“Oh but you must take it off the shelf,” urged the voice behind me in the low, crisp voice I had only ever heard on NPR. “There’s someone waiting to read it.”
She wasn’t talking directly to me, but I heard her. I, who was too scared to even open my mouth. Too scared to share my secret ambitions with the one person who made me feel like I had a voice in the first place. I was silenced in awe, but my mentor who was driving the car spoke the words I wished I could say.
“I have a book I’ve always been meaning to write, but with all the chaos of church life, I’ve had to put it back on the shelf.”
Those words barely left Julie’s lips before the voice from the back of the car piped up in admonition, bearing the pain of words unwritten. The women sitting behind me whose dreadlocks were edging their way into my periphery, spoke with the urgency of a life that didn’t really live until she started to write. And of an audience who never knew how to express themselves until they read her words.
I’ve spent two years ruminating over that car ride with Anne Lamott. Two years trying to silence the dry, desperate voice poking and prodding at my soul, demanding that it’s time I take the book off the shelf; reminding me over and over that there is someone waiting for me to speak the words I’ve been keeping bottled up inside.
“There’s never going to be a good time,” she said. “There’s always going to be something that wants to get in the way. You just have to suck it up and do it.”
Without ever talking back, I went on to spend the next two years saying, “But… but… but…” And, a couple months ago, I decided that “but” wasn’t good enough. There’s always going to be something that wants to get in the way. There’s always going to be a “but.”
So, today is the day I stop saying, “but.” Today is the day that I listen to this wise woman who showed me my voice in the first place. Today is the day I take the pages off the shelf and try to make something of them.
I know this journey isn’t going to be pretty. I know the words aren’t always going to flow like milk and honey even though I thought riding in a car with Anne Lamott was pretty much like entering the promised land. And, I know there are going to be days when I’d rather watch Jimmy Fallon make a fool out of himself than risk embarrassment because the thoughts I have to share are inadequate and messy.
I know all this, but the words are waiting, and I’ve got to get them out. And the only way that’s going to happen is to just suck it up and do it.
So, here I am, friends. Rev. on the Edge. A young, single, female minister and writer living in the south. This isn’t the book. That will come. Maybe when I’m 40. This is just me taking my voice off the shelf where it’s been collecting dust and hoping that it lands on ears that need to hear.
I knew you were a good writer from what I have read of your articles in Fellowship magazine. Great writing, can’t wait for more
You can do it! Am looking forward to many years of reading and being touched by your writings.
Glad you’ve taken it off the shelf! (But your post had made me have to reevaluate my own “but…but…but”s.). You’ll be the voice Anne Lamott is for you to a lot of other voices that need to be heard. Great post! (And I’m jealous of that picture of you and Anne Lamott)
as one who’s in the midst of getting her own words out of her head and onto paper–kudos. let’s hold hands and walk together. to quote Annie Downs, let’s all be brave.
Emily, totally amazing writing! Thanks for inviting me to your page! I look forward to reading your amazing writing.