Writing from the Heart by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt
Yesterday I had a lovely encounter just outside my back door with a grasshopper (pictured), who decided to jump on me and then sit close by, chirruping away. Weirdly, the same afternoon, my husband was on his work break sitting in a cake shop with a cup of coffee, and was accosted by a beautiful young cricket. It sat on his arm and let him scoop it gently in his hand whilst he escorted it back outside, and it seemed rather reluctant to leave him.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the tension we hold as Christian writers between what we imagine the world wants us to write, what will sell, what fits the brief, the stable, the house, that we want to work for and what is on our heart to write. Also, the tension between what we love to write and what we think the world needs to hear.
Maybe these tiny creatures were reminding Rowan and I (Rowan is a wonderful poet) to sing our songs, and to take heed of the still small voice, or conscience that is guiding us within. After all, it is hard to see a cricket and not think of Pinocchio’s companion Jiminy, who was trying to be a moral compass for someone new at being human.
A grasshopper’s song may not be music to every ear, but it is all he or she knows how to play. It is authentic. In the same way, we can only truly make music as authors if we are writing from the heart. I’ve lost count of the number of theological books I’ve set down because they were too cold, too focussed on intellect. Of course, it is great to be erudite and learned, and share that knowledge with others. But without heart mixed in, it is often in danger of becoming an ego trip.
I think this is why people have loved recent writers and teachers like Rachel Held Evans (a great loss), Brene Brown, Francis Chan, Brennan Manning and Sarah Bessey. They are (or were) not afraid to be vulnerable and authentic. Their voices are clear and from the heart, whilst at the same time showing biblical wisdom, knowledge and insight.
Most of all, they don’t write to sell books, they write to sing their songs. The gospel, the love of God comes across loud and clear in their writing, precisely because that is what they care about. They tell their own stories, or those of others, with compassion, and they understand that writing theology is a reaching out to connect, not a projection exercise to make them look good.
God’s wisdom is always so much greater than ours, and this was shown me very starkly at the beginning of this year, when that gentle whisper prompted me to submit the one book I was completely certain no publisher would ever take on, since it is a mystical piece, to a large house in the USA. I was so confident of it being rejected that I was completely honest and vulnerable in my covering letter.
It got taken on. I am still reeling in shock a few months later, but, here is my encouragement to you. If it is on your heart to write, write it. Have faith that God can work through that integrity. That Spirit can show up in vulnerability, in openness. Listen to the cricket (or indeed grasshopper) on your shoulder, and not to the harsh world of artificial lights and its obsessions with branding and platform. Those things are secondary. Heart comes first.
Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a disabled writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her full-length publications include Garden of God’s Heart and Whale Song: Choosing Life with Jonah. She has a new book coming out with Paraclete Press in 2020. Keren lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.
Photograph ©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt