The Most Important Thing for a Writer to Know

Here’s a trade secret for writers. People are the most important thing. This may be counter-intuitive, but how well we relate to others is crucial.

It’s not nice to confuse our readers

You’ve probably seen photos of prehistoric cave drawings. How would it be if we couldn’t recognize the image of an animal or a man? If it looked like random lines going every which way, would we know what the artist was trying to depict? Likely not.

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And have you sat on a church platform in Zambia as the pastor preached in a language you didn’t understand, and after sweeping his arm in your direction the eyes of the entire congregation turn to look at you? I had no clue how to respond.

Just the same, if our writing doesn’t make sense or appeal to our readers, how can they receive our message? Feel like they’re a part of the story?

Why should they take the time to read it?

Putting our writing “out there” is hard

After reading Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson, and taking an evening writing course at a nearby community college, I searched for a critique group. It was a horrific step to take, letting a stranger read what I’d written, but over time it did get easier.

We need the feedback. We desperately need the feedback. There’s no other way for us to know our writing is effective if we don’t learn how it’s heard or received by readers.

And readers are important people.

Other people to consider are editors, agents, authors and writers from all genres. I’ve attended writing conferences and joined writing groups – all have helped me on my way.

And here are a couple outstanding blogs I subscribe to.

The Books and Such Literary Agency  website has to be one of the most helpful writer’s resources on the planet.

The Steve Laube Agency blog is also an amazing place to go for encouragement and information.

When my friend from New York came to stay in our country home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, she marveled at the farm animals and wide open spaces. Not at all like the buildings and streets of Manhattan where she lived, she had to keep asking “where’s the people?”

Our writing, folks, is all about the people.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Note: For more on this discussion, check out the post, How to Know if You are a Writer – Matthew 7:24-29

 

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The Value of Work – Genesis 2:5-18

A short time before Kathy, an older woman in our church, passed away, she told a friend she wouldn’t be worried about her children any longer. She felt she had fulfilled her purpose, that God was pleased, and now she could rest.

After God had created a bunch of amazing things like planets, the fireball of a sun, a moon for a nightlight, oceans and mountains, you’d think he’d be ready for time off, too. But unlike my friend nearing the end of her life, God wasn’t done with his work. He wanted a garden.

God’s great works

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

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“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’ ” (Genesis 2:5-18 ESV).

He gave us an assignment

I hadn’t seen it before, but the scripture says that God made the man, then planted the garden and put him in it. It’s apparent Adam watched God work and learned from him how to care for the garden. This is consistent with what we understand of God as a good Father, teaching his children to do well in work and in life, and to avoid the hazards along the way.

And isn’t it interesting that God demonstrated a work ethic and gave humans tasks to do before there was hunger or lack. The fall into sin, and subsequently the separation from our Creator, hadn’t occurred yet. Work was good, and relational, and mirrored the power of the Maker of all things.

Can you imagine God lounging on the patio with a cool drink, Adam and Eve on either side of him, surveying the outcome of their week’s work? Maybe that’s what my friend Kathy is enjoying right now.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

I Taught my Son to Worship a Dog – Psalm 25:4-5

Our new puppy Max was no god.

The shepherd mix was my 5-year-old’s favorite playmate when his brothers weren’t around. Seth’s early experiences with his friend, however, were painful. Max nipped at fingers, making Seth pull his hand back. My son soon came inside with a frown, sliding the glass door between him and his pet.

Dog Training 101

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I reminded Seth that Max was still a baby and didn’t understand that bites hurt. Then I gave him some pointers. “When he nips at you, stop playing, pat his nose and say no.”

It seemed to work for a while, then from my kitchen window I saw that repeated no’s only made Max more playful. Nose tapping became part of the game.

I called Seth in again, recognizing he needed a little more help with puppy training. “Sometimes you should tell him he’s doing a good job. You wouldn’t like to hear no all the time, right? When he does something right you should praise him.”

“OK, Mommy.”

A little later I checked up on them. I found Seth on his knees, bowing toward his attentive puppy, hands tightly clasped as if in prayer, saying “Praise you, praise you, praise you —to the dog!”

Max cocked his head, trying to figure out how to make this new game more fun, while I seriously questioned my ability to communicate.

A Better Teacher

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long . . . Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:4-5 and 8-9 ESV).

God patiently teaches us his ways, and for that I’m forever grateful. Where would we be if my kids had only experienced my not-always-great parenting skills?

by Kathy Sheldon Davis