Overwhelmed with the Ordinary

James Dickey said that a writer is,

…someone who is enormously taken by things anyone else would walk by…

I read this in a book I found on our shelf in the school room. It is called The Art of Teaching Writing, and it is written by Lucy Calkins. This is one of those books I remember as a “must have” among elementary teachers. Of course, I have never read it cover to cover. The elementary teaching schedule just would not allow it. But I have read it in pieces, a little here, a little there. And what I have read is compelling.

Then (in the elementary days) I read it with a desire to teach others. Now, I read it with a desire to teach myself. I have this passion to write. To communicate well and beautifully. But I often find myself with the same frustrating cry that my fourth graders back in the ’90’s held to with such abandon – “I don’t know what to write.” And so it is. And so it has been.

But this quote above liberates a writer. And at the same time, it commands, “If you are to write, you must notice,” it almost seems to say. It is in the little things each day that mammoth things are written about. I think of William Carlos Williams, and the extravagance he found in the plums or with that wheelbarrow beside the white chickens. Forgive me if this sounds too dramatic, but those simple words just seem to melt my heart and jellify (I know that’s not a word) my legs.

And I think of the John the Apostle, and his elementary language. How the Gospel of John has left me speechless so many times. Just the things John noticed and wrote, seem to act as a lever for me – getting underneath the Scriptures, and heaving them up, that I might look beneath for buried treasure.

So I am left with the desire to do the same. To notice things that others miss. And to write about these things. I am thankful for so many writers before me who have had these same pangs. These that are only relieved by the beauty of simple words.

1 comment

  1. I love you, and your beautiful writing. I always have. You know I still have the term paper you wrote in college which was titled, “Mom, I Think She’s The One”. Using the above quote…thank you for being enormously taken by “someone” that anyone else would have walked by.

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