Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Exactly what?

Exactly what did Sir Francis Bacon mean when he said,

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, writing an exact man."

As I ask myself that, it brings to mind the quote,

"Language most shows a man; speak, that I may see thee."
~ Ben Jonson

or as Arthur Henry King restates it,

"Write that I may see thee."

With so many writing blogs these days, that's a lot of people exposing themselves to the world. So dare I venture forth into that throng of people? The answer always added up to a "no" until now.

Two years ago I listened to an audiobook version of, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. I thought the book would give me a creative boost to help me delve into any form of creativity, not just writing. Actually, music composition was what I had in mind. Although I have recently dabbled in arranging some pieces, the book mostly impelled me to want to . . . well, write!  I listened to the book and remembered how as a child I used to punch holes in a stack of paper and tie them together with yarn to make little books of my own under the pen name of Elizabeth Montgomery - it sounded regal to my 7 year old mind. Ironically enough,

I named my second daughter Elizabeth (4) and now, my first daughter, Elise (9), is often entertaining us with her own little paper books and stealing my laptop to work on stories with titles like "The Blue Fright Crystal" or "How to Beat Bed Problems" or a book of poems about "Child Sense, Animals, Colors and Shapes."

Okay, I've gone astray from my topic - I do that. So, the book. It re-lit the fire in me. I wanted to write regularly, creatively, non-creatively, whatever - just so long as it was writing. I spent hours on a fiction book called "Essence" about music, musicians, and romance with a touch of fantasy (that being the trend at the time). I wrote nearly 17 chapter outlines for it and many thousands of words, but with so little regular time spent on it, I kept changing my mind about what it really should be about. I have 6 version of it currently filed away on this MacBook. I still can't shake the kernel idea, but I realized that I need to learn a lot more and become a lot more before moving forward. I'll know when to dust it off. And I still add bits here and there, now and then.

It wasn't just Brenda Ueland's book that helped me see the value in writing. My husband really started it.

He used to routinely wake as late as possible (by that, I mean you couldn't convince him to wake before 7:00 and it was often later), rush to work, come home spent, exhausted, and moody, eat dinner and then only have enough energy to watch TV or a movie before going to bed around 11. During some trying financial circumstances during my fourth pregnancy three years ago, he made a conscious change in his habits and within weeks he was a man who jumped out of bed at 4:45 or 5:00 am - anxious to do something "as exciting as seeing Iguazu Falls", took a "power shower", locked himself in his study and prayed on his knees on a wood floor because "that's the best way to focus and not fall asleep," spent one to two hours reading and writing about the things he studied, and drew illustrations that would help him liken what he learned to his life all in what eventually were his own uniquely designed hand-made leather journals. (Get used to long sentences if you read my blog. :)

He did this for over a year consistently and still does (just not as early all the time). He comes home happy, enthusiastically telling me about all the experiences he had helping other people during the day, he's still pretty worn out, but movies are now only once or twice a week, are more on the educational side and we'd rather not spend the $20 a month that you now have to pay for even just local channels, so we have no TV/cable and will often read together as a family at night (something we failed to have enough desire to actually implement thus far - besides kids picture books).

Adam did what Sir Francis Bacon suggested. He started reading, and not just any book, but good classic books and core - scripture - books. Ones that you can find truth in, that are worth reading more than once, that speak to you differently every time you read them. He started discussing them - even if it was with himself. "Why did the writer use that word?", "What does that mean?", "How does that apply to me?" And he started writing down the answers that he could come up with, seeing the parts that weren't so "exact", thinking some more and writing it again until it was good enough to write by hand in his "insight" journal. Then, because he's such an artist and visual learner, he'd even tie in the visual aspect with a little drawing in the upper left corner of each page or more.

It is incalculable the effect my husband's seemingly small change of making reading and writing a priority each morning has had. It has strengthened our marriage, our family, improved our financial situation, given evidence to our faith - thereby increasing it - and created valuable life experiences we wouldn't have had otherwise.

With all this, you'd think I would have started following his example. At least after I had the baby. But then there were the many night feedings, the early morning feeding and then the kids getting up and needing breakfast, then the move etc. etc. I had too many good excuses. So I watched him transform and was transformed by him while I did my own watered down version which looked more like - getting my reading in while nursing, or while kids napped. 80% of my reading was modern fiction novels that I'd sometimes stay up until 2 am reading and the really great classics fell into the other 20%. And in that smaller margin there would be sometimes 10 or more books that were only glanced through and tasted, but never devoured or finished.

So, I love reading, could do better in what I read, but have never had much success getting to the writing part. I'm okay at the personal record-type journal entries and have a beautiful journal from Adam with a couple "likenings" inside, but I can't help comparing the value of what I've taken the time to write with the three (so far) heirloom quality journals my husband has created. I let myself become distracted by dishes, email, or whatever else when there is time to write.

Well, I'm changing that. I've felt the itch for a while and have been making progress. I feel ready to take the next step. It is a truth that no matter how much we know we need to change something or do something (like lose weight), it just won't really happen until we've reached that point where we are sick enough with the way things are, or in my husband's case, desperate enough because of where things are likely to head, that we'll finally commit to those actions that will bring the change we desire. I'm to that point. From watching Adam, I believe what SFB says is not only true, but that it describes a powerful process that I feel a desire to follow.

So. I have decided to join the throng of bloggers. To publicly announce my goal of reading classics, thinking and discussing them and writing to liken them to my life. I do this knowing it will push me to do what I have long put off doing. In the process, if anyone actually reads this blog, they may see me as a person I don't realize I am. They may see me more clearly than I see myself. I am sure I see myself "through a glass darkly" like most people do, but I will trust in the process. I'll re-read and re-write myself into a person who knows "exactly" who she is, what her purpose is and how she can give to others in her own unique way.

That is, if I can get up the gumption to press the "publish post" button . . . .

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