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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?


  1. Michael said...

    Does this mean you're an Apple lover trapped in a Windows household? :D

  2. Shannon O'Donnell said...

    Choose the Tree of Life and start writing again. :-)

  3. Wendy said...

    I look forward to APPLying what you've written! Lots of juicy tidbits to chew on!
    Seriously, though, I'm your latest follower! Come by and visit me--I'm a writer, who aspires to be published, and a SAHM whose children are grown, but still at home. I write and mentor over at Faith's Firm Foundation. Hope you'll stop by!

  4. Talkin' Texan said...

    Loved the post and how often I struggle the same. There's not enough hours in the day to learn and apply learning. Read and write. Ponder and post.
    I often wonder where I'm headed and what I'm going to do when I get there. I don't know the answer, but I try to keep going.
    Best wishes to you!