things that God loves (I believe I have mentioned him on this blog before). If you are on an assignment from God, whether it be monumental or mundane, be on the lookout for that old snake. Remember, God loves you therefore, the old snake hates you. Also remember that he has no arms or legs, just a mouth with some big nasty fangs in it. His arsenal is built out of lies and deception. All he can do is convince people to do his dirty work for him. “Just quit,” he says. “You don’t know what you‘re doing anyway,” he adds. Then he hisses, “Why would anyone want to read your story in the first place? It’ll never see the light of day. You’re just wasting your time.”
Oh, but God!
In ways big and small, He keeps reminding me that this is an assignment from Him (yep, there’s a Christian cliche for you) but it is TRUE. And that is how we stomp on that old snake’s head, with truth. So I clutch my laptop in one mucky hand, while grabbing hold of Jesus with the other. I remember the pain of the past, but I also look for the beauty; It's hard to do while wading through quicksand, but it is there. Then words like, MERCY, GRACE, and FREEDOM find their way to the page, and I find the strength to keep going.
This thing may get published posthumously, but I WILL keep going.
“I love you, LORD; you are my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior...I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help...He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters...the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”
- Psalm 18:1-19 New Living Translation
Happy New Year 2020, everyone! What assignment from God are you on? I would love to hear about it in the comments.