“The evolving text was never, for Murray, purely a creation of the writer—it was an active participant in the process itself. He would speak of ‘listening to the text,’ or ‘the informing line’; he would describe the thrill of writing outrunning intention and entering new territory….if the writer was alert to cues and possibilities, and not tied to an outline or a plan. ‘Be patient, listen quietly, the writing will come. The voice of the writing will tell you what to do.’ ”
– Introduction to The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher
To hear this voice, as Murray said, we must believe in it.
And it’s incredibly difficult when we’re constantly pulled away.
It can seem impossible these days, but if we’re to hear the voice, we have to fight for it.
But we won’t stop being so easily distracted and pay attention.
I believe it’s self-evident most people are chronically over-involved. In church and with friends and family. People have legitimate needs and we have ability to fill them.
We like people dependent on us so we don’t have to face ourselves.
But there are also entertainments and hugely involving activities. In the now-classic Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman wrote prophetically about the problem now rampant in so many creative people’s lives. We all tend to think we’re above the law–special, unusual, the exception to the universal rule that no one can produce consistently good work when being continually distracted.
With all the crazy modern influences our culture throws at us, we’ve got to realize we’re not an exception to how humans function. And it’s astounding to me how many people think they are! We think we can circumvent natural laws and never have to say no.
We never even consider that God’s law is higher than our limited perspective.
Why do we think our best intentions will escape the consequences of over-involvement?
Why do we trade our best for so little?
It isn’t rare–everyone seems to have a touch of this disease. But most ambitious writers I run into these days seem to be in advanced stages of disarray. They think they can do whatever they want, say yes to everything and never sleep, cut corners and cheat the system. Maybe they believe that’s what it takes to be successful.
And aren’t we all tempted to agree? Maybe we just need to learn to manage. Or maybe that’s our exceptionalism talking.
We’re too dang busy. And we’re distracting ourselves from noticing.
It doesn’t take a psychotherapist to realize we’re running from the truth about many things–situations, people, deeper emotions, issues, pain. We forget that people who run from pain are still being controlled by it. The proof is when their fragile sense of control slips, they become angry or depressed.
We get over-involved and call it normal in order not to face our pain and hide from fear. Pain always forces us to deal with it, one way or another.
And as we all know, with all the convenient distractions available these days, dealing with it head on is far easier said than done.
Yet is there anything more important than to get free of this?
Everyone has to face it or continue to struggle. The pain of life leaves us no choice. And our culture preys on this universal weakness. It’s a war for our attention and we give ours to whatever comes by. Anything flashy or convenient, and we don’t even notice we’re doing it.
Oh, hello beautiful, manipulative advertisement designed to sell me some expendable junk! You want some of my attention? Well, sure! It’s only my most precious possession…
You do this. I know because I do this. And what I’m saying now–in as sincere a way as I can muster–is you’ve got to pay attention!
The Opposition is winning.
So what’s your method to preserve your attention for your greater intention?
We each need a personal strategy, or we’ll end up dead before we get free. We’ve got to begin to fight.
We need a practice to get behind until it becomes effortless, even if initially it takes a lot of effort. Remember, everything worthwhile (like good writing) takes practice.
Everything worth doing is worth doing well. All it takes is patient persistence.
Pain, fear and the Opposition will conspire to keep you silent forever. You’ll only grow more self-centered and incapable of changing anyone, convinced you’re entitled to overindulging your numbing comfort of choice, and trading your dreams for panaceas. That is, if you don’t stop, pay attention, and commit yourself to a better way.
People make their own prisons. It happens. We’ve met them, known them.
Research shows many will choose addiction. They’ll coast through life and sample many things and never achieve what dreams God placed in them. We know about the “quiet lives of desperation” because we could so easily choose them too.
We all have to cut back and slow down even though we don’t want to.
And why? Because the world requires our attention. Practicing discernment and making time for what deserves our attention is the only way to escape the undue demands we face.
The tyrannical dictator of Urgencia tries to demand our allegiance. But we serve the Life-Giver, and our lives require us to learn to live for him and not be afraid.
Our collective destiny is just down the road in Futureland. But first we have to reclaim it from the stickle-backed demon Overwhelm.
In its grip, even heroes lose their minds, can’t think, can’t feel. We’re in the battle for our lives. It would kill our desire to contribute.
Do you truly realize the unlimited value of your Ruler’s gifts to you? You have been given all the power.
Simply decide you won’t allow it to be undermined. Don’t allow your contribution and output to be stolen by inattention.
Reclaim your freedom and breathe in the fresh air of your rekindled dream.
Too much busyness breaks anyone’s resolve.
Don’t go down without a fight.
And if we seem ascetic to some people and family members who don’t understand what we’re doing for the sake of the work, so be it. If we want to make room for the inspired words to become everything to us, it’s a small price to pay.
For until the Inspired Words do become our everything, no one else will see their eternal value either.
“I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
“If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
“Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.”
– Maria Rainier Rilke
For the higher purpose,