Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing in the Moonlight: Life-Changing Books

The sun of righteousness will rise will healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

Just as the moon reflects the rays of the sun, Christians need to reflect God. Hence I’m calling my writing life moonlighting. Also I thought the name fit because I write better in the quiet of the night. I have read many books on the craft of writing and have subscribed to Writer’s Digest for probably twenty years or more. I have also read numerous articles on the web. You would think I would have learned something by now!

From the time I first found out that regular people wrote books, that you did not have to be a genius (although I suspect that might help), I have wanted to be a writer. I don’t remember learning to read. I remember devouring every book I could get my hands on in first grade. As I’ve mentioned, we didn’t have many books at home, so I eagerly read any textbook our teacher gave us or any book we were allowed to check out from the school library. The reading books used in first grade were the Dick and Jane series. I still remember some of the stories, such as the one where the dad buys cowboy outfits for his children (and I wondered, why didn’t my dad buy me a cowgirl outfit?). The next year, or at least some time in the future, the kids find the outfits and put them on to find they no longer fit.

Isn’t it funny how certain stories “stick” in our memories? I suppose that one stuck because I longed to have such a happy family, a family where laughter came easily and parents were focused on making their children happy. Why am I mentioning this book in a post on writing? Because every book we ever read has led us to this point we are at in our writing.

I would say the authors who have influenced my writing the most are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie—three very different writers, each with a distinctive style. Yet they all have this in common—unforgettable characters. I am one of those who believe story trumps all. If you don’t have a compelling story, no one will want to read what you write. But, if you do not have compelling characters, no one is going to remember what you write.

Specifically, of the books I have read on the craft of writing, two stand out. The latest one I read (and probably why I remember it so well) is Stephen King’s On Writing. The biggest lesson I garnered from his book is to keep on keeping on. After his accident, when he still had difficulty sitting up for long periods of time, he began writing again. How often do we let a mild headache, or just a feeling of tiredness, keep us from doing those things we know we should do? In other words, writers need to be disciplined. We should not let minor aches and pains, or any other minor distraction, keep us from writing.

The other book I remember well is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And the take-away from it? One step at a time. Remember John Lennon’s quote from last week? “The goal was always just a few yards ahead.” I take it one chapter at a time or one page at a time or even just one word at a time. When I first started writing, I would write in chunks of time. Fifteen minutes and then I would take a break to play a computer card game. When I finished my game, fifteen more minutes of writing. Little by little, “bird by bird.”

When I think of coming up with a completed novel, the idea seems overwhelming. It always amazes me that so many people have been able to achieve it. As many people who write know, it ain’t easy! But it is very rewarding, especially if we are able to reflect just a bit of God’s glory!

1 comment:

Thanks for sitting a spell and chatting!