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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Devotional for Writers and Other Folks


I wrote this devo for the writers' conference this weekend, but it didn't get delivered there--so, rather than waste a perfectly good set of words (okay, maybe not perfect), I'm going to put it in here.

If you're not a writer, just ignore the parts about writing, but most of it applies to all of us.

Proverbs 9:3b-12 (Part of the proverbs ascribed to Solomon)

[Wisdom] cries out from the highest places of the city, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding. He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser. Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, for by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone.”

Wisdom is portrayed in the Book of Proverbs as a woman who calls people from foolishness to understanding. She tells people to accept the correction of those with wisdom and understanding or reap the consequences of their folly.

Writers or authors with multiple books or magazine articles published, editors with years of experience, and publishers all have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. Why would we not accept their wisdom?

The first time I sent a manuscript chapter through a group of critiquers (better known as critters), I felt threatened and humiliated by the suggested changes. How dare they propose adjustments to my precious baby? I set the suggestions aside for a day.

The next morning I faced their suggestions again. Some terminologies were new, like tag lines; show, don’t tell; ms; wip; protag; antag; pov; deep pov; head hopping. Some I already knew, like active and passive voices. Then they threw in one more: my voice, and that I should find it. I didn’t even know it was lost.

Talk about green! I felt like a June apple.

I waded through the myriad of ideas posed by the critters. Prior to joining the group, the leader said if one person suggested something, take it with a grain of salt and think about it. If two, take a second critical look at it yourself. If three, make the bloomin’ change and quit arguing.

Since joining the crit group, I’d add another: there are some whose suggestions I take almost all the time and some whose crits I nearly always toss without making any changes to my ms. In another year, though, they will most likely have learned enough to be listened to. I hope.

I can’t say the same thing about all established authors and agents, but I’ve found that within the Christian writing community those who are pubbed are thrilled when one of the unpubbed joins their ranks. They mentor, advise, and recommend untiringly. They lift up these new competitors for readers in prayer, pound their backs in praise, and brag as much about the newbee’s books as they would never brag about their own.

You, too, could experience criticism. You might hear other writers or agents offering ideas you don’t agree with. You could enter a crit group thinking you have the best ms in the world and wind up wondering if you have any talent at all.

Improvement is as natural as respiration. Breathe in the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit; breathe out those enemies, Scorn, Stubbornness, and Fear. Breathe in Understanding; breathe out the Scoffer. Breathe in; develop your talent. Breathe out; make your manuscript an inspiration.

Embrace Wisdom, and she will increase your abilities. Embrace the Scoffer, and he will kill your efforts.

Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. And above all, don’t ignore the wisdom those with more experience give you. Think about it: Do you think you'll be a better writer a year from now? Each of these advisers have been in your shoes, still in the learning phase. Take the criticism with the intention of help and not harm meant; learn from it, grow with it, flourish because of it.

Then, to paraphrase the latest Haynes commercial: “We wriiiiite!”