Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christian Writers Blog Chain: Christmas

When I was a little girl my mother owned a beautiful porcelain nativity set. We didn't have much that money could buy but we did have that. It was lovely and I would spend hours rearranging it every year, replaying the Christmas story and wondering what it would have been like to have been there that day on the hill above Bethlehem, or atop a camel on some dusty road, or as Mary, the one God chose to bless, the one who held and nurtured the Son of God.

It was so long ago, two-thousand years and counting, when that first Christmas took place. No one was busy finishing their last-minute shopping, checking Christmas lights, or laboring over a stove to prepare a gourmet dinner. In fact, most were away from their family and friends that night. It was the census, the governor's edict. Tired and perhaps a little perturbed at their circumstance, there was no reason to celebrate.

And there, amongst the chaos of Bethlehem, was Mary, in labor, without the help of her mother, or the knowledge of a midwife; her husband, desperately seeking shelter for his wife, fearing for her, knowing it was time. She was in pain, tired, and dirty, the dust of the road clinging to her skin and clothes.This would not have been the night she'd have chosen for her Savior, her son, to be born. But with no place else to go, in a stable, surrounded by cow manure and hay, He came. He chose this time and place, It was no accident that it happened this way. He came humbly, in the most innocent and helpless of forms, and in the lowliest of conditions.

For many people, Christmas is not a time of celebration, but of heartache and discord; a time of dread, instead of a time to celebrate. In our memories, the loss of a loved one, or of a split family, homesickness, a lost home, sick and hospitalized family, the list is endless. But, it was at a time like this that Hope chose to be born. And that Hope was Christ Jesus. He exists in the midst of pain and suffering, in times where we don't think we can hang on, when we must settle for the stable, cause it is the only place left we can go.

Christmas is so much more than a holiday. It is a reminder that the most precious gift was not wrapped with fancy paper and a sparkling ribbon, but in swaddling clothes, the poor humble linens of a carpenter's family. The ultimate gift was a baby.

May God bless you as you focus on Him this Christmas season.


This entry was part of the Christian Writers Blog Chain. Please take the time to visit the links on the right. What wonderful things the blog members have to say! You won't be disappointed! :) God bless!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Descriptive Seasonings

Adjectives and adverbs - modifiers. We are all familiar with them. And some, like myself, are too familiar with them. When I first became serious about writing my obsession with these modifiers was the first and most frequently pointed out of my many flaws. I would layer them on, one after the other, like a trifle dessert, with the firm belief that it made my writing better. But I couldn't have been more wrong. As Ron Rozelle puts it - it became "inedible."

According to the article "Kill Adjectives and Adverbs" by Melanie L. Martin, the reason for this common writer's issue goes back to our elementary years, when we were encouraged to use adjectives and adverbs in excess. And true to the article's statement my 2nd grade daughter began the use of adjectives. And now, at least one, if not more, must accompany every noun. Is it grammatically incorrect? No. But, how many sentences like, "The big, brown bear ran clumsily through the thick, green, grass," could we take?

So then, how much is too much? Good question, and I won't even pretend to know the answer. However, according to Rozelle, there should be a balance, a gentle sprinkling throughout as oppose to clumps of heavy use. Don't avoid these modifiers, just control them, regulate them.

The following is an excerpt from the book "Description & Setting" by Ron Rozelle in which he gives one of my favorite analogies on this subject.

"Adjectives, along with other modifiers, are the spices that good writers use to flavor their writing. A serving of scrambled eggs is okay all by itself, but it's much more appetizing, in  most peoples' opinion, with salt and pepper sprinkled on and even more so - depending on personal taste and inclination - with paprika or garlic or rosemary or Tabasco sauce. Eggs are good with a little spice or a lot. So is fiction. But remember, food that is not flavored at all might be bland, but when spices are poured on like mad it becomes inedible. So strike a balance between too little and too much, in your cooking and in your description."

Happy writing!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can Writing Be Taught?

This is the ever controversial writing subject. Is the ability to write inborn or learned? This is just one of those subjects that rears my strongly opinionated side. So be prepared! :)

In the many writing sites I have been a part of I  have seen an abundance of potential authors discouraged by the popular belief that either you have it or you don't. And, well, if you don't, then you won't ever. This is a common belief, and as a writer I would be surprised if you had not yet heard this view. Well - I don't believe it.

All of us have witnessed gifts and talents, either in school, or with siblings or our children and note that some just excel where others struggle. Yes, this is true. My brother, for example, did not have to work to get an 'A' in school. He didn't have to dig his nose into a book for hours on end to pass a test or write a grammar correct paper. I did, however. But -  I still made As. It was much harder work for me,  my grasp on concepts did not come as easy - BUT - it didn't mean I could not do it. I put a lot of time, sweat, and tears into my grade. But I did, because I wanted it.

In the past years, working with children, my own and others through school, piano, and church I have learned that there is one thing that is more important then gift or talent. It carries you farther then mere ability, and that is - desire. I have seen children with average ability excel above those with talent from desire alone, where the latter lacked such.

How bad do you want to write? Are you like me and feel the need, the desire to put pen to page, to create with words, to pour yourself into a story? Then you were meant to write, talent and gifts aside. Pursue it. Study! Learn. If you fail.. good. You learned something. Move on. But, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. In the words of Chris Gardner "If you want something. Go get it. Period."

Here's one of my favorite movie scenes. I hope it inspires you the way it does me. Protect your dreams.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

If You Can Talk, You Can Write

What can I say about this book? It's amazing! I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to write and who does already. I picked this book up after hearing all the wonderful things my brother's college professor, a music composition teacher, had said about it. Really, for freeing up your writing, whether it be in manuscript or music, this is the book! Though not sold as a book on the writer's voice I feel it not only teaches how to release it but to break yourself free from the bondage of perfectionism and all the heavy rules and regulations of the writing world and just let yourself go. Go ahead, pour yourself onto the page and have fun doing it! And last but not least, if you struggle with "writer's block" you will learn not only what causes it but how to get rid of it for good! Pick this book up if you can, and enjoy!