PH: Learning to Fall For Writers
This well known book title, Learning to Fall, also came with a journal. I am always buying a new journal. I celebrate small things and sometimes it’s with a gift of a journal. When I go on retreat either with other women or with other writers, I always grab one and pack it away. They’re lying all over my house, little unfinished threads of thought that I might go back and pick up. So I have a ready supply. Learning to Fall has become a favorite journal of mine. It’s the kind that has a question on each page. During my last women’s retreat, I took it out for my quiet time at sunrise, a date each of us had made with our Creator.
I opened to the page that asked me to describe how hurdles have affected me.
I penned, "A hurdle has one purpose. The rule of competition is that you can't go around it or even walk away from it. You have to go over it, running at high speed; then you defy gravity and your body lifts in a sort of airborne ballet. For that one moment your blood is pumping and you're no longer aware of the crowd because you have done the impossible--live for the moment in midair. And if you had gone around the hurdle instead of over it, you would have missed the breathtaking splendor of knowing what it is like to soar.”
All right, enough of that. But if you have been struggling with your writing, maybe it helps to know that all writers have to go over hurdles. It seems, at times, that we must be going in the wrong direction with our current WIP, or else we wouldn’t be experiencing so many roadblocks.
When I was young, soaring was not condoned because it was considered dangerous. "Best to keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds," I was taught. But God placed in my path other hurdle jumpers. They lifted with that blithe agility that said that they were above all things--alive! Writers who wanted to tell their stories, choosing solitude for the sake of a written legacy. I longed to live life like that, blood pumping, heart pounding in my ears, adrenaline coursing, fingers flying with ease to churn out page after page of Hemingway-esque prose. So I tried my first hurdle, my first page, and stumbled. I got up bleeding and could hear the voice saying, "Keep your feet on the ground and your head out of the clouds." But the bleeding subsided and the scars were sort of a trophy, so I ran at the next hurdle and then the next until that shining moment when my writer’s muscles, strengthened by the trials, buoyed me up and finally, I soared. I finished my first proposal.
If you have been writing for any length of time, then you are accustomed to voices in your head. Anne Lamott calls the voices that interfere with her writing little mouse people. She picks each one up mentally by the tail, tosses them into a jar, and closes the lid until all is quiet. Replacing the negative voices with positive affirming voices is so good for the mechanism. And then if you are a God-follower, you are well acquainted with the Big Voice; the one that assures you that the hurdles are not in front of you by accident. Unlike the old voices, I sometimes imagine it smells like the rain and the thunder, saying to my ragged condition, "But those who wait on the Lord, Shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint."
The point being that if your writing is ever going to achieve lift off, you first have to learn the fine art of falling. It is the longing of the heart to do the thing we were created to do, defy gravity. Have courage, take another run, and see if grace does not enfold you like wings.
Patricia Hickman regularly practices the fine art of falling, but admits she has never mastered leaping over buildings with a single bound.