I’ve started writing the story of garlic–an essay idea that has been on my mind for quite some time. As usual, it started with a particularly vivid memory that would come to my mind quite often–in this case it had to do with garlic. So I began searching my memory for other garlic-related incidents and I realized garlic had a much more prominent place in my life than I had realized. I say this rather tongue-in-cheek and I began to question myself when I started to put these ideas down on paper. Firstly, a title did not readily come to mind–the first sure sign that I had no idea what the point of the essay was going to be. It seemed as though I really had nothing to say. As if teleported back to fiction writing class, I heard Dr Drake’s voice in my head asking that question he always asked when he didn’t like someone’s writing: “What is the story here people?” I began to doubt whether this garlic thing had any deeper significance. Sure, I could find clever words to talk about all my interactions with garlic and could probably even get a couple of laughs out of whoever might read it, but then what would be the value of a piece of clever but shallow writing? I did need to have a point, a reason for writing…
I remember reading some years ago a book by Madeleine L’Engle called Walking on Water and found the beginnings of some answers to a question that was lurking at the back of my mind as a student majoring in creative writing: Why write? I asked one of my poetry teachers this question with regard to poetry in particular. First of all, not many people read poetry just for leisure reading; it does require some mental effort to digest a good poem and it often takes more than one reading. And second, there were so many poems and stories that had already been written it truly seemed (seems) as though there is “nothing new under the sun” when it comes to literature–how could I produce writing that would be truly original? L’Engle’s book provided me with one possible answer (I don’t have the book with me now, so I can’t quote exactly, but this is the gist of it): the main purpose of writing was for the nourishing and healing of the writer’s own soul. It seemed awfully self-centred and yet it rang true. I didn’t really matter if anyone read my writing or ‘got it’–what mattered was that I wrote, and that I wrote truth, even in fiction.
In the years since, while I would hesitate to identify myself as a writer, I have seen that writing helps me to stay centered. Even as a Christian, my faith is helped along when I put pen to paper– prayers flow more freely when I have a pen in hand and blank journal before me, experiences take on deeper meaning when I reflect on them in writing, even Bible study comes to life when I write notes and answer questions on paper.
There are purposes for writing that go beyond my self. It can be used by God to encourage or inspire or even rebuke a friend. So I put this skill I have at the Lord’s disposal along with everything else, for Him to use it as He will–for my own soul-nourishment or the nourishment of others. For my part, I am trying to discipline myself to do the writing, just as I must discipline myself to consistently pray, study the Bible, confess my sins, and live out all that He calls me to.
Now I am just beginning to see that garlic can, in fact, symbolize something deeper that has been happening in my life over the course of a number of years. The story of garlic has begun but it’s going to need some time to simmer in the writing pot before it will be served. When it’s ready, I’ll ring the dinner bell.