Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type

In Sunday school, we sang a song that went like this:

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

The other verses went on to say “O be careful little ears what you hear” and “Little hands what you do” and so on. It’s a simple message, but one we sometimes forget the older we get.

typing

Photo Credit: Simon Hattinga Verschure

This past Sunday, our youth director dredged up old photos of me he found on Facebook–none that were overly embarrassing or risque, but definitely ones I had kind of forgotten are still floating around on there. It got me thinking about the amount of content we leave behind on the Internet these days. Fortunately my Xanga, which I had essentially treated like an online diary, no longer exists for public consumption. Even now I can read old posts I had published on there and pinpoint exactly who I was writing about, despite the lack of actual names. What was I thinking I wonder as I read them.

There are interesting parts of being able to look back on our old posts and photos–while I’m horrified at some of what I wrote on my Xanga, I’m also occasionally impressed that high school Brianna was thinking so deeply about certain topics. It’s a little bit weird but a little bit fun and fascinating to have an online record of years of my life, and while there is some content I’d probably un-post, most of it I’d let live on. The photos and random thoughts that flitted through my head (and were somehow deemed Facebook worthy) may not represent who I am anymore, but they represented who I was at that time.

But I also wonder if we might be wise to heed the words of the song, and “O be careful little fingers what you type.” It’s easy for me to quickly send tweets or Facebook updates on the fly, without fully thinking through what I might be unintentionally saying underneath the words or how my message might come across to other people. What I mean and what other people read will not always be the same. Not only that, but many things we post on the Internet that don’t really need to be posted. They may not be outrightly cruel or inappropriate, but they’re also not making the world a better place.

It’s a grey land as to what kind of content “makes the world a better place,” to be sure. Many of my tweets revolve around food and are, to me at least, somewhat amusing. Is the chance of bringing a slight smile to someone’s face worth the tweet? Mostly I say yes.

But I know there have been times when I’ve posted as an outlet for frustration or anger, and in hindsight, the Internet was probably not the best place for those words. As an adult, I’m annoyed at myself for even writing this post–shouldn’t the reminder to “Be careful little fingers what you type” be constrained to the world of children and teenagers? Except I know that it can’t be. I’m not going to quit using the Internet, but since I’m not, I have to be aware of how I use the Internet and try to do so wisely and in a way that benefits others.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you stay mindful of what you post online?

When the Words Get Stuck

Listen up, now. Lean in close and let me tell you what I’ve been feeling for some time now, been trying to fight and attempting to understand: I don’t feel like blogging.

I don’t even feel like writing.

Writers, those real writers who turn words into dollar signs will likely be the first to tell you that you don’t always write because you feel like it. You write because you have to, to pay the bills or simply because to not write would be to betray a part of who you are.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

There are times I’ve felt like that too.

But lately each word feels like it has to be dragged out of me. They’re stuck inside, and the work of getting them out seems too much.

It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say–I’ve thought of tons of ideas for posts. But the actual plinking out of letters to form words to form sentences to paragraphs has not been happening.

“Butt in chair,” says Anne Lamott. That’s the key to writing–keep your butt in the chair and write just keep writing.

I like the sentiment, but the reality is much more difficult than it sounds. Yes, it’s butt in chair, but it’s also fingers on keyboard, heart spilling out onto the page, hope that some of it, any of it, is worthy of sharing.

And sometimes the words just get stuck, and it’s easier to leave them where they are than dig them out.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you do when you don’t feel like writing?

Writing is Easy (Except When It Isn’t)

Objectively speaking, writing is easy. Push down one letter key after another. Make a word. Form a sentence.

That’s really all there is to it.

But it’s not really all there is to it.

Because some words aren’t friends, and if they end up next to each other the sentence would make no sense at all. Then there’s these finicky things called grammar and punctuation, which in the English language are sinister and slippery sorts of beasts. And even after you string words together that can sit next to each other in peace and in a proper line, and you throw in some commas and periods and perhaps an exclamation point, you have to try to make them really say something–turn them into something more than just squiggles on a screen.

It is messy work.

And sometimes I don’t want to do it, yet I sit down anyway and that cursor blinks back at me and it is all I can do to put anything on the page, a “the” or “and” or “to.”

And I hear the siren call of Facebook and Pinterest and BuzzFeed and they are tapping me on the shoulder with their hilarity and inspiration and lovely photos.

And there are millions of words that have already been written, strung together so beautifully and I could spend days, months, years simply reading them.

But there are words somewhere inside of me that must eventually get out, and so I sit, enter the fray however inadequately, and write. Because that’s what writers do, and I suppose that’s what I am.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Choosing to Believe These Words Have Value

I’ve heard several people my age say they don’t have a blog because they don’t know what they would say; they feel like they don’t have anything to write about, nothing to contribute, no words to offer.

At times it makes me question what I do here. Perhaps it is narcissistic of me to be writing these things, the girl who lives in the same city she grew up in, went to college in, and now works in. It feels that way sometimes.

But I’ve heard it said so many times that every story has value, and the moments I believe that’s true for mine as well are the reason these words are here.

I haven’t travelled the world, I haven’t raised seven kids, I haven’t been the CEO of a company. And that’s okay. Those stories are not mine to tell, not right now, possibly not ever. I hope the people who have lived those stories are telling them, so that I and others can learn from them and experience things we may not on our own.

But others telling their stories does not invalidate me telling mine.

One story does not have more value than another.

One LIFE does not have more value than another.

They are different, and different stories serve different purposes for different people at different times.

It doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes, when there is a large gap in time between these posts, it’s because the doubt is eating me away a little bit and I don’t believe my words have enough value, and I am not courageous enough to click Publish for a moment or an hour or a day.

So I’m telling you right now I don’t have this all figured out.

Maybe it is narcissistic of me to be posting these musings when my stories are not grandiose or heartbreaking or awe-inspiring.

But I’m choosing to believe otherwise.

Maybe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing by sharing these words, in a way that is smaller than some and bigger than others, but is uniquely mine. And maybe I don’t have to believe that my story has value because of amazing plot turns, but that it has value simply because it is.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you learned that your story has value?

Giving Words Feet

I love to read. If I could count all the blogs and books and magazines I’ve read, the number would astound me. I’ve read some incredible stories, teared up at the heartbreaking and heartwarming, been inspired by hope and joy and love. I’ve had my breath taken away by stunning writing, sat in awe of the emotions evoked by words on a page, been too moved to continue reading. They’ve caused me to think deeply, given me glimpses of ways of life completely different than my own, sparked conversations I never would have otherwise had.

The gift of being able to read other people’s words is a wonderful one.

It takes great courage, dedication, and sheer sweat to write well, and I am so thankful for those who do.

 

Yet in all the goodness of words, I have discovered a danger: Reading about other people’s experiences cannot replace having my own. 

Photo Credit: Flickr User francisco.j.gonzalez, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User francisco.j.gonzalez, Creative Commons

 

Reading about food is not the same as cooking dinner.

Reading about travel is not the same as getting on a plane.

Reading about loss is not the same as attending the funeral of a loved one.

Reading about marriage is not the same as walking down the aisle.

Reading about God is not the same as loving him well.

 

Objectively, I know this. But I don’t always think this way. I don’t always want to believe it.

Maybe, if I read enough books and blogs and magazines, it will make it hurt less when something terrible happens to me or someone I love. Maybe, if I read enough, I’ll someday have the perfect marriage. Maybe, if I read enough, I’ll be a really good Christian.

Words, by themselves, cannot do any of these things. They can inspire, teach, compel–but they cannot do. At some point, my actions have to put feet on the ink.

I believe, very strongly, in the value of reading. Reading other people’s stories is an enriching, life-giving, good thing. But reading other people’s stories instead of living my own is a bad thing. Life will be messy and beautiful and painful and joyous, and no amount of words can live that for me. Reading can teach me about these things, but words are not action.

 

It’s up to me to give them feet.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you put feet on what you read?

Thoughtless Words

This has been one of my larger gaps in posting since I started this blog. It wasn’t intentional. I’ve worked on posts, even accidentally hit “Publish” so a new, unfinished one was up for about 10 panic-inducing seconds. 199441_4603530291_8849_n

I’ve been thinking about words more than usual lately though. Their power, their use, the responsibility.

Used well, with careful thought, words have the power to bring healing, redemption, love, truth, beauty.

 

Used carelessly, haphazardly thrown around, words have the power to bring pain, accusations, hate, lies, horror.

 

As stories of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon spread, words were sometimes used carelessly. Within moments, falsities were spread across the nation and the world. It is a reminder of the importance of journalistic integrity, but it is so much more.

 

Words have power.

 

In a digitally-saturated world, we use words perhaps more than ever before–emails, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, and all that in addition to the ones we speak. Yet though our usage of words has increased, our thoughtfulness about them seemingly has not. Sometimes I look back at the words I have used and wonder what I was thinking, only to realize that’s the problem–I wasn’t thinking about them nearly enough, if at all.

Words are a gift and a  responsibility, one that we must use well. And sometimes, the wisest thing to do is to not use them at all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How much do you think about the words you use?

This Is Why I Read

“The Internet is so much better. You can just Google everything.”

I cringed as I overheard this at a bookstore. Perhaps, given the full context of the conversation, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded; but I wanted to give the small child with this person a book and show him the magic and wonder that lives on the pages.

Photo Credit: Flickr User austinevan, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User austinevan, Creative Commons

 

It’s more than just books though–it’s about reading. Not a casual read of a tweet, not a cursory glance of a blog post, not an eye scan over the newspaper.

Deep, soak-it-into-your skin reading. 

 

I read because even I, a nearly-off-the-charts extrovert, have been tempted to use the excuse of, “I’m reading a really good book” to miss or leave social situations.

I read because even as I type this, I’m only half here. Half of me is, and has been for the past couple of days, in the world created by the pages of my book. It is a book I have read before–the ink on the pages has not changed since last time I’ve read it, the plot and outcome will remain the same. But I am not at the end yet; I am right in the thick of things with the characters I have come to know and care about. There is an urgency to get to the end I already know, to make sure that my memory has not failed me and all will be well.

I read because there are stories and ideas I would never come up with on my own, places I will never walk with my own feet, worlds that exist in imagination only that I cannot get to any other way.

I read because a fantastic book doesn’t leave me the same when I close it as when I opened it.

I read because I can, and I can’t imagine not.

Til next time…~Brianna!~

p.s. Why do you read? (or not read?)

Telling Stories To An Empty Room

Happy Birthday, my little blog! Two years ago I started posting here, largely out of a realization that Facebook Notes were never going to catch on the way that I had hoped and looking for somewhere to share my words.

And here I am, still writing on here but sometimes wondering what the point is. I declared myself a writer last fall, but I certainly don’t always feel that way, especially now that I have a job that takes up 40 hours of my week, and as I still try to figure it all out, it takes up seemingly many more hours of mental energy. When I get home, I usually want to remove my brain, set it on a shelf, go to bed, and put it back in the next morning–not use it some more to write words I often doubt the value of.

Where does the value of writing really come from anyway? Is it the reading? If so, I might be in trouble.

Sometimes it feels as though I’m telling stories to an empty room.

In her book Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist writes of a conversation she had with a middle schooler.

“I write, too.” She said it like it was a confession or a secret. She leaned toward me and opened a notebook and showed me page after page after page of precise cursive. “Do you have any advice for me?” she asked.
“Thank you, and keep going,” I said. “Thank you for writing, because I love to read, and I’m so thankful to writers like you, for writing things for me to read. And keep going, even when people make you feel like it’s not important. It might be the most important thing you do. Keep going.” –Cold Tangerines, p. 229

 

I love those words, the encouragement they gave to that girl and to me. But it’s hard to believe sometimes.

WordPress has a nifty, horrible, convenient, torturous function called “Site Stats.” I discovered it within the first few days of creating this blog, but I sort of wish I never had, or that I could disable it. (Though truthfully, the sick part of me that feels the need to check it compulsively would balk at that) It can be disheartening to see how many people haven’t read a post I feel passionate about, that I have invested time and energy in and, perhaps courageously so, clicked the “Publish” button. Really though, I wonder if there’s a number of readers I would ever deem “enough,” or if more readers would only result in me desiring…more readers.

There’s another side of writing though–the writer. And that is where I remind myself there is always value. Admittedly some of these posts are less polished than others, a little haphazardly thrown together, perhaps less worthy of being on display. There are others though, ones I have molded carefully, painstakingly, combing over time after time for words that don’t belong and tweaking so they convey exactly what and how I need them to.

And those posts–those are why I write.

There is a piece of me in those posts that won’t, can’t, find expression elsewhere, and to keep it to myself feels almost selfish, as though I might be clutching a precious gift to myself.

So I hit “Publish.” I let those words out, even when it feels like they are floating into an empty room, because to do otherwise would be a misuse of what I have been entrusted with.

And so for every time you join me here, to sit and listen and give these stories an audience, I thank you. Let’s hang out a few more years.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Does writing ever feel pointless for you? How do you get past it?