At a church campout this weekend I had been absent from the larger group for a few minutes. When I returned, someone jokingly asked me if I had ditched them to write a blog post on my phone. Apparently, I am developing something of a reputation. It was all in good fun, of course. I have received nothing but support and encouragement to write from people in the churches I have served—a gift for which I am profoundly grateful.
This morning, I scrambled out of the tent early to jot down some notes for our outdoor worship service. I dug around in my backpack until I found the notebook I was looking for. It was one of a handful of Moleskins that were a parting gift (along with a fountain pen with real ink cartridges!) from a friend when we left British Columbia two years ago. This particular notebook had been sitting unopened in my desk for the past two years. I cracked the cover and was surprised to see the page already full with the following words from the nineteenth century Victorian poet John Ruskin:
The author has something to say which he believes to be true and useful, or helpfully beautiful. So far as he knows, no one has yet said it; so far as he knows no one else can say it. He is bound to say it clearly and melodiously if he may; clearly at all events. In the sum of his life he finds this to be the thing or group of things manifest to him—this is the piece of true knowledge or sight which his share of sunshine and earth has permitted him to seize.
At the end of the quote, a simple exhortation from my friend. “Keep writing.”
I don’t tend to think of myself as a real “author” (certainly not by John Ruskin’s standards!) and I have a hard time predicating sentences like “no one else can say it” “or no one else has said it yet” to myself. I am of the opinion that all of our best ideas and truest words are but a repackaging and recycling of things that have been (often more poetically) said or spoken by those who have gone before us. But these lines on the first page of my Moleskin notebook were enormously encouraging nonetheless. It was a wonderful surprise, these simple words of encouragement from a friend.
I’ve said this many times before, but in a world where we are drowning in words it can sometimes feel like a bit of a waste of time (or just plain old hubris!) to add yet more to the mix. But I suppose each one of us has a unique “share of sunshine and earth” from which to look at and describe the world we see. Each of us has something to say. There are so very many words out there—but that should never stop us from trying to say what is true or useful or helpfully beautiful.
So, keep writing. Or speaking, or singing, or sharing, or building, or drawing, or mending, or planting… or whatever it is that your hand finds to do. Keep going. It doesn’t really matter if nobody else has said it before or nobody else can do it or if someone else can say or do it better. It’s yours to say and do now.