Originally posted Oct. 5, 2012, at Church Outloud. Republished with permission of the author.
Nothing inspires good writing better than good writing. My writing life has many companions. My work efforts often begin by reading the work of another writer. Poetry works best for this. I love Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Robert Bly. I love anthologies that deliver new voices and poems in bunches.
Occasionally short essays will do the trick. I am deeply indebted to Anne Lamott, Verlyn Klinkenborg (such a delight when his Rural Life pieces appear in The New York Times) and a host of others. But it’s hard for me to read longer pieces without the author’s voice and cadence lingering like an aftertaste when I take up my own pen.
I think poetry works best because poetry is “language concentrate.” Sentences with the water wrung out. Each word left to bear as much bitterness or sweetness, darkness or light, as the letters themselves allow. Arranged in recognizable patterns and yet producing such a rush of meaning and emotion, they can only be handled in small doses, like Belgian chocolate or New York cheesecake.
After a few minutes in their presence I am ready to face the “silent enormity” of a blank page. The poems I’ve just read reminding me of what’s possible. Whispering in my ear what beauty and meaning is waiting there in the confusion and the chaos. The tumult of my own creative anxiety. I take up my pen and begin.
I wonder if it’s possible to live well, to do anything well, without such inspiration? Not only a writing life, but a married life, a work life, a single life, a parent life, a student life. I think that’s what faith is for. Faith is the inspiration to find the meaning and beauty in the “silent enormity” of our days that rise before us every morning like a blank page.
Church is not ultimately about traditions, rules, and doctrines. It’s not even about styles of worship, or correctness of belief. Church is nothing if not the place where the soil is tilled for faith to grow and inspire us to take up whatever pen is ours and begin the work God calls us to do.
Find a link to Charles Oberkehr’s entry on the blog Church Outloud at Lutheran Blogs.