Why do you take notes?

March 22, 2014 — Lake Robinson, Hartsville, S.C.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable…”

I first read that line from 2 Timothy in elementary school. I was (and probably still am) quite a literal, black-and-white, reader. When I read the passage, I became convinced that “all scripture” might very well mean all writing.

After all, I reasoned, writing itself — an invention that lets an author speak to a reader who is not yet born — is surely a miracle. I loved the idea that that every stroke of a pen, just like every breath of a lung, was gift from God, an unknowable power from an infinite spirit.

Whether I was copying recipes while Mom baked, underlining Bible verses in church, or creating newsletters about the current state of affairs in the backyard, capturing my observations was, and still is, important to me.

Now fifty years past those first recordings, my practice of noting the ordinary, has been one of the habits for which I am most grateful.

When a moment is sublime, like a golden evening on the banks of Lake Robinson, writing about it feels a bit like praying — like holding a sacred treasure with deep reverence and hoping it might be possible to preserve it for another to see.

When a moment is upsetting, the good of writing is more dramatic.

For me, the act of writing about a problematic circumstance creates an urgently-needed distance between the me who is upset and my reporter-self who seeks to explain what happened to a future reader.

In that moment, when my attention turns from anxiety or fear or even grief to reporting, I become an observer, less defensive and less afraid. Choosing the most appropriate words to describe the situation is a responsibility and test. The truth demands my best effort. My future reader deserves it, too.

Writing asks me to consider my frame. What light is coloring my view? Am I leaning on truisms or cliché simplifications?

Every time I add an entry to my log, I find myself considering the reader. Will she see what I see? Will he be a Sherlock who notices a clue that I walked obliviously past? Can I offer them a surprise? Might there be a happy ending somewhere right beneath my nose?

I don’t know exactly what the Apostle meant when he wrote about scripture but, for me, writing is a godsend.


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