Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Icy Clutches of Writer's Block

This is the first draft of what will become a brief bit of prose about nothing in particular. You see, I've lost my muse; an event which ranks amongst the top three lousy things that can happen to a person (along with having your wallet stolen and being stuck in an elevator with a chatty tobacconist).

That last sentence took me four and a half minutes to write. When one has their muse, the sentences roll out like discounts at a General Motors dealership. Without such inspiration, it can take a lifetime to eek out a single clause, leaving you underwhelmed and disappointed upon its arrival, wondering if it was worth the wait—not unlike an OJ Simpson conviction.

Perhaps I lack things to write about. When we first began to address you as missionaries, life was new and exciting. Every day was a fresh adventure. The culture was accosting us from every side, leaving us tickled and bemused. Each week, it seemed, I was off in some new area of Mindanao, living life to the full. Many a time I was left with the challenge of telling you about my day in 1500 words or less. There was so much to say. I could tell you of my treks through rivers, or my tours of federal prisons. I could even dazzle you with tales of woe upon returning from the grocery store. Somehow Bethany and I managed to write 79 blog entries in our first six months here. If you look at the side bar to your right you will see that we have yet to reach that mark in the year since.

Alas, I fear my life has become a bore. No, not a bore, but certainly familiar. I have little time for mountainous journeys or 14 hour inter-provincial bus rides. What am I to write? Shall I regale you with the wonders of a soiled nappy? Perhaps you would like to hear of my 2 hours on the phone this morning? I could paint you a vivid picture of our daily 4am feeding. Dare I risk revealing that life as a missionary can, at times, appear no different from that of the North American suburbanite? Will my audience think less of me when they discover that I spend most of my days, not with the poor, but in board rooms and coffee shops, or at home with a 3 month old baby and a 17 inch notebook computer?

Am I getting things done? Certainly. Am I accomplishing my goals? It would appear so. But surely people expect more. This is supposed to be life on the edge. We're those crazy kids who sold all their possessions and crossed an ocean to bless the poor. Shouldn't we be living in a grass hut at the edge of the jungle somewhere? Instead, you get coffee induced ramblings about a business meeting. There go my hopes for a book deal...

Please understand me. I do not mean to say that having a baby has left me stuck in the city. On the contrary. Bethany has done a masterful job of organizing her homework schedule so that there is time for me to be out and about. What has changed is the way I spend that time. I am currently laying the groundwork for a major expansion of the water project. This requires me to meet with various NGOs and community developers, as we begin to partner together to reach a much larger segment of the Filipino population. I have seen my role change from being a hands-on filter installation guy, to being a big picture guy. I love the big picture and I'm really excited about where we're going, but some days I have a craving for more.

Part of my difficulty is that I'm wired to be creative. My hobbies include music, writing and photography. For some reason I have allowed my creative juices to run dry. I still play on the worship team at church, and I dutifully run for my camera every time Promise is being cute—I'm glad the days of film are behind us, or I'd be putting Mr. Fuji's grand kids through college—but when was the last time I sat and banged on my guitar just for fun? It's been months since I went out on a photo hunt, which is one of my favorite ways to pass the time.

God brought me here to bless the poor, and somehow my current activities are doing just that.
But He also designed me to enjoy Him and worship Him through artistic expression. Perhaps part of my longing for abundant life will be satisfied in a recrudescence of that expression. Often times, I feel closest to God when I am blessing the poor, or when I'm taking a photograph. My current to-do-list may appear lengthy and mildly innocuous, but I could probably find more time for creative things, and I probably should find more time to be with the poor.

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a season for everything. I guess this is the season for soiled nappies and business meetings. I recognize that I'm still in the opening pages of the wonderful story that God has written for my life, and I truly do enjoy the hours that I spend holding my beautiful Promise. But I won't lie to you, there are days that I am sorely tempted to flip ahead a few chapters to see what kind of mischief He's going to get me into next.

I leave you with a few pics of Birdie on the Jolly Jumper, on loan from Chad and Naomi. It turns out it is very difficult to focus the lens when she is jumping up and down.



unklrbrt said...

Hang in there!

Manual focus should work!



Anonymous said...

Having been with you on the outreach, I totally understand your heart for going into the back woods and reaching the poor. They are marvelous people. But, alas, we all must return to the less-than-exciting activities that require our attention...like changing nappies. (I love that term, by the way.) This too shall pass. Enjoy the experience and keep writing about it for us. Doesn't seem like writer's block has really happened and you certainly are doing great with the photo shoots with Promise. Hangin out with her... priceless!
Love ya,
Mom Mc

Anonymous said...

If that's writer's block then I'd like to catch it. I love your muse. I really understand missing the time for the creative; it's hard to find. We'll hope for some artsy pictures soon, and let's have some music fun when we come.I know meetings are a drag, but I also know how many poor will be reached as a result.
Promise is changing so quickly; I'm glad we'll be there soon. Praying for your journey this week. Love to all, Mum

Anonymous said...


Keep writing. You made me laugh out loud.

heather said...

My goodness, she certainly is your child. What a doll.

May I offer a few suggestions from a fellow writer (Trust me i'm saying this to myself as much as I am saying it to you)?

1. All of the things you do there in the Phils are interesting to your readers (most of us being in North America) simply because you're doing them IN THE PHILS. Hell, you could probably write about crossing the street and it would seem colorful and interesting to us. It's all about perspective. The day-to-day may seem mundane to you because it's become YOUR day-to-day but I'm definitely interested and I bet others are too and we want to know what the sidewalks look like, dangit!

2. Maybe instead of trying to carve out time to be "creative" just try incorporating creativity into your day-to-day. A random picture of B doing homework, or a self-portrait of your morning business call shot in an off-beat way. Never know, could spark something more. And for goodness sake, write to us about the dirty diaper if that's what you have to write about. No shame in that. I bet that the elusive "muse" you seek will come - even admist a dirty diaper.

3. Rest in the knowledge that you are a creative person. Period. And I'm convinced that you can't lose it. God built it right in. Stop stressing out about goals and creative time and space. I like to think of my creativity like a muscle. It gets stronger when I exercise it and (perhaps) weaker if I don't but it's always there and there are LOTS of ways to exercise that creative muscle. Plus it sounds to me like you're being awfully creative with this water project so quite beating yourself up, dude! Tell us what the the board room looks like or about the inside of a water filter - I'm curious!

You can also take heart in the fact that as long as you are writing something - anything - you'll have readers. I mean, I'll be here reading and I KNOW your mothers will be, so that's three ... :)