In the past few years, I’ve gotten to meet several writers I admire, and I am so grateful for what the craft of writing teach me.
Writing is a formative part of my life, and writers are big influences. Well, more like friends. A friend and I have joked that we would rather have our favorite authors over for a long dinner party than have them autograph something.
When we read the words of great authors and creators, it feels like we get to know them personally. We want to host them in our homes and feed them comfort food. We feel known by them before we ever see them face-to-face.
Why? Writing connects us. Story is a human equalizer.
Writers are a part of culture, and they examine culture at the same time. Writers are participants and observers simultaneously, both in the arena and in the bleachers.
They live their lives in neighborhoods and living rooms and grocery stores like we all do. But their observations help us point a mirror back onto ourselves, lead us to understand our world and our own hearts more deeply.
Writers are connectors by trade.
Take, for instance, the magazine-editor-turned-nonfiction-writer who has spent his professional life soaking in the beauty of the world, the complexity of people, the character of cities and cultures. He has traveled across continents and interviewed some of the world’s most famous. But, after interviewing both celebrities and servants, he has decided that the path of honesty and simplicity is the one worth pursuing. He connects the themes of the world to the themes he wants to live by.
Or the career-woman-turned-mom who found that her home life contained the same degree of complexity as the corporate conference room. She connects the daily task to the sacred call on her life. She doesn’t belittle the small things, but finds beauty there.
Or the songwriter and divorcee who can, after years of striving, finally sit at her keyboard and share the imperfections of her journey in a way that doesn’t heap shame onto her, but shines the light of Christ onto her most tender places. She knows that the chapters of life are haphazard, but that they are connected in God’s redemption story.
This is the way of the writer — to connect. To help the world see itself clearly.
And this, really, is the way we are all called to live.
The call to connect and mirror is not just the call of the novelist or the national speaker or the person who has all the Twitter followers.
This week, the women in my small group reminded me that good writing can be a mirror by which we evaluate ourselves. But, even more importantly, we are all called to be mirrors to one another — to show our friends the beauty we see in them, and to allow them to mirror the real truth back to us.
This is the charge of each of us as Christ’s body in the world. To connect, to share, to make blank space for honesty in a world that celebrates facade. To live a life-examining life. To unpack and unfold.
Now this comes with some challenges.
When we agree to learn, we will learn things we wish we hadn’t. When we agree to receive, we will open ourselves up to hurt. When we reflect on our own lives, we might see the unpleasant truths buried deep.
But I think there is beauty in choosing to learn, receive and reflect anyway.
Writing can be a sweet and freeing way to practice all three. Writing is a tool that helps us connect to our most essential selves, and then hold up that essence to one another in the mirror.
For me, writing has been as much of a posture as it has been a practice in the last few years of my life.
So, entering a new year, here is to the writing — and to the writers. To learning, receiving and reflecting.
I don’t know about you, but I want to say yes to all that writing has to teach me.