Some friends met in Grabill this week. It was an unconference, a writing retreat. It was the hallway conversations of a conference, with private work replacing the conference sessions. It was working on what needs to be done rather than adding more new ideas.
For my friends, it was a chance to see the context of my writing. As we drove around, as we walked around, as we sat in my office, other people were saying, “I recognize that mug, I recognize that sign, I’ve seen that face/room/building.” I even pointed out the picnic table where Chris and I ate breakfast.
On one hand, it’s creepy. On the other hand, it was affirmation for me of a particular kind of reflective writing. Part of the writing I do, part of the writing you do, is rooted in our lives, in our conversations, in our personal geography. It invites people into our thinking and feeling and living. It looks at our context and seeks the content that may help others, that may help ourselves.
It is risky. It can become shallow, baring everything without revealing anything. It can become self-indulgent, pointless stories meant only to gather sympathy or affirmations of our valiant service. It can be talking about moments without stopping to be in the moment (as Kim captured perfectly in this photo.)
However, it (this self-disclosive post-length-memoir-writing) can help us go deeper in our learning about ourselves and others and God. And because it is rooted in geographically and historically verifiable experiences, the presence of our friends brings a healthy accountability and affirmation.
This writing isn’t for everyone and isn’t for all blogs. There are places for sharing little of ourselves as we are teaching and representing others. But there is an important place for reflecting slowly on living. And talking about it just as slowly. And letting people help you see the progress you are making in your life…and helping you think through the experiences yet to be lived…and written about.