Blind Spots

By

I am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots—realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about.

Such is the nature of a blind spot—I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine.

A friend asked me recently what I thought was my greatest weakness as a writer. As I thought about it, I discovered I did not know the true answer—a fact which itself may be the best answer I have to offer. My greatest weakness is that I am in many ways oblivious to my weakness. I don’t know what I don’t know, which means sometimes my writing is the work of a blind-folded man with vertigo stumbling around a china shop.

I am relatively young in the craft of writing, but I love everything about it. I am wired for this work, and I intend to keep at it until my God takes the pen from my hand. I love the blank page. I love grimacing through the bad first draft. I love the tedious work of revision. I love realizing the paragraph I just spent a half hour on needs to be struck from the manuscript because it does not belong.

I love sending my best first pass to an editor. I love that feeling of having accomplished something weighty. And I love it when the editor sends it back covered in red ink. I really do. I feel that the editor just made the work better. They saw what I could not see and spoke into it, and in doing so, made it stronger.

Still, whenever someone edits our work, or brings constructive criticism of any kind to the labors we take on, we have a choice to make. Will we receive the criticism as a wound, or as a gift? That depends on whether or not we’re okay with having blind spots and limits. Learning to function within our limits brings us face to face with our pride. And anything that humbles the proud has inherent virtue.

Love for the craft of writing is not my struggle. But when I go back and read things I wrote even a year ago, I see weaknesses in that writing I did not recognize at the time. What makes me think the same will not be true a year from now when I look back on these words I write today?

This fact tells me two things about my writing: 1. I will always have blind spots. and 2. If I keep at it, I will get better.

I can live with that, as if there’s a choice.

 

(This article originally appeared at The Blazing Center.)

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Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003).

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2 Comments

  1. Brad R.

    Love this Russ. You seem to have a better grasp on the humility this requires than I do. I have a hard time distinguishing between when I need to fight to keep an idea, and when to submit to a critique and change a line (or a verse, or scrap a whole song). It hurts. I just hope I can get to the place where my ego stops getting in the way of getting better.

  2. Randi

    Oddly enough, I found your post to be very encouraging. As an aspiring writer, my most prominent struggle is certainly the feeling of inadequacy. I am acutely aware of how little I know.

    But I think “blind spots” is a very accurate analogy. I can especially relate with you on this point: “I don’t know what I don’t know, which means sometimes my writing is the work of a blind-folded man with vertigo stumbling around a china shop.”

    Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” I hope that I manage to handle the process of editing with as much humble acceptance as you do.

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