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On Making Things Needlessly Complicated

alec vanderboom

While I'm talking about the writing life, I'll press the issue forward into a deeper lunge.

I got a lot of bad advice about writing as a kid. Now, I wasn't well supported or well nourished or well prayed over as a kid, so I entered school weaker than most.

What I didn't understand as a kid, is that writers that I most respected, just went out and did it. They took a low-paying job to pay the bills--usually in something physical like laundry or house painting, and then they wrote at night. Often times they had a spouse and sometimes a kid. Guess what happened? They still wrote.

What happened to me in public school and later college, I didn't get taught writing by people who were actually writers. I got taught by elementary school teachers, English teachers, and later English professors.

Those people had an unseen "dog in the fight." Those people had a vested interest in telling me: "Writing is hard. Writing is complicated. Writing takes lots of time and lots of training."

The problem most of these people had is that "they weren't writing." They were blocked creatives. They were the type who chose a "stable career" in teaching writing, as a back up to actually going out and writing fascinating fiction of their own.

So the unseen message that they taught me (and were really just telling themselves) is that unless you can write as good as Virginia Woolf or Victor Hugo, don't bother writing at all.

But the world already has Victor Hugo.

It doesn't yet have an Abigail Benjamin.

Prayer is uncomplicated. It's not easy to have persistence in prayer. but it's not complicated. (Thank you St. Teresa of Avila for teaching me this). People have all kinds of vested interest in teaching you "Oh, prayer is hard. Leave contemplation to the experts. It's the job of the priests and the Religious to pray, not ours." That outlook is totally wrong. Every single one of us on this earth is going to have an easier time in life if we start listening more to God in prayer.

Exercise is uncomplicated. It's boring. It's hard. It's hard to practice persistence in a new fitness plan, but it's not complicated. Put on your tennis shoes and move your body--in any way,in any form, for slightly longer than yesterday.

Writing isn't complicated. Write a little more this week than last week. Write with a little more courage and a little less self-awareness each time. Once you get going in your writing, form a super trust-worthy group of writing friends. This is your "community." Writing, prayer, and exercise is something that you do manly by yourself, for yourself--but community is necessary to push you harder than you think you can go.

I thank God so much for the safe community of my marriage. My husband, Jon, encouraged me to grow as a risk taker and as an authentic human being. I started to write on this blog the same way I talked to him. Now, I have this real community of writer friends--almost all women--that is beautiful. The positive experiences I'm having online with female friends who live far away from me, has made me so much stronger and less co-dependent with "local" female friends. I'm saying no to more things I don't want to do, and saying yes to things that charge my soul. Things are all shifting around and its really neat.

 Love is uncomplicated.