“It’s just like Charlie Brown!”
I knew my stepmother’s words came from a place of affection, but it didn’t feel like it. I had worked diligently on this short story about a young boy and his debilitating crush on a girl. Her words had reduced my work to a story that could be slapped into the Sunday funny pages. I knew it was meant to be a compliment, but I took it as an insult.
But that wasn’t enough to deter me from writing, and a brand new electric Smith-Corona typewriter for my 12th birthday only encouraged the habit. A few years ago, I ran across a piece I wrote on that typewriter. It was an insipid short story about a guy who was imprisoned for his beliefs about banning nuclear weapons (for some reason, this was the giant shocker at the end of the piece) and how he had scratched out the number of days he had lived in a dank prison cell. I didn’t remember writing the piece, but I was struck by my own ability, despite all of the typos and grammar issues, to write with such heart.
What I do recall is one evening of writing, seated in a marred wooden swivel chair and a matching desk. It was late, and I had been writing awhile. I wasn’t writing for a teacher. I was writing for me. I had lost track of time. I could tell you it was a few minutes, but in reality it might have only been a few seconds. I don’t know. What I do know is that I felt as if I had a direct connection with God. I felt as if everything I was doing – whether it was right or wrong – was divine. My words weren’t golden, but the experience of pecking out words with my index fingers was.
I’ve read of writers who talk about losing their own identities while they write. Some even talk about the Muses whispering in their ears. Others suggest that they aren’t the ones even writing, that they’re simply the conduit for something greater.
Maybe that’s why we write, to prove that we are made in God’s image. Or maybe we do it just to see – by the simple act of putting words to paper – if we can reconnect with our maker. Who knows?
What I do know is that ever since that late-night moment, every time I sit down to write, I hope for that kind of experience again. A few times I’ve come close. Most of the time I haven’t. But I show up anyway, praying that this time is it.