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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Beginnings (05/31/04)

By James Snyder


For years, I have suffered from a rare but chronic anguish. As far as I can tell, there presently there is no known cure for this malady.

The name for this strange disease is "Pencilitis.” It comes from two words: “pencil” which refers to any writing instrument, and "itis," which means to itch like crazy. In short, it means I must have a pencil or pen in my hand at all times, scribbling incessantly... or else.

This affliction has plagued me for so long that I cannot remember a time when I have not had some writing instrument of some kind in. my hand. From my first crayon drawing on the walls of my nursery to the latest printout from my computer, I have spent my life scribbling. It is a compulsion that has driven me to ink

Some fortunate people enjoy long periods of writer's block. I know one writer who did not write anything for 18 years. Ah, to dream of that kind of relief and yet to know it is far out of my reach. I have not enjoyed such a blessing. What it must be like to sit in blissful quietness with not a thought in my head. I sure do envy those people

Mine has been a haunting toil with the quill and inkbottle. Every day of my life, I must dip my pen into that persnickety bottle of permanent India ink. Some people battle the booze bottle; my contention is with the inkbottle.

A blank piece of paper (no matter where I find it) is an abomination to me. Within me is an impulsion to put something on that piece of paper even if it is only my name.

Some people are neat-freaks; I'm a doodle-freak I have to accept that I am incurably addicted to doodling. Even in restaurants, I must doodle on the napkins, much to my wife's consternation (especially if the napkins are cloth). My doodle impetus knows no discrimination. All objects are equal when it comes to my scribbling on them. (I am an equal opportunity scribbler.) Often I see something in the papers that stirs my innermost being and my fingers begin itching. I try to resist, but I know I must write.

It's a struggle as I try my best to live with my hardship. Last week, for example, I awoke at 2:20 am, my brain swimming with ideas. Nothing would do, but I had to get up and go to my chair and write. After filling thee legal pages with all but lucid scribbling I was able to go back to bed and sleep. That is, after I had a snack (All that work makes a fellow hungry.)

In the light of morning I tried to read the scrawling from the night vigil; it was hard to know what brainstorm caused all that writing frenzy. Keeping up with all my ideas is a challenge for me. My brainchildren are just that to me - children. Sometimes they are cute and obedient and other times they are berserk with indescribable levels of lunacy.

When I am away from my writing mania, I begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms. My fingers begin to itch. My palms get sweaty. And my entire body begins gently to convulse. (This is not a pretty sight.) Relief comes only when I put a pencil in my hand and I begin to scrawl on anything at hand (sometimes even my hand).

St Augustine, one of the Church "fathers," understood this kind of thing when he wrote, “Thou, O Lord, has created us for Thyself and we are restless until we rest fully in Thee." Everybody experiences some form of restlessness. We excuse it and try to modify it, but in the end there is a pervading spirit of skittishness that we all battle.

It's amazing how other people's problems often look silly compared with our own. Somehow, we can condemn in others what we condone in ourselves.

I’m beginning to understand that from the beginning God made me like this for His purpose. I can begin swerving God by submitting to those things in my life, which I might consider neurosis.

Member Comments
Member Date
Gary Sims06/07/04
James - This is an enjoyable article and I assume more than one of us will relate to your neurosis. The premise behind your summation is very good – we all must learn to recognize that God created us and is using us for His purpose. The difficult concept to understand is that He is working through our imperfections and idiosyncrasies as much or more than our “good” traits. Good lesson.

However, I have one suggestion or comment that I think would improve the article. Your closing statement is not as strong as the rest of the article and, arguably, this is the most important part. Just as I was looking to see how you were tying this article with the theme for the week, you hit us with the word “beginning” twice in one sentence. The redundancy is a bit uncomfortable.

In addition, we have the phrase “I can begin swerving God “ which obviously should have been “serving God.” These two errors in the crucial closing statement left me a little disappointed. I get the feeling that the article had already been written and you added this last paragraph in order to tie it into the theme. There is nothing wrong with that but it seems that you should have spent a little more time with editing and rewriting so it would match the quality of the rest of the piece.

Keep doodling! - Gary
Mary Elder-Criss06/07/04
I enjoyed your piece. I am also a doodler, can't control it, and can relate to the napkins. I agree the ending needed to be a little stronger, but did enjoy the overall piece. Blessings! Mary
Deborah Porter 06/07/04
Wow James, at the top of the list again (and thankfully you kept your clothes on this week!) As always, I enjoyed the story, even though I'm not a doodler (never realised that I wasn't until now ... feel kind of deprived in some way).

Do agree with Gary's comments, but still an enjoyable read and good start to my week of Challenge reading. With love, Deb
Dian Moore06/07/04
Oh James - you are so funny. But were you writing this in the midst of night again? I caught three errors: two "there"s in the first paragraph; A missing period at the end of the fourth paragraph; and the swerving misspeling in the last paragraph. I still enjoyed reading your entry, though, and I'll look forward to the next. Good job except for the typos.
Norma OGrady06/07/04
I can Identify with this.
I’m beginning to understand that from the beginning God made me like this for His purpose. I can begin swerving God by submitting to those things in my life, which I might consider neurosis.
I now have visceral conviction!
Blessings from Yeshua over you and yours
L.M. Lee06/07/04
What a great piece! I think part of being "whole" is accepting what God poured into us - quirks and all!

I hate having an idea and no way to capture it until I can get to my keyboard.

I hope your friend with 18 year block, had other work! :-)
Dave Wagner06/07/04
>> It is a compulsion that has driven me to ink...<

That's a terrific line.

I echo Gary's comments. Good work, indeed, but it was a bit obvious that you adapted an already-written piece to conform it to the topic of the week. That's all well and good, and I appreciate your efforts. Chalk up another smile from this reader.
B Price06/07/04
James, I see you can write other things.
I have that doodle problem too, not as bad as you do, but almost as bad.. I don't write on cloth napkins.
May your friend find a way to unblock that brain of his, and if he suppose to write, and GOD wants him too, he will otherwise it not his calling to write.
did good with this.
Dan Blankenship 06/08/04
[This affliction has plagued me for so long that I cannot remember a time when I have not had some writing instrument of some kind in. my hand.] I guess that period was a mistake...

I found the article to be very well written, though I agree with one reviewer, the last paragraph was weak and repeated the word beginning twice.

I loved the entry to this piece, its universal appeal, and the clever comments thrown into the mix.

I have limited time to review most of these stories, so I feel bad if I don't make it to all of the articles because so many of them are THIS good. There are DEFINITELY some very good writers on this site; I am amazed by some of the great works here.

Keep up the good work.
God Bless.
Dan Blankenship
Patricia Ouellette06/13/04
As with most here at Faith Writers I can definitely identify with your affliction.. Or is it a blessing? I believe our neurotic need for a pencil and paper is a gift that only God can give us. Your article is inspiring and whitty. I aplaud you in your efforts and simply urge you to do what I most often fail in, edit your work before submitting it.

You definitely have a wonderful flair. Thank you very much I really enjoyed your work.

Blessings in His name.