A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Committee

In this post, I thought I would introduce some people who are very close to me and who are an integral part of my writing process. Of course, none of them are actual real people, and with that said, you can thank (or blame) my friend Allison who told me that writing about this group would be a fun blog idea.

Awhile back, I read Anne Lamott’s book Grace (Eventually), and in one part, she talks about “the committee” who appear with her whenever something scary, confusing, etc. happens. These fictitious people drive her nuts with "helpful" thoughts, along the lines of an axe murderer may be waiting for her around the corner, it is certain the car she’s traveling in will crash so she should jump out now, etc. Helpful, helpful, helpful. (Note: I am neither recommending nor not recommending her book.)

I laughed through that chapter, but then it got me to thinking about my own “committees”, and since I was in the middle of a couple of writing projects with approaching deadlines—causing me some stress—all of a sudden a picture became crystal clear to me of why this process can be so exasperating to me. And why I need to find the joy in it.

I have a board of directors. Any time a writing opportunity is presented to me, the board convenes. I don’t know where these people go when I don’t have anything to write, but when there is a project in front of me, I can’t really get to work on it until the board has rendered a decision on what will be written and how. The universe apparently sends them a memo alerting them to the fact that an assignment has been issued to me, and so they come from their various locations and enter into a large conference room in my head where they meet and hash out what the message is to be given. I don’t know who set the rules for all of this, but I don’t think it was me. Anyway, this is a cantankerous group that doesn’t always get along so well, and there are times I find myself banging on the door to the conference room, pleading with them to please get to work so I can get to work!

I’d like to pause here, a little out of fear that some of you reading will unsubscribe now, certain I need some sort of counseling. To this I say two things. 1) These are the things that go on in a writer’s mind. Really. 2) I probably do need some counseling, but not for this reason.

My board consists of the following. None of these people have actual names, which in my mind signifies that I have not crossed over the line that separates quirky creativity from paranoid delusion. I’m also sure that why they have the personalities and genders that they each do represents something else to be analyzed, but I’m too busy for that today. Anyhow...

The Theologian:

His job is to ensure that what is written is biblically sound and accurate. He’s a passionate guy, a little intense, because he knows that his reputation is riding on making sure he’s representing Truth. But much more importantly, he longs for people to know the God who loves them and that He knows each of them, and that understanding scripture is a key to opening the door to a life of freedom and grace and worship. However, at times, paradoxically, he’s so inspired and alive with the truth of scripture that he loses sight of the fact that there’s an actual broken and loved person right next to him.

The Editor:

She’s also intense; a driven woman. Her gift is to zero in on the errors so that a polished piece is presented. It’s not that she’s a perfectionist who desires to tear others down. She just lives in a pursuit for excellence, and so it makes her seem a little cold and detached. It kills her when she misses a mistake, though, so she remains driven to points of confusion at times. She hasn’t quite learned yet that external excellence isn’t necessarily the determining factor when it comes to internal treasure.

The Spiritual Director:

He is there, filled with both hope and joyful lament, speaking to the human experience and longings of the heart and soul. He reminds the board that whatever words may come forth should bring a healing touch to the soul that would receive it, through loving kindness, humor, exhortation, and maybe even a little preaching, but never out of a judgment that isn’t born out of the grace received from experiencing his own failure first. This, he can never forget.

The Diplomat:

She’s a sensitive sort, caring very much about keeping the peace between people, but also she admits she cares what others think of her, too, and that drives her probably a lot more than it should. So she labors to make sure that the words are respectful and laced with character and authenticity, realizing, though, that the board isn’t perfect and neither is anyone else, and misunderstandings are bound to occur. Yet she is passionate with the belief that the value of peace within a greater community is a surpassingly great blessing and a worthy goal to strive for.

The Comedian:

He’s there to cut the tension, because most of the other folks in the room can be way too high strung. He brings lightness and happiness, and indirectly reminds everyone that they aren’t the big deal that they think they are. But he’s also a bit awkward, as he’s learning when it may just not be the right timing to share his perceived comedic brilliance. He worries a bit that he won’t be understood and so holds himself back; other times, he’s convinced he’s got the perfect hysterical point to make, but gets “the look” from the others that he is, in fact, wrong.

The Personal Assistant:

She’s on the antsy side, her job always to remind everyone of the practical little details that need attended to and that there are deadlines approaching. The board would be lost without her sense of work ethic, and yet she sort of drives the others crazy by constantly demanding they stay on a set schedule and not go off onto what she believes are tangential discussions. She just wants the work done, because she feels an unidentified pressure not to disappoint. Yet, as an extreme idealist, sometimes she makes things worse by interrupting the creative flow.

The Random Lazy Guy:

I have yet to figure out what on earth he is doing in this group, as his only contribution seems to be to suggest to everyone that they should knock off early for lunch and let the work wait. There may be something interesting on TV or on a web site somewhere, and if they all search really hard, they just might find something more fun to do. I’m trying to get him thrown off the board.

The Free-Spirited Creative Worship Artist:

More than anyone, she’s the one who just wants to get lost in the joy of what they’re all doing. But her voice is often silenced by the noise from the others. She never shouts; just waits for the din to die down, and then she’ll softly remind everyone that they have been given the amazing opportunity to let God breathe His Life into a few words that a few people might read. And because of who He is, He could spark something in someone else that could change the world and bring endless good and healing into what is broken and hurting. Every now and again, the others will stop and reflect on this, and allow their own strengths and each other’s strengths to pour into each other and trust that something extraordinary is taking place. Every now and again.

And then there’s me, standing outside the conference room door, waiting for them to get their act together so I can start actually getting words to paper and go on with my life. It seems I can’t go any further until they’ve all come to a consensus on what should be said and how to say it. Then they come out of the room, hand me the idea, and I finally start writing. I’m slowly learning, though, not to loathe this exhaustive, trying process, and instead marvel that a community with such faults and differences can be used in ways that feel very small, but bring the impact of eternity.

And that’s how I write.