Confessions of a Reluctant Writer

I stopped being vulnerable about faith a long time ago.

I still write things that are true and real and come from a deep part of me but it doesn’t really feel risky anymore. I’ve said “fuck christianity” and “nothing matters” and “the bible is garbage” enough times that it’s not shocking, not to me or to you. If it offends you, you’re probably gone by now or used to it or whatever. This is nice. It gives me the space to speak candidly. But the performative vulnerability you see here is comfortable. I’m rarely nervous to mash that publish button.

What feels more vulnerable to me than faith these days is talking about writing.

///

The spiritual doubt has become familiar. I have befriended it. We are fine. But the self-doubt that keeps me from writing is always brand new. Even now it sits beside me on the couch and whispers in my ear. Here, I’ll transcribe it for you in real time:

You’re not a real writer. 

Nobody wants to watch a privileged straight white guy talk about his feelings.

This is boring. This is all you write about anymore. 

Can you be any more self-indulgent? 

So on and so forth. It’s not original, but it’s effective. Maybe that voice is right? Maybe this is fake, self-indulgent, unnecessary. But ultimately it’s just a few more pixels on the internet, another email in your inbox along a hundred others. Nothing matters. So I’m going to try to say something vulnerable, like the old days.

///

I didn’t set out to be a writer.

I set out to be loved by God.

I believed that in order to be loved by God I had to get my beliefs in order, but after too many years in bullshit church situations my entire worldview had collapsed under the weight of its own internal inconsistencies. As I tried to put the pieces back together, I found it helpful to write and share words. I found a lot of people (that’s you) doing similar post-bullshit faith stuff. So I tried to be as honest as I could in telling my story as it happened to me. Writing was a vehicle for the things I wanted to say about faith and God and the Bible and church.

In a way, that story feels …. complete. Not like I have “arrived” hahahahahaha no. But like a good ending to this particular installment. I was a Christian, then I doubted, now I am a Christian who doubts. Not a lot more to say about that at the moment.

But this thing, this becoming a writer thing,  I’m only just now at the end of the first act. I’m at the point where you cross the line between where you have always been and where you are going to be and you feel the safety of the familiar fade behind you.

What’s the big fuckin deal? Be a writer or don’t. If you write you are a writer. Etc etc. Get on with it.

///

But there’s this thing inside me that wants to be born.

The Words have a mind of their own and they don’t just want to be vehicles for a story about religion, they want to be their own living breathing thing.

And I am afraid of it.

It’s scary, but not like a monster. It’s scary like love. It’s scary like becoming a dad. It’s scary like:

I am not ready for this, and

I don’t know how to do this, and

I’m going to fuck it all up.

So instead of opening up my laptop and risking the moment of actual vulnerability when I look at the blank screen and wait for the words to come, I play it safe. Write a dozen essays in my mind but never commit them to paper unless I already know the beginning middle and end. Watch a movie because I’d rather see somebody else tell a story than risk taking one step further into the second act of my own. Throw a sentence or two into the dumpster fire of social media. It’s safe.

If you write you are a writer, yes. But this thing inside me is more.

It wants me to stop and listen. It wants me to show up and wait for it. It wants me to bring it out from somewhere deep in the shadows and let there be light.

It is not satisfied with being a “writer” — good at turning ideas into paragraphs, good at creating one decent sentence, then another, then another.

If that’s what it means to be a writer, then fine, I am a writer. I can turn ideas into paragraphs. I can create decent sentences and string them altogether. Look! I’m doing it now. That shit doesn’t scare me.

But if I am to be a writer in the way that this thing inside me wants to be a writer —

I guess the only way I know how to say it is this:

The Words want to be in charge now. The Words don’t want to be tools that I use to communicate my own ideas. The Words have ideas of their own, and they want to use me.

This is scary because there’s no metric of productivity by which I can quantify my own worth.

This is scary because it feels so goddamn presumptuous to say out loud.

This is scary because I am not in control anymore.

This is scary because I don’t know how this story ends.

///

But here I am.

 

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Confessions of a Reluctant Writer

February 1, 2019 | 4 minute read

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I stopped being vulnerable about faith a long time ago.

I still write things that are true and real and come from a deep part of me but it doesn’t really feel risky anymore. I’ve said “fuck christianity” and “nothing matters” and “the bible is garbage” enough times that it’s not shocking, not to me or to you. If it offends you, you’re probably gone by now or used to it or whatever. This is nice. It gives me the space to speak candidly. But the performative vulnerability you see here is comfortable. I’m rarely nervous to mash that publish button.

What feels more vulnerable to me than faith these days is talking about writing.

///

The spiritual doubt has become familiar. I have befriended it. We are fine. But the self-doubt that keeps me from writing is always brand new. Even now it sits beside me on the couch and whispers in my ear. Here, I’ll transcribe it for you in real time:

You’re not a real writer. 

Nobody wants to watch a privileged straight white guy talk about his feelings.

This is boring. This is all you write about anymore. 

Can you be any more self-indulgent? 

So on and so forth. It’s not original, but it’s effective. Maybe that voice is right? Maybe this is fake, self-indulgent, unnecessary. But ultimately it’s just a few more pixels on the internet, another email in your inbox along a hundred others. Nothing matters. So I’m going to try to say something vulnerable, like the old days.

///

I didn’t set out to be a writer.

I set out to be loved by God.

I believed that in order to be loved by God I had to get my beliefs in order, but after too many years in bullshit church situations my entire worldview had collapsed under the weight of its own internal inconsistencies. As I tried to put the pieces back together, I found it helpful to write and share words. I found a lot of people (that’s you) doing similar post-bullshit faith stuff. So I tried to be as honest as I could in telling my story as it happened to me. Writing was a vehicle for the things I wanted to say about faith and God and the Bible and church.

In a way, that story feels …. complete. Not like I have “arrived” hahahahahaha no. But like a good ending to this particular installment. I was a Christian, then I doubted, now I am a Christian who doubts. Not a lot more to say about that at the moment.

But this thing, this becoming a writer thing,  I’m only just now at the end of the first act. I’m at the point where you cross the line between where you have always been and where you are going to be and you feel the safety of the familiar fade behind you.

What’s the big fuckin deal? Be a writer or don’t. If you write you are a writer. Etc etc. Get on with it.

///

But there’s this thing inside me that wants to be born.

The Words have a mind of their own and they don’t just want to be vehicles for a story about religion, they want to be their own living breathing thing.

And I am afraid of it.

It’s scary, but not like a monster. It’s scary like love. It’s scary like becoming a dad. It’s scary like:

I am not ready for this, and

I don’t know how to do this, and

I’m going to fuck it all up.

So instead of opening up my laptop and risking the moment of actual vulnerability when I look at the blank screen and wait for the words to come, I play it safe. Write a dozen essays in my mind but never commit them to paper unless I already know the beginning middle and end. Watch a movie because I’d rather see somebody else tell a story than risk taking one step further into the second act of my own. Throw a sentence or two into the dumpster fire of social media. It’s safe.

If you write you are a writer, yes. But this thing inside me is more.

It wants me to stop and listen. It wants me to show up and wait for it. It wants me to bring it out from somewhere deep in the shadows and let there be light.

It is not satisfied with being a “writer” — good at turning ideas into paragraphs, good at creating one decent sentence, then another, then another.

If that’s what it means to be a writer, then fine, I am a writer. I can turn ideas into paragraphs. I can create decent sentences and string them altogether. Look! I’m doing it now. That shit doesn’t scare me.

But if I am to be a writer in the way that this thing inside me wants to be a writer —

I guess the only way I know how to say it is this:

The Words want to be in charge now. The Words don’t want to be tools that I use to communicate my own ideas. The Words have ideas of their own, and they want to use me.

This is scary because there’s no metric of productivity by which I can quantify my own worth.

This is scary because it feels so goddamn presumptuous to say out loud.

This is scary because I am not in control anymore.

This is scary because I don’t know how this story ends.

///

But here I am.

 

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