On Writing and Second Drafts

Own it. Never read it. 

So. If you read me, you may be a reader. Or you may be a writer. To both the readers AND the writers, I want to talk a little bit about process today. Readers may find it interesting; writers may find it comforting. My little gift to you. 

Musicians are supposed to practice every day. Writers are supposed to write. And the blog is the place where I put my daily writing practice. Alone, here with my coffee, before the kids and the hubby wake up. That's where honesty lives, and honesty is what we look for in our writers, because that's the thing we struggle with ourselves. Honesty is risk and risk requires bravery and reveals vulnerability. But someone's gotta get up on that cross if your soul is gonna be saved. It's always the artists, no? 

Blogs are first drafts. I write, I post. A couple people out there in my texter/writer group know all about the terror that comes after putting the first-draft work out there. They share the pain. If we are brave, we share our work. And sometimes someone reads it and says, "Um... did you really want to say that out loud?" And then I quake, and fret, and go deaf to everything around me, so preoccupied am I that I may have insulted someone, given someone the wrong impression, or revealed too much. I mean, even now I'm worried about that! Am I an over-sharer? I'm a writer. It's my job to tell the truth—not my truth. OUR truth. Even the uncomfortable ones. 

If you subscribe to this by email, you get the raw version, before self-doubt and fear creep in. Click on any given post at various times of the day and you will see that the essay has evolved. Usually, as the coffee wears off, or the emails come in from concerned citizens, I re-read and delete the most caustic of comments and the ones that show how totally pathetic some humans can be. (Ellen, I know you like those best; that's why you're on the email part of the thing.)  

Mind you, sometimes the first drafts actually suck. Full of typos. Too much irrelevant information. Rambling sentences. Or I skipped a whole point. Or I didn't see some brilliant point til later. Later drafts sometimes make for better reading. On that subject, I was asked to write something for my church again. I decided to adapt something I'd written a couple days ago. Perhaps you read it; this one is better because there's less me and more you.  I share it here for fellow students of process. Second draft. Less words. More God (considering the audience). For your reading pleasure, Silence Does Not Equal Complicity, Version 2. Half as long.




I am known as someone who writes humor—and not always church-ready humor—but inspiration for humor has been scarce lately. A pandemic. Powder-keg racial tensions brought about by centuries of racial inequities. Rolled back protection for the environment, for health care, for human life. It doesn’t feel like the world is telling us what our church tells us: “No matter who you are, you are welcome here.” Instead, the world may be making many of us ask, “Am I, really?”


Someone recently pointed me to a segment with comedian Dave Chappelle, which I share with a heavy degree of warning: He speaks his truth, but not all of it is church-ready. But maybe it is. We can’t live in a vacuum. We need to hear words from people like him. Thing is, even he couldn’t do comedy. He spoke on the glaring injustices he has witnessed as a black man. "I don't mean to get heavy," he said. "But we gotta say something."


Lots of people are saying something. And much of it is very disturbing. I fight myself to avoid Facebook because I find it shocking to hear some of the cold opinions of people I know and love. People I have loved for a very long time are saying things, vehemently, that grate against everything I believe in and everything that I thought was Christian: love, justice, equality in God’s eyes. They were raised Christian, too, so how could they possibly… oh, never mind. Sometimes I look at Facebook and I start to comment, to defend the meek and stand up to unkindness—and then I stop. There is a time and a place for productive conversation. Facebook ain’t it.


But silence does not always equal complicity. 


When asked to say something about what is going on since the George Floyd murder, Dave Chappelle said he’d been pretty silent up to that point. He wondered what more could a celebrity possibly add? "The streets are speaking for themselves," he said. He’s right. Sometimes silence is okay and action speaks louder than words. As the sun rose behind the thick leaves of our garden one morning, I looked out and saw a bright spark in the dark dawn. A pint glass left on the picnic table captured a tiny shaft of light and magnified it. Just one bright spark shining out in the morning silence. Reminding me: We don't always have to say what is right, and good, and just. As Christians, we are called not to say those things, but to be those things. We are called to do those things.


We are called to be the spark. That doesn’t always require words, but it always, always says far more than words alone.