September 30, 2011

Little by Little, Every Day - Susan Barclay

If you attended church a few decades ago, you probably remember the little chorus on which my title is based:
 Little by little, every day
Little by little, in every way
My Jesus is changing me
Well, if our writing habits follow this model, little by little, through Christ, we can change our world one word at a time.

"Let my teaching fall like rain, and my words descend like dew..." (Deuteronomy 32:2). Dew falls every morning, doesn't it? And dew is part of the hydrologic cycle that sees every molecule of water cleaned and purified so that life on planet earth continues. Dew drops are delicate, gentle beads that refresh the earth daily.

With all of the demands that life places on us, it can be challenging to write on a daily basis. But this is what is needed if our words are to "descend like dew." One author, whose name I've forgotten refers to it as "bum glue" - you must apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair. A crude, "un-dew-like" way of putting it perhaps, but effective. If you want to succeed in the call that God has placed on your heart, you must make the commitment to apply yourself daily to the task He's placed before you.

There are many writers who've made it a habit to write every day, whether their target is a certain number of hours, pages, or words. Graham Greene apparently wrote 500 words a day and then considered his work done; Frederick Forsyth is said to have written 2,000 and Anthony Trollope 3,000. We know the volume of work these men put out over the course of their careers, and the mark they left on the literary scene. Should those of us who belong to Christ do less? Not for the sake of our own fame, but for His, let us work diligently as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Little by little, every day, let our words descend like dew, and may God use our words to change and heal others - and ourselves - for the glory of His kingdom.

September 29, 2011

Words Like Dew or Fire? - Ruth L. Snyder

I just completed three courses on editing fiction, offered through The Christian PEN. The courses were provided online, using a combination of private list serve and email. Every Monday, members of the class received a lesson by email. After we read through the material, we sent our homework back via the list serve. I found this format a great way to learn. Often other classmates raised concerns or asked for information which was helpful to me and vice versa. Throughout the course, our instructor, Jeanne Marie Leach, modeled and reminded us often that editors of fiction need to use kind, gentle words. This is true, even when major revisions are needed before a book is published.

Last year at the Inscribe Fall Conference, author Sigmund Brouwer shared his story. When he was in grade 3, a teacher ridiculed a story he wrote. He decided he was never going to write again. School became a struggle, and his attitude became an issue. Finally, a university instructor provided a safe place for Brouwer to experiment and write. He is now a successful author with over 30 books to his credit.

"It only takes a spark, remember to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue - it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can't go on." (James 3:6-10 The Message)

As writers, words are our tools. I'm looking forward to sharpening my word skills at the 2011 Inscribe Fall Conference this coming weekend. Our words may bring healing, encouragement, and life or they can destroy, tear down, and kill. Every time we put our pen to paper or our fingers on the keyboard we need to ask God for wisdom. I want my words to be like dew, not fire. How about you?

Ruth L. Snyder
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