Saturday, November 5, 2011

Upper Room Books "guest" blog post

Working on a manuscript

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Quite often, because I’m fortunate enough to have regular writing gigs such as a newspaper column, I get invited to talk at civic organizations, schools, and churches.

“People tend to be under the delusion that because I’m a good writer, I can also speak in public,” I usually say. “I accepted your invitation in order to disabuse you of that misapprehension.” I then go on to share my passion for life, my latest book, the particular subject I’ve been asked to talk about, and for the written word in general.

What impresses  people who attend these public events is—most of the time—not so much any eloquence I offer, as it is the authenticity and enthusiasm I manage to communicate when I speak.

True Story: One morning, after I had addressed a downtown business gathering in Tampa, a middle-aged executive demanded an accounting: “You seem unusually enthusiastic,” he said, pointedly. “Please explain yourself.”
It was as if I’d crossed some kind of a line. Evidently I had upset the status quo of mediocrity and cultured disinterest. Because, as the man said, “It’s been years since anyone who came here spoke about anything they believed in as much as you obviously do."

Here’s my point: What I’m talking about has everything to do with writing. There are two prerequisites to speaking in public, and they overlap nicely with the writing life.
  1. You must exhibit a degree of mastery in the mechanics of your craft.
  2. You must communicate passion for your subject matter.
Ditto writing:
  1. Study, practice, solicit feedback, correct, push the envelope. Hone the skill and never stop learning.
  2. Then—and this is the spiritual side of writing, the relational dimension—write with evident passion.
Now step back: OK, this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but bear with me. Writing specifically for publication is sometimes the worst thing you can do if you want passion in your prose. Fact is, the first person we should be writing for is ourselves. Write to touch your own soul.

When we capture our emotions and ideas in such a way that we catch our own breath, bring a tear to our own eye, or make ourselves chuckle, then it’s time to let the world look over our shoulder and see what we’re up to.

Some Good Books
The first editor to ever accept a significant article from me wrote the following the day after he read my submission: “Derek, I took this home and read it to my wife over dinner. We both laughed until we cried. Thanks for the love you poured into your work.”

When some editor is jolted out of her or his reverie by the passion in your writing, that is when you have found your voice.
Listen for it in yourself first, then share.

Read Derek Maul’s daily blog at <>

Editors note: Writers often hear “Write for your audience.” Derek says Write first for yourself. Does that give you a new perspective?

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