On my ongoing relationship with the part of myself I call "a writer" I think about a lot about things like this:
--What is good dialogue and how to construct it authentically
--What are strong verbs and how avoiding adverbs as much as possible.
--What does life smell like and how to describe such without using worn out similes.
But, most of all I think a lot about what makes writing good?
Like most writers, I have that fear in the back of my head that says, "What if I am not good enough at this?" As much as I love the challenge of constructing beauty, what if I am never accepted as a writer. What if I never get published? (Because of course, as much as many of us say that publishing doesn't matter, it does).
And I know I'm not alone.
Because the more I have conversations with folks who are considering writing for the first time or more frequently the one concern that seems to be raised every time is: "What if I'm not good enough? What if no one cares about what I have to say?"
And, what I most want to say to this excuse in myself and others is: "Stop listening to that crap in your head and just write! If you want to write, write!"
I want to say this because I believe we as artists (musicians, painters, dancers, etc. alike) waste so much time that we could spend producing our craft by judging ourselves before we even get out of the gate. And by doing that, we miss out on the best contributions we might have to offer. Anne Lammott, of course has a lot to say about this.
Because what I think makes writing (and of course, this is my humble opinion) good is: writing that tells us the truth. And it doesn't take special skills to tell the truth. You just speak it!
Sure, in the writing world, grammar and proper use of metaphors and paragraph structure within a chapter are all important-- and without the best possible setting for words to flow they simply won't have the chance to leap in reader's hearts as they did in the writer's-- but "good writing" is not all about technical details.
It's about the soul of the piece. Is the writer telling their truth?
I read a lot. And I can usually tell pretty quickly if I am going to stick with a book or discard it from the pile of books on my nightstand or in my Kindle.
I am easily annoyed by writers who try to sound like someone else or use words that aren't a part of everyday language of anyone I've ever met or who are so full of ego they don't admit what is really troubling them.
I love stories: stories that make me feel less alone, wise stories that speak truth on the page that I'm not ready to say aloud, but want to, stories that give me new insight into those I love and those I hate, and stories that leave me convicted about how much more I need to learn on this journey of life we're all on.
Writing like this take courage.
It takes time to know yourself well enough to bring truth to the page.
It takes hope in the human condition-- that when you risk the potential disappointment of putting yourself out there-- others hungry for the truth will hold your work with the reverence it deserves.
So, what makes writing good? For today, I say, it is YOU who makes YOUR writing good. And ME, MINE-- even the parts of me that are anxious, fearful, scared, unforgiving or absent-minded. When I do the work of bringing more of ME to my work, then I think not only do you call it "good" but my Creator looks at my creation and smiles.
As a pastor, I live in a unique place as a person of faith.
Whereas most have particular views on any given subject and go through ups and downs in their spiritual journey, my life of faith is a public one. I am asked every Sunday to give testimony to the gospel and God's workings in the world. I preach in times of great spiritual summer and also in seasons of great spiritual winter too. I preach in my own seasons of joy and in those of doubt. My calling is to use my voice to speak no matter what. And so you hear it. You know me.
Also, I blog as well in an effort to be on an authentic, transparent journey as a religious leader. As a writing Rev., it is easier to attack me than it might be of others with the same beliefs, convictions or theological leanings. It is very easy to figure out (if you want to) my thoughts on this or that-- though I write with the disclaimer that the views shared on this site are my own and not necessarily that of my family members, my congregation or even all people of faith.
In all of this, I speak and write for myself with the knowledge that one day I will have to give an account for my life before God for everything I've ever said or done, just like everyone else. But, some people don't want God to do the judging-- they want to do it.
I was in a situation recently where I was accused of not being a Christian simply because I shared a more inclusive view of scripture. It was said that I am not a person who believes in the teachings of Jesus. And while I respect the religious freedom of any who have the right to believe as they do, it was more disconcerting that a religious litmus test still thrives and is encouraged in our modern times. While such a comment was nothing I've never heard before (hey, you don't get to be a female Baptist pastor without a few battle scars), it was disconcerting to me that this is where we still are as a Christian people. Pointing fingers. Throwing down the trump card. "I don't like what you believe so I'll say you aren't a Christian."
I would never to presume to assert my interpretations of scripture-- and the inclusive message of Jesus that I see clearly laid out-- on others in a "you aren't a Christian" sort of way. Part of being a Christ follower is seeing the God-given light in others, no matter what. And, above all, I believe any who follow Jesus are asked to respect one another, even when we just have to agree to disagree.
While my first response is "Hello! I am a pastor. I love Jesus. Do you really want to call me of all people not a Christian?" I thought I might use this opportunity to open up a conversation with all of you. So I ask, what makes a person a Christian? And do any of us have the ability to judge our neighbors faith? Is this something that the church should be about?
I am really interested to hear what you have to say. Let's talk, but respectfully with one another!