When I was in third grade I started reading a series of books about a nerdy guy named Wally McDoogal who lived out these crazy adventures and misfortunes that no normal person ever has to endure. In the midst of each adventure he was always writing a story about some far-fetched super hero who would inevitably learn the same moral Wally would learn by the end of the book. Often, Wally would discover what he needed for his own adventure by writing out the perils of his fictional protagonists. There was something about living a life of adventure while writing down on paper another more fantastic adventure that always resonated with me. Somehow I knew that I was born to do the same. I had to be a writer.
But I never really did anything about it until around High School when I discovered that as long as you knew how to write you could ace every single book report and paper you were assigned regardless of whether you actually read the book or not. Then I discovered that people were actually willing to read what I had written. It turned out I could actually write pretty well.
And then ideas started coming to me that I could not keep to myself no matter how hard I tried so I started a blog to keep my brain from exploding. Much to my surprise, people started reading it and sharing it. People I didn't know were interested in my adventures and it was exhilarating. I finally started calling myself a writer.
And then the writing stopped. "I have to write" was what I said when I felt that ever-present inner compulsion to get ideas out of my head but it became what I said to express the inner drudgery of this now burdensome task. I flat out lied to myself and to those few who were interested in why the writing stopped by saying I just did not have time anymore. This sounded pretty legitimate because I was newly married, in school full time, and working an average of about 50 hours a week. Who has time to ponder the Universe?
It was a cowardly lie though and one that was so convincing that I have only recently, after years and years of blank unpublished pages, realized it's falsehood. I feel like now I owe you and myself an explanation for where I've been lately. Time was an issue, but it was not the real issue. In no particular order, here are the real reasons you haven't heard from me in a awhile:
I Stopped Running
You might expect me to apply some spiritual application of "running the race marked before me" here but I literally mean that I stopped running. I used to call myself a long distance runner because long distance running was a regular part of my daily routine. I trained hard and ran as many races as I could. Then sheer busyness coupled with injury began to look like great excuses I could give myself to mask the fact that I simply lacked the motivation to get up and hit a few miles before the sun came up. Aside from the fact that running has historically taught me so much about life and following Jesus I realized that letting one discipline in your life slip dramatically affects the other disciplines in your life. Because I continually said yes to avoiding the work of physical activity I could no longer say yes to the work of putting my thoughts on paper. Personal discipline and daily ritual are not the bad words we think them to be. They work together to help us become the person we really want to be.
I Started Writing for the Likes
A hundred years ago writers had to sit in isolation for months and years pounding out the words in their heads before they would ever be published, read, and rewarded. Now I can have a thought or idea and within seconds Tweet it out for the world to see and praise. I get instant satisfaction with every like and Retweet and I can go back and see how many people all over the world landed on my page. I never knew how a simple thumbs up could be so addicting. It turns out that for an insecure person such as myself that self-validation can easily be found in measurable social media stats and web analytics. I can know how much I matter as a human being by seeing how many people "like" what I said.
Unless they don't like it.
Or they don't read it.
Then I can know for sure that I am a worthless human being.
I found myself writing only things I knew would get a positive response. Instead of writing because God was speaking to me I was writing so that the Internet could speak to me and tell me how special I was.
I then found that I could not live up to that kind of roller coaster of self evaluation and I backed down in fear. No one can ignore or criticize what you keep to yourself.
I Stopped Asking Questions
When I started writing I called myself "A kid on a journey" and I saw my writing as the journal of an explorer or philosopher who looked for things in the world that everyone else was looking over so I could turn them over and discover the hidden secrets of the Universe. Curiosity was my driving ambition.
Somewhere down the line I stopped seeing myself as a kid on a journey and started looking at the world from the eyes of "a man who has arrived." I told myself and others that I was just in a season of putting into practice all that I had learned in those years of curiosity so that is why I was not getting any fresh revelation.
But I had not because I asked not and for no other reason than that.
I stopped asking how I could be a better human being because I thought I had it all together. I stopped asking how I could experience God in the particular moment I found myself because I believed I had bigger things to get done. I stopped asking why things are the way they are because I had resolved that they were not going to get any better. I stopped asking questions so I stopped hearing answers.
I stopped growing and I started dying. The lack of writing over the last few years has just been a side affect of a much more dramatic spiral made evident in virtually every area of my life.
I'm tired of it.
I need to start writing again because I need a reminder of my own fragility. I used to live by the ambition of wanting to write things that changed the world. Now I just want to write things that change me. I want to write things that remind me to be vulnerable and broken so I stop pretending I have my life together. I want to write things that open my eyes to the pettiness I call home so that when I see my life typed out on the white screen of my laptop I am reminded of the life that I really want to live. I have to write.
Thank you, oh anonymous Internet soul, for bearing with me through all this. I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart but I'm not going to write for your approval anymore. The only way I know to be truly honest with myself is by forming words into paragraphs. I am very much a work in progress and the writings to follow will be nothing less than an expression of that work.