The poet-monk, Thomas Merton, said in his New Seeds of Contemplation:
If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men—you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.
I walk in the cold. It stings and soon my cheeks grow so numb I can no longer enunciate my P's and M's. The holly shrubs are the only green thing here, and the skeleton fingers of trees reach up to the bluefrozen sky as if they pray for warmth. They will pray through the darkness of night and get none.
Behind me is my home and inside sits my computer. I recently won a blogging competition and today's bar on my web analytics is climbing to heights I've never experienced before. But I left the stats for the cold because we do not live for digits on a screen but for moments like these, alone in the woods, staring at bare trees which grasp for warmth. Aren't we all grasping?
I started coming here to meditate when those digits were single numbers that looked lonely and cold on the screen, and now I come here when they are great giants, almost crowding out my computer and my comprehension in their black weight. I come here because I must. I wouldn't be able to bear it all without these walks. My mind would snap like one of those wooden treefingers.
This is what meditation has taught me:
I am grateful for those wee little numbers and I am grateful for the giants. Who could live without gratefulness? And by live I don't mean eat, breathe, sleep, and go to the bathroom. I mean eat so that the food tastes like manna, breathe so deeply it's like your lungs fill up with cloud and you exhale it out so that it fills the room and seems to cover it all with a holy mist, and sleep as sound as a child after a trip to Disneyland. I mean to really live.
To write well you must live. You may write without living, but what kind of writing would it be? Not the kind that will change the world, that must be said in certain terms.
Coincidentally, though, this life I'm talking about sometimes comes to us through writing. While I had glimpses of this life before, it wasn't until I began writing that I was truly able to grasp it. Words can be woven together to form a great net to throw over life, tie it down long enough to slurp into your soul.
This is what The Write Practice is about, then. Not just learning to write but learning to live. Not just learning to weave words to get a paycheck or some internet glory, but learning to weave them into life-catching nets that can bring life to the whole world.
So my challenge to you today is this:
- Are you experiencing life? Right now. In this moment?
- Is your writing bringing life not just to you but to others?
If not, then you might need more practice.
Go on a walk. Take a notebook and a pen.
Sit down on a bench or on the curb and describe what you see, what you feel, what you hear.
Write for fifteen minutes, and then come home. If you'd like, type up your practice and post it in the comments to encourage the rest of us.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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