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Thoughts on Writing – Part 1

Dancing was never something that I was really good at, even if I found myself doing it all the time. I think my constant dancing was my way of trying to prove that I was good at something. It was my way of telling the world, or at least the girls I ran with, that I had rhythm. Somewhere buried beneath my desire to be Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul (hey, I’m child of the 80’s and 90’s) was really a desire to be just Tracey. It wasn’t that I was terrible. Most of the time I was on point when it came to dances like the wop, the smurf, and the cabbage patch. I knew how to hang with my sorority sisters when we’d step around the parties, throwing up our signs and making our calls. I could remember the 1,2,3 of the steps well enough to pretend that I was good. Enough to, as Granny used to say, fool some of the people, some of the time. But the truth was, I didn’t have the flow, the elegance, or the natural inclinations that real dancers have. Bottom line? It wasn’t my thing. But, I was pretty darn good at pretending it was. Just thinking about that reminded me of the many other areas of my life where I learned how to “pretend” well. Where I learned to prove myself through pretending.

And as I allowed my recollections to marinate, for a brief moment, my blood ran cold. I was scared. Why? Because, if I’m honest, in my darkest moments as a writer, I wondered if I was doing the same thing. Pretending to be a writer. Pretending to do this well in order to prove to myself, those who read my work, and those who choose not to…that I’m somehow worthy of time and attention.

But then I remember all those times before. Before writing poetry. Before writing books. Before writing business plans. Before I ever really began to do this professionally. Times where I hurt so deeply, when pain was so richly a part of my life that all I could do was write. All I could do is let my heart bleed onto the page. Let my emotions splatter in ugly ways across the lines. Over the lines. Between the lines. When the only thing I could do was write until I felt better. Until I’d put down enough words that I could be healed in that very moment. I recalled times when I wrote until I found my balance again and could go on and endure whatever trial was to come.

I now remember that I didn’t choose this, in the sense, that there were so many things that I could have done to overcome. I could have become an athlete. I could have sang. Yes, I could have even danced. Beyond the skills I lacked to do these things and my instinct and fascination with words and books, none of those things would have done what writing did and does for me. It ministers to me and through me, I hope, it ministers to others.

This wasn’t and isn’t like dancing for me. I’ve come to realize that writing is the only place where I can be myself. Where the authentic Tracey can run, skip, and jump around and just be her moody, quirky, special self without anything or anyone telling her otherwise. The page is the one place where I have no need to prove who I am because I can be whatever I want to be. Whenever and however I want to be it. And then be something else tomorrow. I can be my complete, unedited self and dwell in a place where commas and periods and capital letters may provide me direction but never keep me bound.

And, more telling, writing is where God can speak to me and I will listen. His voice pierces the noise in my soul and becomes plain somehow when I write. And even in my occasional disobedience, I hear Him. Not as some big Editor in the sky. Noooo. More like the consummate director in the film that is my life. He’s the only one that can really scream “Cut!” and give me a shot at doing a scene over.

As I ponder writing, I realize the truth of what this is to me. No sales, big or small; No fame, good or bad; can change the healing properties that lie behind my words. The power of them. And though there are times where I have manipulated them, mistreated them, used them as a mask instead of a tool for transparency; as much as I have even tried to use them to perpetuate my tendency to pretend, God has always made his strength perfect in my weakness. And understanding that, I realize that writing has comes down to one thing for me:

One word, connected to many others, created by a merciful God, born in a little brown girl from Kentucky who had been buried alive by life and yet still found a way to breathe. A girl whose rhythm did not live in her feet but in her words. The special ones. The ordinary ones. The ones that matter and those ones that don’t.

And who, through this awesome gift, still remains steadfast, even in spite of herself.

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