Words and Grace

I didn’t know I would be at this place when I completed my literary quotes series, but I think God planned it that way. Through my choice of which quote to use and through my experiences God showed me that I would have words to say about this very important quote.

First, let me share this quote by Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. “Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. Now, I want to make it clear I’m not comparing myself to Wiesel. He survived the Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities in world history, and he had the courage to write about it, to put words on paper so that we would, hopefully, never repeat the experience again. Now, the jury is out on us repeating the experience of persecuting people for the color of their skin, for their gender, for their religious beliefs, or for where they were born. In fact, let me go ahead and say these are still things that happen today however much we might not want them to or however much we might think we’ve “grown”.

But, Wiesel’s words inspired me, and they preserved history. And preserved a piece of his soul, I would think. He couldn’t prevent what happened to him and his family, but he could write it down for future generations to remember. This is how I believe his words could attain the quality of deeds. They help us learn about the dark parts of a man’s soul.

A man’s soul has light parts too, and this is where I believe it’s important for us to look at how God wants us to see words. There are many examples in Scripture, but I just want to focus on two of them today. Proverbs 18:21 says this, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” I remember reading somewhere that the tongue is the smallest organ in the body, but one which has the potential to cause the most damage. I agree with that and understand why God chose to tell us to be careful with our tongues. The other example is similar but is in the New Testament. From Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This means we’re supposed to build each other up with our words not tear each other down. Are we successful at this? Sometimes, yes, but, more often than not, no. It is something that is a work in progress.

Now, I started off talking about the written word and then switched to the spoken word. The question I want to ask now is about the application of Scripture to the written word. Is it the same as the tongue? Do we need to watch what we write as well as what we speak? I believe so. I believe God wants us to watch all of our words–both spoken and written–with the extra caveat that written words are more likely to be remembered as I’ve already discussed.

Usually, in these posts, I’ve written about how the quote relates to my life, but I’ve waited until now to do it for this one. There’s a reason for that. Sometimes, I lock up on the words I speak. I have a hard time thinking of what I want to say during the moment, and those moments usually turn out to be disasters. I’m sure that’s happened to a lot of us. 🙂 What that means for me though is that I communicate better using the written word. When I have the time to think about what I want to say, it generally comes out better and is more understandable.

Words and grace–I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded at giving grace with my spoken words and my written words. I haven’t made the effort to understand where a person might be coming from who is uttering hurtful words to me, and I’ve let my spoken words leave my tongue and my written words appear on paper faster than they should. As I end this series on writing quotes, I want to apologize to anyone who I’ve ever offended with my words–either spoken or written and pledge to make a renewed effort to be the writer and speaker God wants me to be.

Praying God’s blessings on you all!

 

The Gift

It’s interesting that I’m starting to write about this quote after I finished Margaret Atwood’s Master Class last week. One of the final lessons talked about how books represent two different kinds of economy–commercial and gift. When I looked back at the quote, I thought about how this could all be interwoven which makes it the perfect topic for me to discuss today.

First, I need to share the quote. It’s by Amy Tan, and she says this about writing. “Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone. A gift. I can see that. I pour a lot of myself into each story I write, so much, that I usually need to take a break after I write a piece so I can regain some of my creative energy. It can be mentally draining to write a story, book, blog post, article, anything really. I’m not saying other creative professions don’t experience that same mental draining. I’m just talking about my own experiences as a writer. But, if I were to guess, I would say it is true across all creative professions. Expressing our gift, our creativity, is work, but it’s also what we give to the world so it’s unique.

Once a book is finished though, it moves through the commercial economy and becomes a commodity to be bought and sold which, I think, makes it confusing for people who wonder why books cost so much, well, why any creative endeavor costs money. They think that any person expressing their creative gifts should be willing to express then for free. Now, many creative people do express their gifts for free which, I think, has made us feel entitled to receive all creative gifts for free. (Hence, the proliferation of online pirating of authors’ work)

But, because of this reasoning and this entitlement, many writers and other creative people have to work more than one job to afford the commodities of life–food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, etc., etc. This makes them have less time to focus on their writing or creative endeavors and makes sure that the rest of us lose out on what might have been an amazing piece of creative expression.

I digress though. Today’s quote is about how writing is a gift not how people aren’t willing to pay for creativity as a commodity. Writing has certainly been a gift to me. It has allowed me to make sense of my life and realize that it has been a life worth living. I have shared my story by writing it down, and now it exists in written form for generations to come. That’s the gift I offer to the people in my life, and I encourage you to do the same. We are a people of story, after all.

Have a great day, everyone!

My Highest Aspirations

It’s the third week in my writing quote series, and I am particularly fond of the quote I’m using this week. It’s by Louisa May Alcott who authored one of my favorite books as a young person, Little Women. She wrote novels, short stories, and poems in the nineteenth century when times weren’t the best for women. She had aspirations though, and that is why I like this quote. “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

Aspirations–we all have them. From the highly unlikely to come true like winning the lottery to the mundane like having enough to spend at the grocery store and everything in-between, we all have aspirations. If we are Christians, we should also have the aspiration to be led by God in everything we say and do and to share the love of Jesus with everyone we know.

I don’t know a whole lot about Alcott except that she wrote some excellent books, but she had dreams like all of us do. Aspirations. She knew she might not reach all of them, but that didn’t prevent her from having them, and it didn’t prevent her from trying to reach them either.

Those are beliefs I’m trying to pull into myself as I’m living this new life of mine as an empty-nester trying to break into freelance writing. My biggest dream, my biggest aspiration is to have a published book. To have other people read my words and be encouraged by them, to be entertained by my stories. I believe this is a path God is taking me on.

But, I’ve realized this path is probably not going to look like what I think it needs to look like, and that’s where the quote comes in. I believe God gives us aspirations and hopes and dreams for our lives. He wants us to depend on Him totally as we walk towards the future with Him at our side. Sometimes our job will be to help others reach their aspirations while at other times, we will reach the aspirations He has called us to.  This is when we need to give Him the credit since we can’t reach those aspirations on our own. We don’t do this well though because we like to think we maintain control in our lives by proclaiming our independence from others. I struggle with this daily because I want to be the one who claims the credit. But, God wants the credit. He wants those who don’t know Him to see Him in us as we experience the joys and sorrows of this life which includes the successes and the failures of our aspirations.

So, that’s why I love the quote. It lets me see the aspirations God is giving me, but, at the same time, tells me how God wants them to look and not how I want them to look. If we are Christ’s disciple, should we expect anything else?

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

The Emotions of Writing

It’s time for another excerpt in my writing quote series for this month. I feel like this is going to be a tough one to write because I’m still getting the hang of showing versus telling in my writing, and emotions, in particular, are harder to interpret with just words. But, those who are further along in their craft, are able to show emotions in their work and elicit emotions from the reader. This is what inspires me to continue to work on the craft of writing–to be good enough to write a complete story which brings out all elements of the human experience including emotions.

First, let me share the quote for this week. It’s by James Michener and reflects how I feel about the words I put together. “I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” Aren’t these words amazing? A true expression of how a writer can make people feel as they read the words they have written. These feelings can be good. They can be bad. They can share sadness. They can express joy. Every feeling in the human experience can be shown through words. But, (and I bet you knew there would be a but), it’s not good enough to just say someone is sad. For it to have an impact on the reader, it has to be shown they are sad. Here’s an example.

“Joanna couldn’t believe he had just walked out the door. Tears poured down her face as she slumped to the floor. It was like when her mother had died. She could see no path back to when she and Eric had been happy. She knew it was time to move on, but she had to grieve her loss first.”

I have read so many books that have done this well. Brought the zenith of the human experience to me–the highs and lows of this life. I think that’s why Jesus told so many stories. He knew those stories would be the best way for us to learn about Him. We are a people of stories.

But, to write those stories. That is much harder. To write them well, I mean.  I find I need to write about my life for it to make sense to me. When I write about my emotions though, I just name them and don’t do a good job of showing I have them. I’ve found people don’t respond well when I do that, especially with negative emotions. They see the word of the emotion, and all of their connotations of that emotion come to the forefront without them even considering what it means to the writer. But, I keep trying. Trying to make myself understandable through my words since I have such a tough time doing it in person.

As I’ve already said, expressing emotions well can be done in writing. It can be done with negative emotions and positive emotions. Here’s an example with positive emotions.

“Her eyes lit up like the sun coming out after a cloudy day. She extended her trembling left hand towards where Robert was holding the ring. Her smile extended from ear to ear. ‘Yes, Robert, I will marry you.'”

The examples I’ve shared here are just a few of what I’ve accumulated with my writing. Through my reading, writing, and research each day, I store words in my heart by reading the greats in my field and write them on paper to practice what I’ve learned. This has helped in my development as a writer. The one thing that has helped the most though is the emotions I’ve experienced in my life. Yes, you can write about emotions without experiencing them. But, I find that experiencing the emotions makes my writing deeper and puts it further towards the chance of being published. Emotions–they’re a part of what makes us human whether we are experiencing them, reading about them, or writing about them.

Let me know the hardest emotion you’ve ever had to write in the comments.

Have a great day, all!

Language

I’ve decided on a different focus for this month, one that I hope will better help me understand this desire I have to put words together into sentences which flow into paragraphs which tell a story. I’ve used quotes about writing before and used paragraphs to explain what each one meant to me. This month I want to take a writing quote each week and dissect it down to its bones. Explain its meaning not only to me but what I think it could mean to all of us. And, so, this week I am talking about language, the thing that allows us to write, and the thing that allows us to talk.

Before I go any further, let me share the quote. It’s from Joyce Carol Oates, and it’s the one that inspired me to put this series together. “The use of language is all we have to pit against death and silence.” I look at this quote and wonder what I would do if I was suddenly silenced. If I could no longer speak, if I could no longer write, no longer communicate at all. Or even if I was limited in what I could speak or write. Those ‘amens’ I said yesterday morning at church, the words I sang, they would no longer be possible. How would I express myself to the people I love? How would I praise my Lord and Savior? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. And, if I couldn’t communicate, if we couldn’t communicate, there would only be silence as the quote says. Because communicating is so important to us as a species, I believe death would follow shortly thereafter as the quote also says.

There have even been books written about the limitations of language. The most recent of these was the novel Vox written by debut author Christina Dalcher in which women and girls are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. I haven’t read it so I’m not qualified to review it, but the concept is terrifying. How my faith could turn into something so restrictive is almost beyond words and something, I believe, God would not want to happen.

Because God created all of us with the ability to speak and the ability to write, and I don’t believe He meant for any restrictions to be put on it like the modern-day church has attempted to do. We are all; men and women, black and white; capable of using language for God’s glory. We are also capable of messing up in our use of language. Messing up through our sin and messing up because we’re not with Jesus yet.  But, that doesn’t mean we quit using language. It means that we need to make sure our language and our deeds match up so we can be the people Jesus wants us to be. It means apologizing when we mess up and doing our best not to repeat what we’ve done. It especially means respecting the gift of language God has given us and using it the way He wants us to. So, if I’ve ever not used God’s gift of language wisely, I want to apologize to those who read this blog and to those who know me in real life. The way we combine our language and our deeds can be the way God uses to bring someone to the Kingdom, and that, as Christians, should be our staunchest desire.

May we all recognize the beauty of language in our lives, and may we use it for His purpose.

God bless you all today!