Thursday, January 14, 2010
On Writing Images of Sheep and Eating
When I wrote this column for Comment magazine it was due December 18 although the publication date was January 8 – typical for published pieces as they need an editor’s vigorous scrubbing to rid them of danglers, smiley faces and whatnot. We had been very busy… oh, what am I saying. Everyone is “very busy” nearly all the time. So I take it back. Life was being what it usually is for most of us – overwhelming. Like a lot of other miserable wretches I know, I also put off deadlines. I mean, why do something ahead of time when you can wait until the last moment and then do it accompanied by migraines and large bowel explosions. Actually I just need a little morphine and a body sling to enable me to ignore nasty little errors in our checking account, the male/female gingerbread cookies that want baking, all friends and most of the family in order to remain bent over my keyboard for hours and hours at a time. Then I could blow into full writing mode with all my sails unfurled and words pouring unto my deck. But nothing comes that easy. So I spent those hours and hours, staring at the screen with nothing coming, wishing I’d never heard of such a thing as the alphabet.
I look back now and see I made a journal entry two days before it was due: “I need a miracle. I need God.” Of course he’s there all the time and so often are the words. For as many times as I’ve been through this, I still need the reminder that the creative process is very slow for me. Part of it is simply showing up. Waiting. Then seeing something as it begins to form. This time it was the gracious images of sheep in my life – their meaning and the ridiculous baa-aaing I do when stressed. Let me add that it certainly isn’t God’s fault when I’m not paying attention to deadlines. And whatever the eventual outcome of life – I’m talking about big, bad issues – I know God doesn’t leave his sheep writhing on the delivery table. He will eventually meet us with healing – even if what we’re talking about is death – however violent our exit. (Today I’m thinking of our many brothers and sisters in Haiti who have suffered and died in the horrifying earthquake.)
Anyway, with great relief I finished a final draft late on the morning of the deadline, shut my laptop, went to lunch, came back, called it up and it was gone. I’d forgotten to save the final version. All my clever turns of phrase and the conclusion – gone. No getting it back. I had to ask the editor for an extension (thanks, Dan!). Some of it eventually came back and I eventually punched “Send.” Every day I learn more about God’s provisions (see column). Every day I learn I can never eat too many of them.
So here is the beginning of the essay and if you haven’t come across it or would like to read the whole thing click here:
“Sheep graze at the edge of my imagination, like big fleecy bugs. They appear in my dreams, cookbooks, scripture, and paintings – little metaphors of life. They are endearing and stupid. In another life I might have chosen to be a shepherdess because caring for such creatures appeals, but it’s more likely I would be cast as….”