I started writing a blog almost four years ago partly because I hoped it would make writing, generally, come easier to me. (Or should that be “more easily”?)
It hasn’t worked out that way.
I write painfully slow. (Or should that be “slowly”? Well, yes, probably so if grammatical correctness is important (it is) but I like the sound of the line, the word this way. But I’m not sure; maybe it will trip up the reader if I say “painfully slow.” That wouldn’t be good).
Perhaps you can see part of my problem. And this, believe me, is just part of my problem . . .
I have a book project I need to devote my full attention to, so for a month this summer I’m going to reside at a Benedictine abbey and hope that the writing comes. Easier. More easily.
I’m not counting on luck or magic. I’m trusting that there really is something to the ancient wisdom of ordering one’s day, one’s life, around the rhythms of work and prayer.
I know there’s nothing romantic about this. It really is work. And prayer. Routine and habit. Tedium and fortitude. As Kathleen Norris observes of her early experiences as a Benedictine oblate,
One of the first things I noticed on my longer retreats, when I was with the monks in choir four or five times a day for a week or more, was how like an exercise class the liturgy seemed. It was sometimes difficult to rise early for morning office, at other times during the day it seemed tedious to be going back to church, but knowing that the others would be there made all the difference. Once there, the benefits were tangible, and I usually wondered how I could have wished to be anywhere else. When I compared all this to an aerobics class, a monk said, “That’s exactly right.”
I think that writing is like that, too. It’s the showing up that matters, the discipline of being present and attentive to the work, even when you don’t feel like it, even when nothing is coming–even when you wish to be anywhere else. Some days, if I can suggest a different athletic image, it’s like a 4-mile run with a breeze at your back and plenty of air in your lungs and strength in your legs. But on many days, you struggle, you trudge; it’s drudgery. But at least you got up, put on the workout clothes, and did the work.
For 30 days I’m going to show up, both for prayer and for the work. Neither may come easily. But I’m trusting, hoping, praying that by the end I will have wondered how I could have wished to be anywhere else.