When There Are No Words - by Liz Carter



In the beginning was the Word
In the end is the Word
In all the times between 
the Word holds all our unspoken words
When we have nothing, 
creation groans
When words are frozen, 
groans even deeper express what 
we wanted to say all along.

This is a post about words.
And it's also a post about grief. And lament. And shadows.
Most of all, it's a post about the places even words don't reach and when we can do nothing but cling to the ultimate word of Life. And somehow doing that releases the words. Sometimes in a rush. Sometimes in a tender trickle. Sometimes in a painful explosion where we can't hold them in and they spill out like a thousand tears.

Are you in the gap between words?
I've been there for the past month. I lost a friend suddenly and the world upended and my words got stuck. Deadlines loomed and my words felt weary and forced. I sat at my computer and the screen blared at me, accusing me for my failure, my lack of imagination, my inability to write, my procrastination on social media.

I think we all have empty times with our writing. Sometimes it's because of life's overwhelming circumstances, but sometimes there seems no rhyme or reason to it. We just look at the screen, and it is as blank as our minds. How, as authors, do we deal with these days and weeks and even months? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, ACW community - any tips on bringing forth the words that won't come?

I think it's more than 'writer's block', though that's a very real phenomenon. Sometimes we can't form the words because the words to process the situation simply don't really exist, and so we struggle to go beyond that processing for a while. And that's okay. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to sit in between the words and let other words fall around us, instead. This passage from Romans came to mind as I thought about this post:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:22-25)

 I love these few verses that admit our brokenness and point us to hope. Just as we sometimes don't know how to write, there are times we don't know how to pray, either - I often find these go hand in hand. Paul knew this too, and knew that in God's deep mysteries the Spirit intercedes for us through 'wordless groans' or 'groans too deep for words' in another translation. Wow. The power these few words about words punches. I think we all know the feeling of searching high and low for words, while underneath there is a whole cacophony of groaning and sighing and lamenting. I've felt a bit like that this past few weeks. But to know the Spirit joins into that, and prays through it, is a consolation.

I think we can apply this to our writing, too. I think we can remember that even when words don't come, the Holy Spirit is biding with us while we wait for them, and listening to the groans that go beneath the ravine of wordlessness. And sometimes, when we sink into that ravine with God, then our words come spilling out, too, along with the groans, and they are a healing place. I sometimes find that it's when I let go of the desperate panic about not feeling the creative urge that I'm able to bring something new out, to write a poem, maybe a prayer, however raw. Raw, in fact, is good. We need raw - the world needs raw, and it needs writers like us to share it, even when we're hurting.

Letting others' words fall around us can be all that we need to allow our words to breathe. I've been reading Penelope Swithinbank's beautiful new book, Scent of Water over he past few days. It's a book that spills words into a place of grief and shadows, a book that is a consolation to me at the moment and will be to many. It's also a book that has allowed the words to bubble up in me once again, as they gently lead me to a place of hope and restoration. Look out for Penelope's blog tour - my review will be up on my blog in the next week or so.

What about you? How do you dig for words when there are none? How do you dig for prayer when there is none? As always, please do join in the comments with your thoughts and impressions. Thank you, and blessings to you all.

Liz Carter is an author and poet from Shropshire who writes about finding treasure when life hurts. Her books Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places are available in all online bookstores. She's working on her third non fiction Christian book, and is in the pit of submissions with her novel, and trying to forget about that and stop checking emails every few minutes. You can find her here: https://www.greatadventure.carterclan.me.uk/




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