Writing, Regurgitation, and Frogs

I’m on a “writing retreat” at the moment, all by myself. I’m staying in a guest house on a gorgeous ranch in North Texas (yes, such things really do exist), enjoying the hospitality of a new friend.

And I’m supposed to be writing.

When I planned this time away, I had visions of coming home with five or six gloriously crafted chapters, all making profound statements on a cutting-edge topic, one that could seriously shake up some of my circles. I envisioned needing to write an official book proposal by the end of the week, courting agents and publishers with my earth-shattering revelation. I pictured the thousands upon thousands of words I would write, officially becoming–a writer. 

Instead, I’m heading home today with eight rather fragmented and frankly messy documents, some with as little as 50 words, and about half of which even approach the threshold of making sense at all. I’ve scrapped four other docs, because they were, well, they were crap. So I deleted them. Oh, and I added about 2000 words to a fiction piece I started six months ago.

So what did I do on my time away?

I ate. Well. (Thanks, Deb!!) I slept. I prayed. I thought. I listened.

And I learned to masticate. (That means “chew.” Grow up.) I have a habit of spitting out thoughts and ideas before I’ve fully digested them, leaning on the learning and wisdom of others to do my thinking for me. I call these my “knee jerks,” those words that come as reflex reaction to something, rather than well-thought out discussions and answers.

Social media has, I believe, allowed this practice to become more commonplace than ever before. We read a status, have an immediate thought, and before the body’s even cool we fire off what we think are scathingly brilliant replies to someone else’s probably knee-jerk-related thought. We regurgitate ideas before we’ve really digested them, boiling down the truly deep and profound to 140 characters.

We spend hours on end scrolling down endless tweets or Facebook statuses, dropping grenades as we go, blasting friends and family with what–if we are forced to admit it–are nothing more than adventures in jumping from branch to branch on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We don’t often take the time to think–no, I mean really think–about the things we type before we hit that sneaky “enter” button; nor do we stop to consider the fallout on the other side.

I think what I had in mind to “write” this week was a little bit like that.

Instead, I came face to face with the fact that although I have strong feelings and opinions on this subject, I am not ready to write it for anyone else to read yet. I haven’t digested it. It hasn’t become a part of the fabric that is me yet. I think I know what I think, but I want to know what I think before I spit it back out.

So, instead of the bright and shiny brilliance I had planned, I’m taking home ideas. Thoughts to ponder. Things I need to mash up, swirl around, taste, question and examine. Then, and only then, will I decide what I will digest and what I will discard. Until then, none of those documents will see the light of day. (I only hope if I don’t publish them before I die, that upon my demise this computer will self-destruct. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, posthumous publishing is the sincerest form of mockery.)

Oh, and the other thing I learned? That frogs are loud. And a lot of them are very loud. (Useful, isn’t it?)


13 comments so far

  1. amber louthan on

    Hehehe, masticate;) Seriously though, I can so relate. Been mulling this over and chatting with the hubs about it a lot lately. Besides being sick, I’ve been on a sort of pause. My blog sits untouched. I’ve got about 15 docs sitting half chewed, and I’ve all but completely backed off of saying anything via social media. I’m reading a researching and listening and growing and debating internally and externally. And I’m sure something will come of it all eventually, but I’m in no rush to uh… abort the proverbial baby if you know what I mean:) Can’t wait to see and read what you spit out 🙂 Love love.

  2. cynthiasmith1 on

    This is really goood. Glad you took the time to share. blessings

  3. cynthiasmith1 on

    Thanks for this blog. I have many undone blogs and books for the same reason and was feeling so condemned for not having written more. Bless you.

  4. Jennifer Bulpitt on

    I love how honest you are! Very refreshing.

  5. Becky on

    ”How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ~Thoreau

    Isn\’t that a great quote? I love it, because it reminds me that my best work comes from the thinking/digesting process that happens while doing laundry, taking a walk, or rocking my child to sleep. I truly can’t sit down to write until I’ve done the living in between!

    Great post, Nancy! You’re such a wonderful writer. I know what comes out of your ”digesting” time will be golden:)

  6. Kerrie on

    I’m not gonna lie. THIS is good. Made me think. Spoke my language. Totally related, and felt peace in the midst of my own chewing. I heart you. That is all.

  7. Love it! Sounds like a lot of my writing! (And I *love* loud frogs!) It’s just that much better when it does hit the press!

  8. Babs Coppedge on

    “I think I know what I think, but I want to know what I think before I spit it back out.”

    Wise. Mature. Patient. Grounded. Willing. Submitted.

    These are the words scrolling across my heart about you as I read this. You’ve given me pause in some of my thoughts and ideas … and pause is always a good thing for it causes us to dig deeper and mull longer … masticate, if you will. 🙂


  9. Cheri on

    Love this. Love that you’re there. I’ll love to res what you will write (later) as a result. 🙂

  10. Becky Synan on

    Great post. May we all learn to pause, and chew, more often. If we’d do that, maybe we wouldn’t share as much as we do.

  11. bbillingsley on

    What ever you do come out with once you know what you think, It is always brilliant! Its funny how our plans get hijacked and we get taken for a little pause to stop, ponder and masticate. (Yep, had to go back up your blog to make sure I spelled it right!) Love you and all your thoughts!

  12. iembracegraceblog on

    if the stuff that you write is spitting out, i can’t imagine how amazing your stuff will be actually chewing it. you have a gift, and it’s a big one. the way you communicate without even thinking hard is what the rest of us strive to be trying our hardest. i’m first in line for whatever God uses your gift to produce – it will be greatness …

  13. Cindy Snyder on

    Read the blog and the responses. Let me preface the following remarks by saying I have a BS in Zoology.

    Be a cow. They chew their cud. I won’t go into it but suffice to say it takes a while for the whole digestion process to occur. It’s pretty cool, one “stomach” to hold what is taken in and from which the cud comes, another one to catch all the things that should never been eaten in the first place (think nails or rocks), another one to filter out the parts of the food that are good and finally another one that acts like our stomach and breaks everything down to pass it on to the intestines. So, be a cow 🙂

    Oh, yes frogs are very loud, but you only notice that when you are more or less alone and trying to ponder.

    Can’t wait to see your next idea on paper. Thanks for sharing, I love your writing!

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