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Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Warfare in the Flavor of Apple

I was dashing through my kitchen today, on my way to do something I can't remember, when my eyes captured a glint of a Red Delicious apple among the fruit in the basket on my kitchen table. I grabbed the apple planning to eat it on the go, but when I bit into it, it was... well... delicious; so I had to stop, sit down, and savor it. There are many things I can't do on the go, and eating a truly delicious, shiny Red Delicious apple is apparently one of them.

Analyzing my writing status is another thing I can't manage to do on the go. But when I allow the craziness of routine life to halt for a moment, my mind turns to writing. And as I sat there savoring the Red Delicious that forced my life into a pause, my thoughts turned to writing.

Later today, after my apple intoxication wore off, I wrote to a blogger friend that I have fallen off of my creative axis a bit - that I've been on an involuntary writing hiatus. I haven't been completely not writing, but I've been mostly not writing, and it's throwing my psyche off-balance. It's kind of like if you are used to exercising a lot and then for some reason you miss a few workouts or weeks - your body feels sluggish, and maybe even your mental stability falters a bit. When I'm not writing, my mind feels sluggish, and it's that much harder to get it primed and functioning properly again.

Oddly, this is not the writing stuff I was thinking about as I crunched into that yummy apple. During this involuntary hiatus, I have been reading - and reading - and reading - and reading - and... well, you get the picture. I have four books next to my bed at this moment: From the Belly of the Dragon by Mark Mynheir, A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman, Firecracker Red by Stellasue Lee, and my Bible. I will absorb a few pages of each before I sleep.

Prior to the apple, I had been at the gym riding a stationary bike and reading Firecracker Red. The first thought that occured to me as I sat eating my apple was, "Helter-skelter. I had no idea helter-skelter had a hyphen in it. It's a good thing I saw that in Stellasue's book." Now, granted, we don't get too many opportunities to write the word helter-skelter, but there's always that "what if". What if I wrote "helter skelter" and sent it to a publisher or agent that way? What if "helter skelter" worked its way into my query letter or proposal? I can hear them now: "If she doesn't check the dictionary for her proposal - her first chance to make a good impression - her manuscript must be a mess. I don't have time to deal with this!" Then my manuscript is sent to the paper cutter, sliced into small squares, and the blank sides used for scrap paper.

A few apple bites later, I thought about the colon. Yes, apples do provide nourishment that leads to a healthy colon, but that isn't the colon I was thinking about. The colon I was contemplating was the one with two dots - you know - the punctuation mark. I know that's an odd thing to think about while eating an apple, but I had just read a chapter on the colon in A Dash of Style the night before. I know what you're thinking. A whole chapter on the colon? Yes, a whole entire chapter, 20 excellent pages, on nothing but the colon shared in a creative and, strangely, beautiful way (the things that excite a writer - we're an odd bunch).

As I neared the apple's core, I thought about how a creative writer can use grammar to their advantage - minimizing it in some places, maximizing it in others, all for the purpose of intent. Lightly pepper in some of the pretty stuff - colons, semicolons, dashes - to make it shine, to give it power, to drive a point. I thought about the short story I read in my recent edition of The Storyteller that was filled with cliches and another story that described the looks of EVERY character by comparing them to a movie star. Both were cumbersome to read, and I wondered how they made the cut. I thought about the book of Job and how I just don't understand a lot of it. Yet the prose is so relaxing and beautiful, I read it anyway. Because within its midst, God sends me treasures like:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last, He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh, I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!
- Job 19:25-27

And suddenly a piece of Job sticks as well as all the other thoughts I had while I was under the influence of that apple, and I carry it all with me so I can pour it out through my writing... that is, when I start writing again.

What or who is keeping me from writing? Maybe I shouldn't have been eating that apple and thinking about writing but actually writing. In one ear I hear, "You're not on a writing hiatus; you're in a heavy learning phase." In the other ear I hear, "But you should be writing through your learning phases."

I suppose the only question that remains is whether that Red Delicious was from the tree of life or the tree of knowledge. Was there a tempter responsible for my indulgence - a Screwtape, if you will, discouraging my writing? Or was that apple always mine for the taking - God filling me up so I could be more persuasive as I pour it out?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Breathing Room

In a tiny jar
a snail slithers
among rocks and crevices
and a slice of carrot.
Occasionally she stretches
out and clings to glass - finding comfort
in traveling its circumference.
As I observe her slimy underside
suctioned inside her glass prison,
I realize six holes in a metal lid provide air
but leave no room to breathe.
Wistfully, I remove the lid
and set her free.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

"Up From the Grave He Rose"

I'm sitting in front of my open window on this perfect day. Outside birds are chirping and busying themselves with homebuilding, preparing to birth new life into the world. The trees are in various stages of budding and blossoming, bursting forth delicate young leaves. The light, warm breeze wafting through my window carries the clean scent of all of God's newness.

As I sit here enjoying this special treat from God, I think of how He transforms nature - winter to spring, slow decay to instant rebirth, death to resurrection. How can anyone experience a moment like this and deny the salvation Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection offers?

God's glory, His precious Son, vivid and bold, in a simple moment near an open window. It's amazing how He replenishes spring moisture to our winter-dehydrated souls. May God replenish your soul with the promise of new life through the celebration of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection.

"There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world, by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again."