Prayer and Unbelief
The Mindless Life of the Mind (or, What Writers Do With Their Time)

Something Only I Can Write

Dillard "People Love pretty much the same things best.  A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.  Strange seizures beset us.  Frank Conroy loves his yo-yo tricks, Emily Dickinson her slant of light; Richard Selzer loves the glistening peritoneum, Faulkner the muddy bottom of a little girl's drawers visible when she's up a pear tree. . . . Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you. . . . You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.  (Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life

Well, that's it, then.  That's the challenge for me as a writer.  I need to find the thing that needs to be said, the thing that only I can say, even if no one else is interested in that thing.  No small task.

It's almost a presumptuous thing to think that only I can say a thing, only I can say it in a certain way, with a certain perspective, and yet it makes sense.  It's not, as Annie Dillard says here and later on, that anyone else will care.  That's the challenge too -- making them care, writing in such a way that they too are interested in this idiosyncrasy.

This flows from being made unique, being made in God's image, and being given a particular mix of certain gifts and abilities and particular good works to do that do not perfectly match anyone else's.  It doesn't mean that most have the degree of gift that say a writer like Annie Dillard may have, or more notable, Hemingway or Faulkner, but everyone gets some unique mix that enables them to do that good work or works they were put here to do.

It's just that it can be a perpetual quest to find it, a long quest to find the thing that only I can say.  Frederick Buechner gets at it here, when he says that "the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."  Gladness, and hunger.  I'm on the lookout, folks.

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