I have spent the last few days working long and hard on my next book. In particular, I was thinking about the writing process. This afternoon, working through the section on revision, it occurred to me that nothing so captures this process by which we create ourselves and our lives as the writing process.
We come first to generate and gather ideas of who or what we want to be, though like the inexperienced writer, we have no idea: we must learn to trust the process that leads us deeper into the self. But early on, those initial ideas: they are almost always wrong. I thought I wanted to study marketing and be a business man. And as I watch the young people in my life, both at school and at home, I can only understand what they are going through as some rough and tumble try at an initial self.
Then you move onto the drafting stage during which you try on all sorts of selves, some fitting better than others, each having some part of yourself as you are or hope to be. As the writer seeks the shape of thought, so, too, are we chasing some shape to our lives, unable to realize that we are living that pattern all the while. And this drafting process, which we mistake so often in our youth as an arrival at some final draft, is barely the beginning. We are a little bit like Rilke's monk in his cell, thinking:
I live my life in growing rings
which move out over the things around me.
Perhaps I'll never complete the last,
but that's what I mean to try.
I'm circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I've been circling thousands years;
and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm
or a great song.
Thus, even after that most complete draft, we realize we are only beginning to glimpse who we are, who we can be, what we want, what we are or could be. For to revise is to re-see, to re-envision, to re-imagine in the smithy of our imagination the greater self we aspired to be when we first set out.
As I enter into 2011, I hope for the courage to keep asking myself the questions that have kept me company these many years. And I hope you, too, will take time to revise yourself, keeping what you want, tossing the rest as you would a sentence or a word that no longer fits. And as you should when you write, dream big.
Enter into that conversation with your deepest self and take the time to listen. 2010 told me all sorts of things about myself and the world I did not know. These changed me in ways I am still striving to understand. LIke Rilke's speaker in the poem above, I do not yet know what I am, but I do know I have a song inside me and a voice that's mine to lift in prayer and praise.
What song do you want to sing this year?