It’s been one of those days.
Scratch that. It’s been one of those weeks, the kind where you’re not sure about whether you’ve anything left to say that will matter.
Which is a lie, because we all have something to say. But I don’t know a writer who hasn’t entertained that thought a time or fifty.
Someone might call it writer’s block. Someone else might call it stage fright. But it’s something more insidious: It’s believing a lie. It’s listening to a deceiver who wags a wrinkly finger in your face and promises you that personal failure is imminent.
I have believed the lies. I have distrusted God, thinking he will not come through when I sit at an empty screen, a gaping hole that threatens to swallow me up one day.
Here’s the simple truth: I’m scared of cursors.
It’s that single black line winking, like it knows you’re going to mess up bad this time. It’s a steady, blinking reminder that you have no idea what you’re going to write next.
And it makes you think that if you do have something to say, someone else has said it better already.
The better half of my two-faced heart knows the truth. I’ve told the truth to other writers: “Your words matter to God. And your words matter to people.”
Because that’s the God-honest truth echoing down through the ages. Our stories matter. Words matter. If you don’t believe me, visit an airport lobby today, and see what people are holding in their hands. Better yet, try to open the Bible to a page that doesn’t contain someone’s personal story.
Furthermore, believe this: the only person who can tell your story is you. If you don’t do it, it’s not only your loss. It’s ours.
I know this whole self-doubting thing isn’t just me. And I know it’s not just writers.
The deceiver is the enemy of all people, and he tells us us that our lives are sub-par. The oppressor makes you think that your poetry stinks, your parenting offends, your work wallows, your ministry lacks, or that your stories fail to inspire.
I’ve heard your self-doubting words. I have. I heard when you said you’ve been scared to write another story, or to speak into the microphone. I’ve also watched at the Bible study table. I see how you shield your answers in the workbook, and how you’re afraid to share openly because you fear you’ve come to the wrong conclusion. You’ve identified the others at the table as “scholars.”
So maybe all of us are doing it: We’re editing our stories before they’re written, and if they don’t look good enough, we throw our drafts in the trash bin. I stand guilty, on all charges.
This is the very best way to destroy a story: never tell it. Deny yourself the opportunity to make sense of your crazy life or this great big world. Shut the door on the miracle that happens when the cursor leads a story across the page.
Or, maybe we could sit here at the empty screen, and trust in the miracle of story. Tell yours. Uncrumple the paper. Live more of life unedited. Hurt, out loud. Laugh, in community. Find beauty, in rancorous places.
Make friends with the cursor. Follow where the blinking line leads, filling a cavernous space with consonants, vowels and everyday miracles of living and dying and messing up and tripping over ourselves, and finding that God’s arm is not to short to save.
And maybe, just before you type the final period, you’ll make the most startling discovery of all: that the Hero of your story was in the room all along, just ahead of the blinking cursor, pulling a single thin line across an empty page.
*****Writing in community today with two of my favorite storytellers, Laura and Michelle …