Friday, 3 November 2017

Writers: the Inner Life, a great resource (but what is it?) by Mari Howard (aka Clare Weiner)

'A light to our feet ...' along the writing path ...

An article on the importance of the inner life ( recently sparked my interest to research the topic among our Facebook group.  How do we define our Inner Life? The discussion developed, on Facebook, around what constitutes our ‘inner self’. 

Our ideas: an inner world, a precious space

One description of the inner self is ‘a complex inner world, filled with dialogues and sensations and emotions, … a landscape…hard to describe… If access to the inner self is restricted, there is no place for growth, spiritual or otherwise’. I really like this comment, especially the observation ‘if access is restricted, there is no place for growth…’. 

Restricting Growth: harming children

This opened up for me a way to understand the influence of my early schooling. The way we were taught in the very early years at my school, I felt everything the teachers said in the ’ideas’ area was attacking the inner self. They were trying to achieve ‘regime change’, and aggressively stuff us with ideas, landscapes, and thoughts of their own. These were very different to what was already ‘me’.  As a child happily raised on Beatrix Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and Alison Uttley’s stories, and with a keen awareness of the real world of nature, I resented being read the stories of Dr Doolittle’s animals! I hated the smugness of The Water Babies. And I could make no sense of the very hard self-sacrifice stories of Edith Cavell, Grace Darling and Elizabeth Fry. Kids under seven aren’t ready for that! I know that I put up an internal defence, and that resistance is still possible. (Long term it’s sometimes an asset.) The world of that school was inferior, it restricted access, it didn’t fit. Indeed, I understand better Philip Pullman’s resentment of all things related to God and Christianity, if he was instilled into that kind of religion at school: ‘to give and not to count the cost’ fed to six year olds in an atmosphere of discipline mixed with sentimentality.

But is the ‘inner self’ the ‘sinful nature?’

Are we not taught in Galatians 5 v.17 that the inner self is sinful, someone argued. The response was that a Biblical view that ‘the heart’ may well include the mind and will (and this is not the ‘sinful nature’). We ourselves had recently discussed Matthew 22 v. 37 in our Bible Study: ‘Jesus replied: (from Deuteronomy 6 v. 5, which he would have known well) that the greatest commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
The fish: a Christian symbol ...
Proverbs chapter 4, especially verse 23 chimes with this :‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,’ (or as someone else quoted, ‘for it is the wellspring of life’). Teaching to distrust the inner self or heart has left some Christians with ‘an impoverished relationship with God…’ (see my reference to Pullman, above.) And of course Paul also speaks of Christians having ‘the mind of Christ’ (I Corinthians 2 v.16)

Who are we 'true to' then? Not to ourselves, but to our Lord Jesus Christ

How do we resist attacks on the inner self?

So, how about understanding the ‘self’ as an onion, as someone suggested? The inner self is ‘what counts’, and the outer is ‘the less useful’.  The outer, though, ‘is necessary to protect the inner’, someone else pointed out. So true, and more so for us who are not natural ‘introverts’ and reach out, happily gabbling away our insights, and discover the hard knocks! Guard the entrance to your wonderful, inner landscapes …chose your audience!

The idea of the onion was new to me, as was the thought of the inner self as a place. The discussion has made sense of why the child me was so certain that school was invading a real part of me and my existence, even at age six. It was a good and necessary part, it had begun to develop what we call, as adults, integrity.

Is it a place?

So can the inner self be a place? Matthew 6 v. 6 (on prayer) says ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ Discussion of the houses of first century Palestine pointed to the idea that indeed the inner self was a more likely interpretation here than a physical personal space. We can meet God in our inner self: this is borne out by ‘not I who live but Christ who lives within me’ (Galatians 2 v. 20). Though the inner space must be guarded against intrusions!

How’s this important for us in ACW?

The world is driven by political ambitions, popular opinion, media hype, and for writers (among others) the urge and apparent necessity to be competitive. We feel we must write to the market, we’re told to ‘develop your platform’, to seek out readers, to make sure of our online presence, to develop a clever book cover which draws eyes to our work. We strive, become discouraged, it all becomes too much. Living in the secular world today, we writers need to feed and care for our inner self, that which contains and forms our ideas, opinions and responses to advertising, media dominance, and rejection of faith. 

‘The outer layer is less useful.’ In terms of spiritual health and survival, that’s so true. The outer world is necessary, real, and it can beautiful and enjoyable. It is God’s creation. It’s valuable for itself, and needs caring for. The inner self is where the heart or mind’s peace can be met, and, importantly, when informed by God it is the seat of integrity and informs decision-making. It also needs time and care, and defence.

Applying all we have thought here to our lives as writers, the informed inner self, the place we go to be with God and consider his character, is a strong resource. When we sit down to write, the inner self is the ‘go-to’ for inspiration, for ideas, for strength, and to shape and landscape our stories.

With many thanks to Anne Booth for posting the article, and to everyone who joined the conversation. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this very interesting blog post.