By Tom Ehrich
Rarely does anyone ask a writer how he goes about writing. (If anything, people probably want to ask, "Why do you bother?")
But as I press on in "Fresh Day" digital magazine to seek "fresh words about faith," I was grateful for a longtime reader of my daily meditations when he said, "I'd love to know your process."
Here is my response to him:
Thanks for asking about my process of writing. I follow a course that I figured out over the years, not anything I was taught. It's based on the power of story and the need to explore, not to write the familiar or well-vetted.
I select a verse from the upcoming Sunday's Gospel reading. Then I go back over the day just past and listen for a story that relates to the reading. An incident, large or small, a glimpse that promises, through intuition at least, to make a connection. I explore the glimpse, and I find that it brings me to a fresh understanding of the Biblical text. Life illuminates Scripture, rather than the other way around.
I write to length: 479 words exactly. Not to be obsessive about it, but to drive myself to economy of language, crisp sentences, or as Yossarian said in "Catch-22," "Death to adverbs."
I don't worry about saying everything that could be said, or meeting customary expectations about a text. I try to avoid churchy language. I don't worry about doctrine. The point is the glimpse, not fealty to legacy thinking.
I'm trying now to seek out fresh words about faith and about our responses to God in community. I can't say exactly what that means, just that I want to sniff out the stale as I go and put it aside, and then follow the fresh wherever it leads.
Writing is an act of discovery, after all, not an expression of what I already know.
The process used to be harder, because I allowed myself to be constrained by tradition and expectations. Now that I have pushed out into open sea, the wind is always present.
Thanks again for asking.
(Here is a link to the latest issue of Fresh Day: http://goo.gl/oUJYiu)
(Here's a link to the latest issue of Fresh Day magazine: http://goo.gl/oUJYiu)