Enjoying the Journey
We were standing in a bookstore surrounded by thousands of good books when I asked the question: “How do you begin writing?” The advice of one of my spiritual fathers that afternoon has been of immeasurable help to me. He said three things. First, get a copy of William Safire’s Fumblerules. I still have that helpful little volume, but more importantly I learned that to be a writer you have to work at it. Second, he counseled me not to publish too early. “When you are older your ideas will have formulated more clearly. You will be glad you waited.” He was right. Finally, he said, “Start. Begin with writing short articles and you will develop a style and the ability to express your thoughts.”
And so I started. This blog is one of the practical things that grew out of that conversation. Writing on a blog has been a great help to me personally. I hope from time to time it encourages someone else, but it has definitely been a means of growth for me. I have learned that writing is much harder than reading! And I am learning many other lessons along the journey.
Here are a few suggestions I would make to those who have the desire to begin:
- Keep a list of ideas. Moments of inspiration do not always come, and when they do make an appearance they do not linger! Someone once said that the a short pencil is better than a long memory. So true. I have found that when the initial idea suggests itself I am not usually ready to write about it. Over time God will bring additional thoughts and experiences that eventually intersect and form a more complete article. Maintain a file of starter thoughts and review them often.
- Discipline yourself to write regularly. Writing is hard work and hard work requires habits. This year I have attempted (and at times failed) to write on my blog twice a week. We all know that some weeks are harder than others. Even so, the habit of writing must be developed and maintained. Like anything else worth doing, a dedicated location and time is a good place to start.
- Say it in as few words as possible. Conciseness is a part of clarity. Talkers like me have a tendency to use too many words. My Pastor, who has written prolifically, recently said in my presence, “It is harder to write in few words than in many words.” True simplicity requires a great deal of thought. Think it through. Talk it through. Pray it through. Write it down. Then edit and edit and edit and edit…
- Write from your heart. Subjects should speak to you first if you want them to touch someone else. Write out of the overflow of your own life. Every blessing, every struggle, every lesson is an opportunity to “pass it on.” Creativity is good but authenticity is better. Authors share more than stories and suggestions; they share themselves.
- Don’t be hasty to release your thoughts. Read and reread. Write and rewrite. Once something is published it is never fully retracted or revised. Ask yourself: is this helpful? is this hurtful? is this true? is this written clearly? would I be ashamed to read this ten years from now? In our social media age of 10 second posts and impulse responses we should all work at writing thoughtfully.
- Pray over what you pen (or type). Ask the Lord to use what you are writing to be a means of blessing to others. “Death and life” are in the power of the written word too. God can guard your writings and guide them to just the right people. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.”
- Never stop trying to improve. I have a long way to go! So do you. Ask others who have more experience and insight. Read a good book on the subject. And above all, keep writing.