“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome
I have spent much of my spare time over the past ten days reviewing the last two years of my writing. Some of it is good. In fact, I gathered some of my poetry into a collection and sent it out in hopes of having it published. Since that was something I have promising myself I would do for years, it was a great feeling of accomplishment.
That said, as I paged through my meditations, prayers, letters to God and poetry in order to categorize my blog entries, I realized that some of what I have written and posted is not so good. I found myself wincing as I read over-dramatic ramblings and sickening sweet lines of poetry that would make even the Hallmark channel turn away. For a while, I was a bit horrified that these immature and less-than-professional writings of mine were out there for anyone to see, until somewhere along the way, the wincing stopped, and I simply became bored. It was when boredom set in that I had a horrible thought – what if what I am writing has bored God?
I looked up at the quote I have over my computer, written by Thomas Merton, and realized something I had never previously understood about it:
“If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men – you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write only for yourself you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted you will wish that you were dead.”
What I realized reading that quote this time around is something I hope all writers out there will know deep down in their hearts. You see, the reason I put that quote over my computer was because of a surface understanding I had when I read it. I wanted to always remember that I need to be writing for God – that anything else is not good enough because it is just to serve my own ego and my human desires. But what I read in that quote now, after having spent so much time reading (and wincing at) my own writing is this: All three types of writing that Merton describes are essential to the life of a writer. I must write for myself, even if I cannot bear to read it afterwards, for that is when I uncover the authenticity of myself and my life. I must write for men, for that is when I learn what helps others and how much a part of this world I truly am. And then, when I write for God alone, that is when what I write will be “good.” That is when it will be accepted for publication and available to many. That is when my eyes will read what I have written and my heart will know that the pen was guided by God’s Spirit within, not by my own understanding. And, that is why I opened this bit of rambling with the quote by St. Jerome. I must never rest when it comes to the practice of writing. I must keep on writing – whether for myself, others, or God. For it is when I stop writing that I will become so bored that I will wish I were dead.
Thank you for your thoughts and points to think about.
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Well said. Beautiful and very insightful.
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