Breath for the Bones: Be Brave with Words

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It still feels like a risk—this keeping of the journal. I started keeping the secret words in the fifth grade and when I was thirteen my little brother found them. My treasure trove was hidden well--in my bedroom wastebasket, cradled intimately under the liner. What he was doing there, I do not know, but he found the secret words and read them aloud to my mother. Words of anger about my parents’ divorce. Words that must have wounded deep when embodied in voice.

My secret thoughts are not so overwrought these days, but ever since that great reveal, there is a certain anxiety about writing them down. Who might discover? Who might be hurt? I stopped for a time. A long time, in fact. I am, after all, a grown up. Who has need of such juvenile things? But then I read Julia Cameron and she convinced me of the importance of dailiness in the writing life. I started those blasted morning pages and fell in love again. I discovered what Luci Shaw describes so well in chapter seven of Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith: this daily writing can become a map for artistic and spiritual growth.

As a writer, as a keeper of a daily reflective journal, I find that as soon as I put words and ideas onto paper in my notebook, or type them into my computer, they begin to gather to themselves more images, more words and ideas...A journal offers a way of entering into the process of personal reflection; discovering insight; and growing in maturity, self-understanding, and God-awareness…

I no longer call it a journal. Rather, it’s my idea book. In between the pages are bits of thoughts to think on, interesting words stumbled over, pieces of scripture to muse over, plans and dreams. Just…ideas. My scratchings these days resemble more Ann Kroeker’s curiosity journal than my teen diary with the long flowing narratives. I let the words go where they will.

In journal writing, creativity isn’t always carefully planned and programmed. Sometimes it’s just a matter of slowing down and giving the mind and soul time to be reflective and responsive, and then listening. And going with what you hear.

The slowing, the movement of my hand across the page—it acts as a kind of internal tuning fork—syncing my spirit with the Spirit and uncovering harmony.

I feel that keeping a consistent, personal journal is a form of prayer; as I write, honest and transparent to God and myself, I may become conscious of the divine presence directing my thoughts and conclusions. I sense that God is with me in the intimacy gained on these private pages…

But it still feels risky.

To write down the words, to step out of the everyday ordinary and write down a dream—this opens me up to fear. Fear that the words won’t fly, fear that they won’t come out right, fear that others might ridicule. Perhaps worst of all, fear that it won’t matter. But it also opens me up to possibility. And when I let go of fear, my life becomes a hands-in-the-air-free-fall Spirit-ride that brings the joy that safe-and-sound never knew.

Fullness of life in arenas of art and spirituality demands that we let go, that we relinquish control—something that goes against the human grain, particularly in a culture obsessed with empowerment…so long as the risky and innovative aspects of art are retained, so long as art mirrors the fervent creativity of a Creator who saw diverse and beautiful creatures in his mind and then spoke them into being…the guardians of faith may refuse it entrance to the holy precincts. Tame it, make it predictable and palatable, overlay it with a veneer of orthodox respectability, eradicate its irony and wit, control its passion and force, and maybe, maybe it will be allowed to slip inside the sanctuary and be shown to a back pew. The sterility of such a domesticated art shows us the dire results of ultimate control.

Be brave with words, Luci tells me. They can free us, she says. And awaken to beauty. In all its risk and in all its richness.

Join us next week as we discuss Chapter nine, Paying Attention and Chapter ten, Cultivating Creativity. If you'd like to join the conversation today, leave us a comment or link up below with more thoughts at your blog:

Image by Sean Stephens. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Laura J. Boggess.