I don’t like to write. Ironically, I teach a writing course at San Jose State, and I write this blog. Still, I don’t enjoy writing. Here’s why I do it: I write to influence. Well crafted writing inspires and can change lives. We need look no further than the scriptures as examples of inspirational life changing writ. Although the Scriptures were written by holy prophets, we can also see the “normalcy” and frailties of these authors as human beings. (I like their frailties–I’m inspired by them!) Even some of the most mundane situations (like Lehi’s family camping and wandering in the desert for 8 years) become profound as these recorded experiences ultimately point to our Savior’s birth, ministry, and resurrection.
Over the years, Church leaders have encouraged us to keep personal journals. Like so many others, I wrote sporadically and eventually made the conscious decision not to write at all. At the time, I felt too vulnerable and self-conscious in anchoring my insecurities to paper. (As you can see, I’ve changed!) Moreover, in the last 15 years I’ve often felt prompted to write down my spiritual experiences. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.
Have you ever had a spiritual experience—one that you were sure you’d never forget? I haven’t forgotten many of my spiritual experiences, but time has a way of erasing the fresh nuances; like when we wake up from a dream thinking we’ll never forget it. But within a very short period, the details of our dream fade until the dream completely vaporizes. So, lesson learned: I’m more careful about writing things down.
As my family has expanded to include two son-in-laws and two daughter-in-laws, we decided to keep a record of our family spiritual experiences. These experiences could be ones we’ve had together as a family (such as attending the temple together) or experiences each individual family has had. So, last Christmas, my husband and I bought leather expandable binders for each of our kids and their spouses to help organize their spiritual records. We jokingly dubbed them “The Leather Plates” (in honor of “The Gold Plates”). We’ve also decided to call each of our children’s family records the “Small Plates,” and the “Large Plates” represent our entire family’s compilation. We often talk about why we feel so compelled to compile these “plates” or records–and frankly, we’re not exactly sure why. We just know we must do it. Whenever we get together for family visits, or have conference calls, we share our latest spiritual experiences. We have found that in doing so, we all bring to the collective table our individual abilities and spiritual gifts. As a result, we simultaneously serve as teachers and students to each other in this process. We all grow together.
In my writing class, I ask my students the following questions: What inspires you? What do you feel passionately about? In what way do you want to influence others? How do you want to leave your mark on the world? How do you want the people around you to feel? Motivated? Inspired? Angry? Sad? Happy? Writing is a powerful tool and a means to leave our mark. I tell my students that we all have a story to tell. And with our stories, we can make a difference. And that is power. We have the ability to harness that power; we can metaphorically tame, saddle, and ride that horse to connect and to influence others.
I also tell my students that good writing looks easy. Like good acting—we are not aware of the actor’s performance; we’re just aware and drawn into the story he or she is performing. Furthermore, if the screenplay is well written, the actor’s performance is all the more powerful. So it is with writing. I often fail to have the discipline required for the hard work of writing–but I feel the prompting–well, pounding–of the Spirit to stay in the saddle and write. Including churning out blog posts on a consistent basis! 🙂 On the other hand, the Book of Mormon prophets often commented on the “weakness of our writing.” No matter. Their writing still inspires and motivates. So whether or not we feel our writing is good or bad, when we write with the Spirit, our writing is powerful and thus influential!