Thoughts of writing come less and less frequently these days. This is not surprising, I suppose, with All The Rest that is going on. I don’t expect to do much writing in the school year.
But with that lack a fear comes, I think– a fear not unfamiliar and not un-overcome in the past, not undefeated, no, but real and seemingly portentous nonetheless (when will I learn?): I will not ever write anything ever at all.
There are all sorts of measures to combat such things. Writing days, for example, or writing afternoons. Of which I have had none in months, and none looming. No Time, No Time. Writing here sometimes helps. It may not be anything that requires any kind of sustaining (and there, O Reader, is the rub, yes?), but writing on these pages can show me, from time to time, that I can, in fact, write. That helps. Yet this, as I’ve said on these pages even recently, seems Difficult.
Then yesterday I realized something important, something that seems as though it might help: I Need to Read.
It’s not that I’m not reading. I’m almost through Augustine’s Confessions, for heaven’s sake, and I’m making my way through Wordsworth’s Prelude. But these are for a class I’m taking, and neither author of those texts produced (in those instances) anything like what I’m going for. I also do a good bit of reading for teaching. I recently acquired J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. With my students, I just read Amadeus, and before that, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. When it comes down to it, I am reading All The Time: my students are forever submitting work that I must Read, and Study, and Think Through. And many of them are Good Writers. And all of them are Improving.
But none of them– neither students nor Wordsworth nor Packer– is creating even close to the kind of thing I’d like to create. Someday. When I have the Time.
So yesterday I decided that, to save myself, I Must Read. Must. Read. Some Good Prose. Some Thoughtful Prose. Something Fiction.
It felt like a luxury, really it did, to open the book that had lain so long on my nightstand, and to know that I was reading this for no one other than myself. My very own self. My own thinking and reading and writing self. And it felt So Much Better.
“I picked him up in my arms and I carried him home.”
So Nathan would end the last of the stories of his childhood as he told it to our children.
This was in 1940. Nathan was sixteen. He and Jarrat, his dad, his dad’s brother, Burley, and his grandpa Dave– the three of them had gone down into the river bottom, taking a team and wagon, to help a neighbor put up hay….
Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter