“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day… You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning…” Walter Moseley
Friends of Padre Steve’s World. Five years ago I began to write on Padre Steve’s World…Musings of Passionate Moderate.
The name was chosen for a number of reasons. Padre Steve’s World hearkened back to one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits and later films, Wayne’s World. The idea of musings is fairly self explanatory, these are, regardless of the subject my musings, inspired by whatever muse inhabits me. Finally the idea of a “Passionate Moderate” hearkened back to my days in seminary. Passionate and moderate are not terms that one generally links together, in fact when I was in seminary the term moderate was a term of distain used by some Christian Conservatives and Fundamentalists to vilify those that did not match their definition of a conservative. I chose the two ideas because to many people, on the right and the left cannot imagine a “Moderate” being passionate.
However that moderation does not mean that I do not have strong ideas, beliefs and convictions, even when I can see truth in what others who do not agree with me have to say. Over the past five years my identity has become more established. I am a moderate, but in some ways I am a progressive liberal, in others a conservative. Regardless of where I fall in the religious, social and political continuum I am passionate about what I believe, I do seek the truth, but at the same time I attempt to maintain a moderate view that allows me to hear what others say and believe with an open heart.
Padre Steve’s World began as a place to share my struggles with faith, PTSD and its effects on my life and coming home from war changed. It was something that was born out of pain, but also born out of love, love for writing, love for truth, love for justice and love of knowledge.
As I began to write my life was coming apart, and writing became a place where could express my inner angst, find community and begin to heal. Engaging my creative muse enabled me to share those things that it was hard to do anywhere else. Many times those were the hardest things to say, the hardest things to put down in pen and ink, the things that were the secrets of my heart. Sometimes, just trying to write them was gut wrenching and filled my eyes with tears. But as I wrote, I discovered myself, discovered people for whom what I wrote resinated, and others that Stephen King said something that finds an echo in my life and heart:
“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”
That being said when I began much of what I wrote about was either dealing with my struggles or about things I knew a lot about. Those subjects included history, military subjects, theology and the Christian life and baseball. As I began to expand my writings the topics broadened to include political commentary, music, civil rights and the role of religion in public life.
When I did this I decided not to shy away from controversial topics and to risk the rejection of some. The consequences of this his became quite real in September of 2010 when I was told to leave a church that I had served for 14 years as a Priest. Since then I still write about topics that are controversial, though I do try my best to be fair when I do so.
Mark Twain advised writers to “write what they know.” Fortunately for me that was not hard, I know a lot about a lot of subjects. That is not a boast, but merely a recognition that between a lot of academic study, a lot of reading and a lot of life experience I have a pretty good repository of knowledge, including a lot of odd knowledge. That would make me a Keeper Of Odd Knowledge, or KOOK. I can live with that too.
That being said I am not one to think that I know it all, I follow the advice of the late manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Earl Weaver that “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Since PTSD and the Moral Injury that I had suffered in Iraq was kicking my ass when I began to write, and I was finding that I really didn’t know much of anything that I thought I knew about life I did take this advice to heart.
Stephen King noted that “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” The fact is I have always been an avid reader, mostly of history, military history and theory, church history, theology, biography and other more academic writings from the social and political sciences. I do not read a lot of fiction, however that being said there are some books as well as book series that I like. I love fiction that deals with history, as well as mysteries and science fiction, the latter because both lure me into the realm of possibility and mystery, subjects that fascinate me.
The fact that I read a lot inspires me to write on a wide variety of subjects. Likewise the more I write the more I become conscious of life as well as a desire to seek out truth, and when I write, whether it is something to do with history, faith, baseball or even my occasional forays into fiction and fantasy. As I do this it makes me appreciate the other writers even more, because I no longer see them just in light of what they write, but how they struggle with the same things I struggle with, I can appreciate the truth and beauty in what they write, and it decreases my sense of isolation, which since Iraq has often been crushing. I can agree with Annie Lamott wrote:
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”
I read all the time and I try to write every day, if I cannot do that I feel that I have missed out on something. If I do not write it is almost if I have missed breathing. My mind is constantly musing on things to write about and sometimes it is only the fact that I have a day job that keeps me from writing even more than I do. Like Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) in Blazing Saddles I have to admit that “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” But I digress…
Admittedly I do write a lot and I do try to write every day. Not counting what I do for work, academic pursuits or teaching I have posted over 1700 articles on this website since I started it in February 2009. If I ever take the time to organize and edit what I have on this site there is probably enough for several books.
For me writing has been part of my quest for healing, the discovery of truth and the desire to be part f a community of people that is bigger than me, or anything that I can do on my own. It really is about life, and if as some would think that I am a fool for doing this, then that is their loss. I don’t mind being considered a fool in this quest. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 wrote:
“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”
I can agree with Bradbury’s thoughts on this. I do not know what the future holds. If I were God I would live to be one hundred years old and be active reading, writing, thinking and interacting with others who seek truth.
So tonight I wish the writers, artists and thinkers who read this the best. To close I provide you the benediction of Bradbury:
“I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”