Getting out of your own way

A Christian Science perspective: Comments on writing. 

This week’s cover story celebrates writers from the Southern part of the United States. When asked during an interview why so many good writers hail from the South – especially Mississippi – famed Mississippi writer Eudora Welty replied, “Because we have so much explainin’ to do.”

Good writing, or explaining, of course, isn’t tied to one region. But it does bring up the question of what makes a good writer. Some claim that good writing is a matter of getting out of your own way.

One well-known author, Julia Cameron, says, “Once writing becomes an act of listening instead of an act of speech, a great deal of the ego goes out of it. Instead of self-conscious thinking about the sentence ‘I’ have written, I find myself amazed and interested by the sentences that seem to want themselves written. Instead of being an act of pontification, writing becomes an act of revelation. This is true for any writer who lets writing write through him” (“The Right to Write,” 1998, p. 10).

Forsaking ego isn’t something just for good writing, however. It’s a concept promoted by Jesus when he said: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). What an incredible expression of humility, considering the innumerable wondrous and healing works that Jesus performed for all mankind and for all ages. As the Christ, he was keenly aware of his oneness with God and His ideas, and he made it clear in the Lord’s Prayer that everyone has a relationship to “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

This “Father” is described in the Bible as Spirit and Mind (see John 4:24 and Philippians 2:5, respectively). As God’s children, we are permanently connected to Him, able to hear Mind’s perfect ideas.

 Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science – which she considered a revelation from God – was a prolific writer. She also was acutely aware of her oneness with God. When she wrote her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she explained: “I was a scribe under orders; and who can refrain from transcribing what God indites...?” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 311). As I understand it, Mrs. Eddy is saying self, ego, personal sense, and pride in this work were totally removed as she communed with God and listened to the ideas from Mind coming to her consciousness.

Removing a sense of self-importance and egotism allows us to listen to the divine ideas that come from creative Mind, God. As it relates to writing, Spirit certainly is the true source of inspiration.

Understanding God as the one Creator, we find that everyone has the capacity to be creative already. It is a God-given ability that we can develop, an ability we each have as His expression.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.