When I was a senior in high school I took a creative writing class. I thought that it would simply be an easy A, but it turned out to be my introduction to a love of writing. One of the exercises that my teacher made me routinely do was continuous writing. I had a composition book that I kept for the class and every now and again she would give me five minutes to write about anything that came to my mind. The catch was that I wasn’t allowed to stop writing for the entire five minutes. I wasn’t to worry about sentence structure or punctuation or even if what I wrote made any sense. The only assignment was to put pencil to paper for five minutes without stopping. She made suggestions like actually writing the words, “I have to write for the next five minutes and I have no idea what I am going to write about.” The idea wasn’t content, but output. She was pushing me to get into the habit of writing and allowing my creativity to burst onto the scene. She taught me that the biggest hurdle that any writer ever encountered was beginning. Through this activity she introduced me to the reality of accomplishing something by simply starting something. It never failed that every continuous writing exercise that she gave me resulted in a short story of some kind.
When I was engaged to Michelle I lost my job and her father, who was a contractor, took pity on me and gave me a job. He built houses and he allowed me to come and work for him. We went out and bought me a brand new tool belt, a hammer, some screw drivers, shingle knife, measuring tape, a mini igloo cooler and work boots. Off I went, on the job with my soon-to-be Father-in-law. When we got to the job site he gave me some very specific instructions about what I was to do. I got to work and when I finished my task I went looking for more direction. He gave me my next set of marching orders, of which I completed and then returned for my next set of instructions. This went on like this for the entire day, instructions given, task completed, more instructions sought. At some point in the mid afternoon, my Father-in-law’s patience was wearing thin. See, he wasn’t used to guys on his job not knowing what to do. So, having to stop every so often and take the time to tell me exactly what to do had worn on his nerves.
I approached the scaffolding that my Father-in-law was working on, seeking further instructions. He scowled at me, cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth, bandana tightly wrapped around his sweaty head, and simply grunted: “Do anything, even if it is wrong!” Little did he know that in that one momentary outburst of frustration he had given me the best life instructions that I had ever received. In his own way he was encouraging me to take initiative, to get started on something so that I could actually learn how and finally accomplish something. This took me back to my creative writing class, many years prior, and the lesson of just keep writing and see what happens. Every journey begins with a single step. If this step is never taken, nothing will ever be experienced and nothing will ever be gained. My teacher in high school taught me to just keep writing and my Father-in law taught me to take a risk and just try something, anything. Even if it is wrong, I would still be better off for the experience.
I share this because I find myself in that time when I need to begin again. It has been four months since I preached a sermon. It has been four months since I have led a Bible Study. It has been four months since I have taught a class, attended a meeting, played my guitar or even looked to the future. For the last four months my sole task in life was to live and to heal. It is now time to get back in the saddle, to put my pencil to paper and continuously write, to “Do anything, even if it is wrong!” I don’t know what this is going to look like, but with the voices of my Father-in law and my high school creative writing teacher in my ear, I am going to head out on September 1 to see what happens.
By the way, I had no idea what I was going to write about today. So, I simply decided to write anything, to sit down at the computer and start writing and see what happens. One of the many lessons that I have learned on this journey is that God will show up wherever and whenever. The echo is ringing in my ears: Just do anything, even if it is wrong and never stop writing!