The Lively Art of Writing

At the same time, I do not wish to intimidate you with my letters. His letters, they say, are severe and forceful, but when he is here in person he is unimpressive and his word makes no great impact. Well, let such people give this some thought, that what we are by word, in the letters during our absence, that we mean to be in action when we are present.

2 Cor 10:10-11

We’ve been experiencing growing pains in our Latin Mass, the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, here at St. Jane, and between that and helping many with coronastress I’ve found myself on the phone or writing letters, e-mails, and texts constantly for months on end. I haven’t written so much since I was graduated Liberal Arts school, though thankfully typewriters are out of style.

It’s helped me to realize I need to sharpen my mad writing skills.

And in the interest of doing so, I looked up an old book we worked through in High School, called “The Lively Art of Writing“. The Yoast readability analysis of my last blogpost recommended I have more structure, which is something right out of TLAoW.

Basically, before you write anything you make an outline – for blogposts that outline basically becomes your headers. I used that formula throughout my life until I kept a weblog, since it was more or less just a weblog, not the self-published magazines they’ve become.

Back to the Terrifying Reality of Writing

Modern sensibilities are terrified of putting things in writing. I get it.

“Look what you said! What did you mean by this word?! What did you mean by that phrase?! He’s talking about me! Me Me Me! You used this word wrong!!!!”

It’s easy to be misunderstood when you write something down. So when you do write things down, it’s best to stick with the facts and simply acknowledge that many will read their own interpretation into things.

Let them. It’s fine when you know that what you’re saying is genuine, non-harmful, and meant to communicate in a healthy way.

Clarifications and Terms

In our ongoing Covid realities, situations are changing constantly and it’s helpful to give updates that aren’t always possible any other way. I’ve done my share of live streams and video messages, but people usually prefer having something in writing.

The video messages go over well, and I’m overdue for another. But what I found is that many liked that the video presentations were there and that I was doing them, but they didn’t/couldn’t always take the time to watch them. The presence they brought was more comforting than the actual message, to most. 😐

Back to our Latin Mass, I was experiencing confusion regarding it. So – the only thing I’ve really done the last few months is to stop acting as a mediator and healer and allow others to start seeing the confusion for what it is. Overall it’s just a growth phase in the spiritual life of the Mass-goers here. It’s a growth phase for myself as well.

Phone Tag Lag

Writing texts and e-mails begs the question “Why don’t you just call?”

The life of the phone message can be exasperating and takes on a cycle uniquely its own. Here, and in many areas I’ve come to find out, phone messages will often show up a day or three later.

So the cycle can go like this:

  • Monday: “Father, it’s Daisy, can you give me a call?”
  • Message shows up Tuesday: “Daisy I’m returning your call, let me know what you need.”
  • Thursday – Message from Tuesday evening shows up: “Father we’re playing phone tag, I’ll try again.”
  • Thursday afternoon: “Hi Daisy, returning your call. Can you leave me a message about what you need, and we can work from there?”
  • Sunday evening message appears along with three calls from the Archbishop that he made Friday, and an emergency call from hospice: “Father, we keep missing each other! I’ll send you an e-mail, you never return your calls!”


Texting works great, and so many hate it. Immediate responses are possible, or realistically as soon as possible if not immediately. Everyone and their cousin learned how to text after Katrina hit and that’s all we could do.

It can get overwhelming when everyone texts out of the blue all at once, or when you’re exhausted and a random text floats in. But it does work.

But again, it’s writing and you’ve put it down and put it out there for people to misinterpret. “What did you mean by the Latin Mass is going through a growth phase? Are you implying that we’re immature? Maybe it’s you who are immature!”

Granted, I am always growing through life. That’s a healthy given.

The Scourge of E-mail

E-mail can be an energy-sapping reality that needs to be put in its place. Currently, my auto-responder is set to notify senders that I’ll answer e-mails on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, while monitoring for emergencies.

Research shows that in order to work at a level of thought with enough depth to expand the mind, focus, and develop ideas, you need a good three hours for the level of concentration required. If you’re checking email constantly and needing to reply to it immediately you may as well hang up your prayer life, your homilies, your ideas, and any serious work you need to get done.

The Ancient Art of Letters

The art of letter writing is something that currently eludes me.

Every now and again I just have to sit down and get some ideas out to help clarify situations or to state something, draw boundaries, etc. At times I just don’t have the time necessary for it to be an art form, but it’s at least something.

I’ve reached the end of clarifying anything to do with our Latin Mass, which is good.

I can also be extremely strong in my writing, which I’m aware transfers over into my letter writing. I’m intent on working through that into a better style of business writing, but given everything going on these days, sometimes you just have to type something up and send it.

The thing is that I write a lot. I’ll force myself into brevity, but I can sit down over coffee in the morning and type up a five page e-mail in ten minutes, edit it, peruse for misspellings and grammatical errors, then hit send.

Too, instead of sending off a one page letter, I’ll send off a five page one. 🤷🏼‍♂️

I decided to start typing into my little weblog again, and practice readability and structuring while I work on ideas for another blog I’m considering.

A work in progress

Writing is never something to be afraid of. And a lot of people read things into my writing that simply aren’t there. Well, not a lot of people. A few people do that, and I’ve more or less moved beyond worrying over it.

Texts and e-mails can lead to electronic clutter, which is a different story entirely and definitely a task to stay on top of. But writing is healthy and fun.

All the best in your writing adventures. And all the best in mine, too. 😳

Keep it lively.


Guest Bloggers

I’ve been pondering the subject of Guest Bloggers.

Sarah Rienhard, over at the Catholic Writer’s Guild, makes some excellent points on Guest Blogging:

Benefits of Guest Posting (whether or not you blog)

1. It gets you exposed to a different audience, or, if you’re not a blogger, to an online audience.

2. It’s a win-win, in many ways. The blogger gets good content; you get a chance to tap into their audience.

3. It might stretch you to write in a different way, for a new subject, or for a set of people you might not have a chance to connect with otherwise.

And, she offers great advice on whether or not to blog at all:

To keep that brief, I can handle blogging, despite the fact that I don’t overly edit my writing. (Unless I completely edit it almost out of existence, such as this once lengthy post.)

Point being! I’ve started inviting Guest Bloggers to post. So. We’ll see how this goes… should be fun!

The Rev. Kenneth Allen