Cooking with Words and Sitting at the table of community

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On writing, solitude, community and how our freedom is tied up in each other

Writing, for me—even when I worked as a reporter—has always been solitary. Bum on chair. Stories on paper.

Words were written either into a private journal or into black ink that printed off on presses and got shipped into houses somewhere distant. They got shipped out and were removed. I didn’t know the hands that held the newsprint as they read them. I didn’t know their stories. I couldn’t see their faces.

Now and then I would meet readers on street corners or cocktail parties, but we didn’t talk about the words right then–immediately there–with a newspaper in our hands, pouring over the sentences and putting our souls into the responses.

Blogging here and writing on SheLovesmagazine is radically changing the process and experience of writing for me. The physical act of writing a sentence is still solitary, but what happens once I hit publish, has turned into something beautiful and rich. (Yes, sometimes there are trolls, but even then it’s become a learning, growing and maturing.)

Words now bring people close. For a girl whose life has been defined by a separateness, constantly feeling somehow removed and apart from others, this is becoming incredibly healing.

Writing now, for me has become like a door into where I live. It’s a door I am happy to fling open wide to let friends, guests and a big world in, so we may learn and be together.

Come, sit down, please

I imagine my words here to be an invitation to come in, sit down at the table and enjoy a meal together. Some days it will be curried butternut squash soup and bread. I like a good pear and gorgonzola salad with strips of grilled chicken. Or my favorite: fresh papaya on spring mix with goat cheese and a honey cider vinegar dressing with the papaya seeds crushed up and tasting like pepper corns.

I like cooking for guests and I’m realizing now: I also love writing that gets served up, lingered over, challenged and savored. Words set the table and I love when my words and ideas spark conversations that nurture the souls of all of us who sit down at this virtual table.

I picture writing now in a horizontal movement. No longer do the words go up or down; now they come up close in the responses of friends, both old and new.

Words have become a bridge that connects me to others. Rather than feeling like I go out to get ingredients, cook it up and then leave it outside the door, hoping and trusting someone might pick them up and enjoy, I can now see very quickly when you have a scowl on your face as you taste the first bite, or when you’re enjoying the meal … Because you are right here and you tell me.

I love that writing doesn’t stop with my last sentence. Now it’s merely a starting point for a much richer conversation that draws on the gifts and experiences of each person who enters in, comments and shares.

Now I get to write like it’s a meal to serve real people, friends even and I am no longer just playing in the kitchen to serve my own hunger.

Everyone has something to offer

Last year I hosted a gathering of girls—we didn’t have a name, just an idea—over a few months on Thursday nights in our home. The premise was that we would choose a word for each week (usually collectively) and then each person would bring her contribution towards that word. Whether it was a written piece, a quote, a comment, a song or a plate of lemon tarts.

I simply facilitated the discussion. Every person brought her thoughts, wisdom and honest self. That’s what made it brilliant. We said goodnight at the end of every one of those evenings with a rich experience that stretched so much wider than one person’s perspective or story.

I began to realize just how much I believe in this kind of journey now:

  • A journey that values the story and God in each person.
  • A journey that believes in each one of our voices getting stronger and clearer.
  • A journey that encourages the gifts in each other and offers a safe place for that to happen.

I love that writing is no longer me and my journal and my 16-year-old angsty self confined to the walls of my head and my heart. I love that writing busts right through my computer screen into a wide web of real people who might geographically be far away, but are virtually close.

I love that writing is now a bridge, a connecting point, where I can meet other words—your world of ideas and stories—and where, together, we may partake in something so much bigger than ourselves.

Recently, in my reply to Erin’s comments on Hungry for My Right Size, I said:

” … blogging again is my way of trying to break through the silence and finding my voice, my roar. What is amazing is to find these voices here right alongside that are blessing me so tremendously as we each share our stories … That for me is true liberation. How our freedom is tied up into each other’s freedom.”

I deeply believe that.

Questions to spark our conversation:

  • How do  you experience writing?
  • How does it make you feel to hit “publish”?
  • Any other thoughts or ideas? I’d love to hear from you.
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  • Kelley

    I ~ I feel that way about the SheLoves experience. Writing (and journaling) has become a conversation, communal and so rich. I love the interaction words can invite, I love feeling like we are in it together and not isolated.

    Curious, what are some of the words you have convened around on Thursday nights? Which have been most surprising, most rich, most challenging? Love that idea! Wish I was in town to be with you…

    • http://www.idelette.com idelette

      Hi my friend, I actually have to go look in my journals, I think! We started with the word “beginnings.”One of the most surprising & challenging ones was “discipline.” Two of us really had a bad connotation attached to it … we didn’t like the word at all. By the end of the night, I remember having shifted in my thinking. We all just talked through it together. It was huge for me. I’ll look for some of the other words too.

      • http://www.idelette.com idelette

        And yes, I wish you were in town to be with us too!

  • Christiana Walter2

    Love this post Idelette! Writing for me has been about finding my voice and wanting to be heard. Figuring out that I have something to say.

    That’s all fine and dandy but the beauty of SheLoves is that other people are listening and I have the opportunity to listen to them. That means the world. It really is such a powerful way of fostering community.

    It’s funny, looking back at my college years the people I felt the closest to were always my classmates in writing workshops.

    P.S. love your idea that our freedom is tied up in each other!

    • http://www.idelette.com idelette

      Thanks, Christi! It’s so great to hear your voice and have you close here … It’s so true that each one of us–our voices and our desire to connect and be there for each other–that is what creates the community. You are a part of that and I love that.

  • Alana Strong Buroff

    Ooo, what a great idea for Thursday evenings! I’m going to start this with the girls in my community here in DC. I want this kind of journey that values, encourages, and believes for us too!

  • http://cascadinglife.org Debra Boucher

    I love this image of our words setting a table for others to gather round for nourishment and fellowship. I have only just begun blogging and it is the isolation that I struggle with the most. After years of gathering with groups of women in a room, sharing ideas, experiences, hopes, and dreams, now I am praying for this same experience around my writing/blog. It is good to know that you are experiencing it. Thanks.

    • http://www.idelette.com idelette

      Hi Debra! Thank you for reading. I’ll be honest, there are times when blogging is very lonely and hard, especially when you’ve poured out your heart and soul on a page and all you hear is crickets … That is hard. But that has also taught me that writing the piece has to be enough in itself. I am simply asked to be faithful and share my heart and life. There’s been many tears. But then … There’s been breakthrough and a strengthening in my bones and from that, a freedom … So the words and the responses don’t “hold” me any longer.

      I pray for you right now that the Author of Life will lead you into a lifegiving online community and a place where your words are heard and received beautifully.

      • http://cascadinglife.org Debra Boucher

        Thank you so much for your prayer and encouraging words.