A few weeks ago I went to the library for some quiet writing time. I got comfortable in my crazy geometric chair and waited while my laptop whirred to life. I turned my head and just let my eyes drift unfocused over the shelves behind me.
You know that technique in film-making in which the camera zooms in and dollies out? And it looks like the world is suddenly rushing past the stunned character while he or she is still? Well, that’s what that moment felt like. I saw each book as I see my own when I hold it — all the revolutions of rough drafts, the tears of frustration and grumbling over formatting, the many iterations of the cover image, the years of research I poured into it.
Each book has been cried over, laughed over, loved and hated, reworked, edited within an inch of its life, tossed in the trash and pulled out again, clothed in cover after cover until the perfect look is found. How many years of work are represented in these millions, billions of books? The ranks of silent words suddenly yelled at me of all the effort that has gone into making them appear on a library shelf for anybody to casually pick up, thumb through, or reject.
It left me breathless.
And my book is among them.
I felt honored. And now when I go to the library to write, I feel I am in good company.
I have ADHD, no hyperactivity. My symptoms displayed themselves so quietly, my parents didn’t notice until I was in high school. Then my disorganization, inability to focus, constantly spinning thoughts, and communication issues wreaked havoc on my senior year. I went into college getting to know myself and struggling to manage these disabling parts of me.
Writing was the one thing I did well. As letters formed on the paper, the thoughts in my head untangled and separated into a smooth new order. It didn’t matter whether it was a persuasive essay or a short story, I was able to communicate my ideas and be understood.
Then my church’s college group began a class in journalling, which is simply this: Focus on God, let him know you are listening, then write down what he says. Well, I’d felt twinges and leaps in my heart before — I thought that was how God spoke to me. Period. I was frustrated right off the bat. The man in the video made it all sound so simple. Everyone can journal. Everyone can hear God’s voice. You simply have to focus. Yeah, buddy, that’s never going to happen for me!
But I tried anyway. In my mind I went to the loveliest, loneliest place I could think of — a dock jutting out into a Massachusetts bay, little waves murmuring as they nudged the posts, a big moon shining like a spotlight on a tiny island bristling with dark evergreens. There in my mind Jesus sat next to me, legs dangling over the edge of the dock, and he turned his head and looked at me. When I asked him a question, he answered. I wrote it down, and the words kept coming — a soft whisper in my mind. Loving, chiding, amused.
I’ve been learning to listen for that voice throughout the day. Sometimes it’s in a song, a movie, a book, the words of total strangers, a “coincidence,” my Bible. He speaks to me, and I am always astounded by what he says!
My new project is a book about a young pregnant woman whose town experiences a somewhat lengthy power outage due to a major storm. Her husband is gone on a business trip. She doesn’t have any pets. Her world is suddenly silent. She begins to hear voices in her head, some that confuse and frighten her, some that are gentle and kind. Interesting things happen when she listens to the gentle voice, and horrible things happen when she listens to the confusing voice. So far it’s been fun to write, drawing a lot from my own experience and friends’ stories.
Up until now.
My physical, material situation hasn’t changed much, but something has shifted inside me. It feels tight, constricted, lonely, silent. God isn’t speaking to me in the same ways, and certainly not as often. Small words reach me like drips of water. The rest is static. White noise.
Now, it may be my fault that I’m not hearing him. Maybe my heart and mind are off, distracted, busy, iced over. But he did say a desolate time was coming. Winter. A winter of the soul.
How interesting. Right at the time of a new novel about hearing God’s voice.
Are my reality and my fiction so intermingled, so importantly tied together, that I must first live what I write about? Do I have to experience that silence my main character lives with before voices burst in on her world? Do I need to relearn what it is to hear God’s voice?
Maybe I’ve become arrogant. Maybe I’ve gotten used to him speaking to me all the time. Maybe he’s taken a step away to see what I’ll do without him so near me. Maybe it’s time I learned to simply stand when static buffets me. And trust he will speak to me again.