The Two Chairs Every Writer Must Have

Feb 17, 2021 | Writing on Wednesday

If you hang around writers long enough, you’ll hear the old adage about logging time in the chair. The writer’s chair. And it’s true. Nothing will ever get written — beyond the scraps we scribble on tousled napkins and crumpled gum wrappers — unless we put our bum in the chair and set about the hard work of writing.

Every writer needs this chair.

I prefer one with four legs and zero wheels. My writing chair is not your typical swivel desk-chair that can roll out from beneath you. Mine is more like the kind of chair you’d find at the end of a formal dining table. Solid. Stately. And a little padded. Except mine is in front of my computer.

It works for me, and if you’re writer, you’ll find the one that works for you.

But there’s a second chair that’s just as essential to the health of the writing life.

As much as we need to hammer out words on the anvil of our hearts while sitting in our writing chair, we also need a second chair — a designated place where we go to fill our hearts and minds, and most importantly, our souls.

We need a place where we can read truth and beauty and goodness from writers who have gone before us. We need a place where we can ponder and reflect and consider the words that well up from within us. Above all, we need a place where our souls can drink from the Living Water, the holy words of Scripture that right our thinking and set our hearts ablaze for eternity.

This other chair is my reading chair, where I read and journal and ponder.

The writing chair is where words are birthed, but the reading chair is where words are conceived and gestate.

It’s true that ideas and words can formulate at any time in any place. While scrubbing a cast iron skillet. While driving to the grocery store. While talking with a friend over coffee.

But words never arise from nothing. They come from somewhere, deep within the concealed crevices of a writer’s heart. In the midst of the unspoken, ideas swell and stir long before letters emerge and fasten themselves into words.

If we as writers want to shape our ideas with words that have a lasting impact on others, then we want to begin with sound material. Which takes us back to the reading chair. This is where we plant the seeds of good words, earthy words, hearty words into the soil of our souls.

The reading chair is that quiet place where the intentional writer spends more hours, days, and years than she could possibly hope to quantify.

The reading chair might have begun in her bed at night with a flashlight under the covers. It might have blossomed in the bean bag “chair” in the corner of the school library. Perhaps it flourished in the “chair” of a picnic blanket under a willow tree as she flirted for the first time with poetry.

Yes, the reading chair will take on many shapes and sizes in a writer’s burgeoning life. But when it’s time for the simple lover of words to grow serious about writing her own, she will make a special place — a sacred space — in a quiet corner of her unspoken world.

I’ve yet to meet a dedicated writer who doesn’t have a reading chair somewhere in their private lives, for every writer becomes a one-of-a-kind culmination of every word she’s ever devoured.

 


 

Today’s article is the first in a new series called #WritingOnWednesday where I’ll discuss some aspect of the craft of writing each Wednesday. Sometimes the articles will contain practical how-to advice; other times they’ll delve more into the life of the writer with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a writer’s habits and thought processes.

For this series, I draw on my background as an adjunct professor of composition and literature, as well as a practitioner in the publishing industry as both an author and an editor. If you’ve been following me a long time, you may recognize bits and pieces throughout this series as I aim to bring back some of the most-loved pieces I’ve written over the years, but every article will be revisited with fresh eyes and newly revised.

If you have any questions about the craft of writing or the life of a writer, send me your questions here. I’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.
 

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Denise J. Hughes

Denise J. Hughes

Denise writes about “the quiet life” — a phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:11. It’s a vision for living counterculturally in a loud and restless world. She is the author of Deeper Waters and the General Editor of the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible. Denise lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids.

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