Discover more from SLANT LETTER
SLANT LETTER: This One's for the Word-Weary
This one's for the word-weary.
My family drove eleven hours from Maryland to Michigan for Thanksgiving this year, and with them, a few old storage boxes of mine also made the trek. After they left, I cracked open a Staples printer paper box labeled “Steph’s Books” to find a time capsule or two in the form of some well-worn composition notebooks.
So somewhere in between the leftover turkey soup-making and the Gilmore Girls reboot marathon (what can I say, it was a day for nostalgia), I became thirteen again. Here’s what struck me the most: the words that people said about me at that formative age—whether best friends or boys, mean girls or well-meaning teachers—stuck on me. I believed every word, for better or for worse. What’s more, I didn’t even need the journal to remember them; they were that deeply ingrained.
I imagine you have carried some words with you, too.
Words can be weaponized, or they can be made sacrament. Poised to vandalize or to be offered up as gift. [tweet this]
This is what I think about as we close out a month in which many have opted out of social media because the words are just too many and too much, and a month in which we enter the first Sunday of Advent, signaling a season-long celebration of the Word made flesh.
In last month’s letter on trusting the process, I gave a sneak peek at what we’ll be diving into next:
The art of paying attention
The art of naming
The art of making connections
The art of the rough draft
The art of editing
But I wonder if we could use a brief word for the word-weary right now; at least, that sounds good to me.
In my life and work, the Incarnation has long been the place where I find my anchor, perhaps in part because this mystery of Word made flesh gives me hope for wholeness of my own. As writers, you are expertly aware that words are not meant to lie flat on a page but to rise up, take legs, and run.
By design, language is meant to be lived and embodied.
That’s why it matters so much [tweet this].
Eugene Peterson writes in Eat This Book, "Reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight." So if words are designed to be embodied, I want to take care to choose the ones that give life.
Shock value, click bait, hype pieces and propaganda have mayfly lives; they do not endure. So let 'em fuse out while you focus on building the kind of words that will hold up to time, and build others up too. The kind that forms rather than deforms. Because it's the words that give life and dignity that sustain a lasting echo that we actually want to hear.
This, friends, is why I’m so grateful for you. Keep at your craft. Do not be deterred—by ugly comment threads, unsaved documents, rejection letters, rough drafts, “off” days, or anything else. Keep writing and living the words which give life. That's exactly how you tell it slant, write like you mean it, and do it in style.
So today as always,
Take heart. Write on. You got this.
P.S. // A Prayer for Writers
SLANT LETTER is for the craft and soul of what you do as a writer. So for each issue, I want to focus on an element of the craft as well as a prayer for all of us anxious, ambitious, internet-exhausted writing folk. I hope this will refresh you as it does for me. Read it, print it, share it, whatever you like.