Commit to Your Life



As I walked yesterday, thoughts about my prospectus swirled in my mind, as they have for months.  Fifteen pages seems so small compared to papers and projects I have previously written.  It also seems a tiny number in comparison to the stack of pages that will ultimately comprise my dissertation.  I have been learning from these chaotic thoughts and fears the difference between simply writing to fulfill course expectations and writing that flows from a much deeper place: from what compels me, from what wakes me up at night and begs to be expressed–not for myself alone, or for a grade.

As I wrestle with writing, a phrase keeps coming to mind: commit to your life.  There is no other life than the one I am living right now, so one option is to write. Now.  Not when I no longer feel panic. Not when I have a cottage by a lake or peaceful mountain view.  Not when I have memorized everything about my topic. Nothing will magically make expressing ideas from my visual brain into words any less difficult or writing from my passion (from the Latin passio, suffering) any less painful.  Certainly, there is also joy, but not all the time. The ideal time, setting, mood or  Susan will not suddenly appear.

If I wait, I will never write.

Or I could choose not to write. A perfectly fine choice.

But I can’t imagine that.  Oh, I can vow I’m done with it all, but something keeps bringing me back to the page.  Something keeps nudging me to commit to my life,  “put it in writing,” risk making some ripples, and trust that something good and beautiful can come of it.

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  • Amen!

    Susan, this is just what I needed to hear. I’ve been wrestling again with my own writing, with wondering why I insist on wrenching my heart onto the page. Surely there’s an easier way to live. But it’s a way I can’t imagine; even when I was at the nadir, drowning in all those rejections (and you should see the file folder I’ve accumulated this year), I knew that was a life, a future I didn’t want.

    I read a fabulous essay today by Emilie Griffin in the book she edited, A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on their Art, in which she talked about writing as an act of faith–faith in God, in beauty, in meaning, in the power of words to communicate, in our own calling and ability to use the tools of our trade. “Perseverance is part of the writer’s fidelity,” she says. “We fight to keep fresh, to avoid the pit of despond. We keep at it.”

    So, yes, let us commit to our lives and to the inward compulsion to write that is, I believe (in my better moments), God-given and God-blessed. Something good will come of it, something beautiful.

    It already has–you reached me. I reached back.

  • Holly Benzenhafer Redford

    Be the words.
    Be the spaces.
    You already are.
    Just allow them to be
    with you,
    beyond you–upon
    the screen,
    the page.
    them from your body
    to drip off your fingertips
    slowly. Honey
    from the hive is sweet,
    but left within
    is only surrounded by
    Dare to taste
    and see.

  • Krista

    Susan, this is a beautiful expression of the magnetic angst that we feel about the writing process. Such truthfully written words.

    The best advice I ever received was from a Dean at the university in my hometown, the summer before starting the ThD. He said, just remember: the dissertation is merely your entrance into teaching. It will not be your greatest or your last achievement. Many greater things will follow the dissertation. So, be sure to find a way to get it done, so you may get on with the even greater things that will follow it.

    I myself am learning to let go of the attachment I feel to each word on every page. The impulse to perfection– or, rather, the fear of failure that slows me down. I am learning to let go and just write… I wish that for you too!!