Lent: Slow Down

amywink March 14th, 2018

Yesterday, I decided I needed to change this Lenten writing practice (yet again) and I took out my fountain pen and long-neglected journal instead of sitting at the computer or using my iPhone to write. This slowed my writing time considerably and since I am in my Spring Break, that was probably appropriate.

I write very swiftly on my iPhone, using the “notes” app to write out poems or ideas as they come to me. My thumbs are quite adept at the small keyboard (some observers have even remarked at my speed) and my fingers also generally fly over the computer keyboard as well–though I do not “type” with any kind of rigorously correct hand position. I have simply learned to type fast in my own way. I love these modern tools and do not plan to eliminate their use because of ascetic rigor. Technology has made writing very swift and some times I need that swiftness. Sometimes the phone is what I have handy to make a note with. It makes it easy to squeeze writing into any moment I may have. Technology has also made making changes simple and I can email my notes to myself and transfer them to the computer very quickly. Who would give that up? I explained to my students how easy some chores of writing have become, particularly the tedious things like creating a bibliography or changing text, since “Back In the Day” when we had to re-type anything in which we’d made even the smallest mistake.

But yesterday, I determined I needed to slow way down. I had lost some of the contemplative aspects of writing with the increased speed of doing it. I had lost the sensual nature of writing, the tangible connection between body and mind, and having sped up my writing, I also had lost an important aspect of creating: time. I knew I was losing this because I found myself covering much of the same territory in what I was writing, just staying with the same idea instead of having new ones. While this can be a kind of fundamental practice–how many ways can I use metaphor to say the same damn thing– it isn’t really creative, so much as process. I was doing the process but not creating something new.

So I went back to slow tools: a fountain pen and paper. This is really all we need to write, pen (or pencil) and paper. It’s a very inexpensive art (though also one denied those who cannot afford paper/pen OR who are expressly kept from writing by being denied literacy). I actually have rather luxurious writing tools because I have learned that treating my writing as worthy of beautiful tools makes me value the act of writing in a way that our culture does not, squeezing it in between more valued pursuits.

I have a Waterman fountain pen, a gift, that makes writing by hand (yes, in cursive) so palpably exquisite, it might be considered a sin to some who think that God never wants us to feel anything but misery. I do not think this way and to paraphrase Eric Lindell (Chariots of Fire), I feel God’s pleasure when I write with that pen.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is in the pen, the ink, or in the action of writing.

I also have notebooks of lovely Japanese paper whose maker claims proudly has “The Most Advanced Quality” and “Gives Best Writing Features.” I am charmed by those claims and also agree with them entirely.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is also in the paper.

With my lovely tools, I began to take time and write much more slowly, much more deliberately, and also much more privately, which is also a necessary aspect of writing and perhaps not coincidentally, recommended aspect for prayer. Not everything needs to be public at the moment of its inception, the very beginning of the conversation. It takes time to be create an idea. It takes time to understand what exactly is being shared. It takes time to develop the art.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is in the time.

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