Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Writing, Faith, and Merton

People who write, I'm sorry to say, are loners. It's a lonely activity and very few of us are extroverts. I'm one of the more extroverted ones, but it is a learned extroversion, and to the extent I practice my learned extroversion I cannot practice writing. I saw this because I'm reading two intensely spiritual works, memoirs in a sense, although very different--one author moving towards Protestant faith, one toward Catholicism. While a writer must be sensitive to other people in order to find an audience, he/she must first be self-sensitive, which has its good and bad points.

Yet I know that we are called to be in face-to-face interaction with people for Christ's sake, so it's a constant struggle about how much to write and how much to be with people. I like people, very much. But I'm not a talker, prefering to express my opinions in writing. Anyway, I teach college and get to talk a lot for a living, so at the end of the day my vocal words are spent and I'm tired.

Writing is quite an act of faith, since so little of it gets seen by anyone, and yet you're doing it to be seen by someone eventually. It took me eight years to write my first novel (sort of like the quilt I finished yesterday; I was determined to get it done and on my bed by New Year's Eve). I doubted the novel would ever be published, and most of them are not. (And many that are should not be). Publishing and writing are two different subjects, in my view.

The writer I am reading who is, in his memoir, moving toward Catholicism is Thomas Merton. He is a wonderful writer, and it does remind me of Augustine's Confessions. He will write movingly of his life, then break out into a wonderful prose hymn about providence, grace, and God's love. Which unfortunately, from my Reformed view of the world, he then follows with praise for Mary or the sacraments. Or he will quite harshly insult the English, which I find quite unfair, since his own background would have been English, number one, and since he benefited from English-ness so much himself, and well, because I'm a bit of an Anglophile myself. But if a memoir is not honest, it is no memoir, so I suppose his prejudices must show as well as his loves and passions. I'm not very far into the book yet, though.

Perhaps blogs are the modern equivalent of memoirs, but blogs are far easier to write; less sustained attention. I learned how to get people to come to your blog. Put the name (call letters) of a local radio or TV station into it, or reference a local event like a market. Apparently people have a software package that finds all the blogs that mention their institutions.

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