By CLW, originally published on “Throwing Up Words“
Writing is an Act of Faith by Chris Crowe (plus a little bitty writing exercise)
Chris Crowe is still trying to figure out when he fell over the hill. When he’s not thinking about thinking about writing, he likes to spend time with his family, especially his precocious and beautiful grand-girls, Ella and Kasia. He teachers YA literature and creative writing at BYU, and he’s the author of a handful of books and some really, really bad poetry.
You can take this any way you want, but I’m not intending it to be religious, even though I’m using a popular religious term: faith.
It is an act of faith to climb onto an airplane and, as it barrels down the runway at 170 miles per hour, know that somehow the forces of nature and physics will combine to lift the 450,000 pound metal behemoth into the sky and set it down again a few hours later. You hope that the worst you’ll have to endure is a rattling, lurching up-and-down and side-to-side shaking of severe turbulence and not a fiery crash where you’ll be shredded into hamburger on impact and then fried in jet fuel.
It is an act of faith to sit in the passenger seat of your car and to hand the keys to a blindly over-confident 15-year old and then to sit, doing your best not to flinch, criticize, or in any way distract the naive driver-in-training, while the rookie veers too close to parked cars, speeds in to red lights, and flips left turns into oncoming traffic. You hope that you and your car will make it home without any damage or injuries—and especially without anyone dying.
It is an act of faith to, when you’re totally naked except for the flimsiest of hospital gowns, allow surgeons—total strangers—to knock you unconscious with potentially lethal doses of chemicals and drugs, to slice into your body with razor-sharp metal instruments, and to use their latexed fingers to probe your insides and to chop out whatever they decide they don’t like. You hope you’ll wake up, of course, but also that you’ll wake up with everything that matters still in tact and functioning and that after the initial post-anesthesia vomiting and agonizing pain, you’ll be able to recover.
It is an act of faith to love someone so much that you totally and willingly reveal your greatest weaknesses, insecurities, and mistakes and trust that the person you love will not only respect you but continue to be your best friend in spite of all she knows about the worst and weaseliest of you. You hope that you can live up to her trust and affection and that it will last a long, long time—maybe even forever.
It is an act of faith to plop down in a chair—on a good, bad, or indifferent day—and to face the blank page or computer screen with a subconscious voice drowning out all your thoughts and inspiration with head-splitting shrieks of high expectations, self-criticism and self-doubt. To put that first letter on the great unknown of the blank page is an act of faith comparable to anything the boldest dreamers and explorers have done: to go boldly where no one has gone before. Faith is what turns that first letter into the first word, the first word into the first sentence, the first sentence into the first paragraph, the first paragraph into the first page. Moving that pen or striking that keyboard is like planting a tiny mustard seed with the hope, the faith, that it will, eventually, with time and effort, turn into something much grander than the original speck of organic material.
It is an audacious act of faith to keep stringing words and sentences together for an extended period of time, hoping that with enough effort, they will eventually add up to a book that is much greater than the sum of its parts. You hope that, even in the face of self-doubt, rejection, and failure, your faith will give you the courage to write that first letter, to plant a tiny speck on the blank page and to hope, no, to know, that if you keep going, sooner or later it will begin to add up to something. It’s a leap of faith, really, but you have learned that if you take that leap into the great blank unknown, you can write. Believe it or not, you can write. Really, you can write.
Chris Crowe is a good friend and a writer who isn’t afraid to tackle the hard stories from history. If you haven’t yet, read his novel, MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955 and his non-fiction book GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EMMITT TILL CASE. He loves his family, is a terrible tease and wishes he could have a couple more cats (his favorite pets). I’m very sorry he didn’t send his beach photo for all to see.
WRITING EXERCISE– What is it that keeps you from writing? Ask yourself this question, really think about it, then put those ideas down on paper. Look your fear in the eye and then set it aside so you can write that book that needs to be written. Feel free to share what you discover here.