Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


A Book Begins (with a question)

I’m sitting at my new kitchen table, with a wash of pale, pearly sunlight over my hands. Autumn has come in a rainy rush the past few days, but the air this morning is crisp, clearing, and that sense of a new season tingles in my skin and begins to burn in the leaves outside. I always feel quickened in autumn, with new ideas, with freshly gripped ideals that must be well begun before winter sets in, and this year I burn with all I want to create; a new home, new books, new friendships and traditions… img_6104

My hearty dose of reality this morning is a mountain of empty IKEA boxes to my left (which, if you don’t have a car, become suddenly difficult to dispose of) and a room crammed with all of the downstairs furnishings as the (very old) ceiling in our front room decided it was time to crash down, evidenced by a large and sinister crack in the plaster. We managed to delay this by propping wood under it, and the builder comes this week, but for the moment the settling and ordering of this new little house is on pause, so I am turning my autumn-freshened energy to the next thing that burns in my heart: writing.

I have three notebooks open on the table, all with scribbled lists of what I want to write. Oh, there is so much I want to tell and explore, so many stories, so many truths I’ve gathered in the last year of study, of love, of watching God’s grace thread through my life, weaving so much hope. There’s much I will write on the blog here– daily wonders, theological discoveries, favorite books, the usual. But the time has also come when I am ready to begin another book, and I think I know what it will be.

Here’s the thing, I want to ask you about it first.

As many of you know, much of my writing in the past years has focused on children and reading; why reading is important, how it shapes the soul and self, and why a strong imagination is so vital to the development of mind and soul. I only grow more passionate about these ideas, but as I have studied theology and spiritual formation, I’ve been startled to realize how many of the things I learned about how children develop and grow are still just as vital for adults.

We equally need to cultivate a capacity to wonder, a love for learning, a strong imagination. We equally must read because all of this is central to the way we see ourselves, the story we create, the faith we hold in the midst of grief, the beauty we bring to a hopeless culture.

I’ve spent the last year asking the same questions of myself that I asked for children: How can I cultivate wonder in myself (something I think is necessary to worship)? How do I nourish my own imagination? How do I strengthen my faith, broaden my own ideas, educate my mind so that I have roots in truth and the capacity to interact wisely with the world around me?

As I have asked and answered these for myself, I’ve begun to realize that a new book is beginning to out shout for creation in my mind. And it’s this:

20120611083104143What if there was a ‘book on books’ for women? A book to be a companion as you learn to fill up your own soul, learn afresh, strengthen your own imagination. What if there was a book with favorite booklists, resources, essays, and suggestions for habits that met women in the midst of their ordinary lives, which is, after all, where most of our learning takes place. A book on development of mind and soul that also focused on imagination and reading, but was written to adults. Not an academic book, or a college course, but one that explores, creatively, personally, and with practical application, what it looks like to educate, nourish, and fill the rooms of your heart and mind and soul, wherever you live, whatever your story.

This would be a book of personal stories and ideas, of book recommendations and suggestions for how to begin, of favorite resources and chapters focusing on education, reading, devotion, culture, community, a book meant to encourage you to learn, to grow, to nourish the inmost rooms of heart and mind so that you can be strong and creative, and better equipped to flourish in whatever work God has given you to do.

So here’s my question (really, a series of questions), but it boils down to: would you be interested in that kind of a book, and if so, what would you want it to provide?

Would you want an all out ‘book on books’ with reading research and book lists and reviews written specifically to you?

Or one that included books but was focused on a more holistic vision for becoming self-educated, how to go about it, how to think about it, how to create a community to do it?

Would you want vision or pragmatism? Stories to fill your imagination, or practical lists to help you begin, or both?

Would you want to hear from other women writers or thinkers? Would you want the book to be a handbook with stories or a memoir with lists?

In short – I’d love to hear your ideas, would be delighted to know your own desires in this whole area of self-education and soul development. I’ve already begun work on this book, putting together lists of beloved books, talking to mentors and friends about the habits they’ve practiced to fill soul and heart with beauty. My heart and mind flare to life at thought of women reading, learning, growing afresh together.

So, tell me what you think. I'll be so grateful. (And it will distract me from the IKEA boxes.)

A beautiful day to all you beautiful people.

Sarah Clarkson46 Comments