Thursday, September 16, 2010

My best writing advice....

Yesterday I stayed up writing till almost midnight. Not by choice so much as necessity. I suspect it's going to be this way for the remainder of the month.

Fortunately I'm enjoying the assignments, and it's always such a privilege to learn one more person's story, and to know that they trust me to re-tell it to the world in around 675 words!

This is how I've learned the value - and the effect - of concise story-telling. Sometimes (in fact, more often than not) an image can be more powerful because the writer supplies less in the way of detail.

Here's some free advice for writers: Ready? Imagine you have been asked to speak about someone's life at a memorial service... then imagine you've been given a strict limit of five minutes. Yet there is so much you want to say, such a rich picture that needs to be painted, and so little time.

Here's what you do. Think of your words as a sketch, a penciled-in line drawing. What you're doing is providing a hint of the detail, just enough so that the others present can fill in the colors and the nuances from their own experiences and memories.

The same thing happens in writing. Set the ball rolling, provide just enough so that the reader completes the picture. That way the effect is more authentic, even though ten different readers will "read" what you say ten different ways.

Sometimes I see the Bible this way. It's a short book, really, when you consider it's the epic story of the relationship between God and creation.

But I'm not sure that I'm 100% on board with people who say that the text of the Bible tells us everything there is to know about God. I am convinced that it contains most certainly more than enough... but I also suspect that the scriptures are a kind of sketch, that they set the tone and launch us in the right direction. I suspect that God's Word is only a thin slice of the depth and the richness and the completeness and the wonder that is the potential of our relationship with God.

It's kind of along the lines of Christ's statement that "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:9) God's word is a portal into the kingdom.

I will never be familiar with or adequately immersed in all of The Bible. This lifetime is not enough for that. Yet, at the same time, I understand that it's only a sketch, and I can't wait to see the treasures that are temporarily hidden.

I get glimpses sometimes. Not ecstasy per se or, as an atheist friend accused, euphoria, but concrete snapshots that have given me such a rush and such enthusiasm for continuing the journey.


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