fiction · Uncategorized

The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction (Week 3)

I’m really enjoying this book about the art of writing Christian Fiction. This is the second book by Jeff Gerke that I have read, and I think the man is a genius.

I am a writer for many reasons. I choose to spend my time articulating stories because I enjoy it. It’s a hobby that I continue to learn from.  So many books out there are to help me become a “flawless” writer. Gerke takes me to a humble, teachable place to show me that there really is no “arrival” as an author.

Writing is a journey much like the one of faith that I’m walking. It’s a lifetime of learning and practicing. It’s a road filled with obstacles and trials. It’s a rewarding hobby. And it’s important to keep an open mind and heart throughout the whole journey.

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Be Teachable

After years of crafting stories and (maybe after publication) it is easy for a writer to feel like they hold all the keys to the craft of writing. Their work is complete. Editing is not necessary. And if you bring up a mistake you might as well be talking to a wall. This is a description of a prideful writer. This is someone who believes that they have arrived at perfection and there is no room for critique or remarks at that destination. These people are hard to work with, and unless they are already successful they rarely attain the goal of publication.

Humility is the key.

Learn to accept advice. Roll with the punches. Don’t deny the fact you are human.

It can be uncomfortable to pour your heart and soul into a project only to be told it is not good enough, but you have a choice. You can choose to heed the advice of someone who has read your work or you can ignore their words and assert that there is nothing wrong with what you have written.

At the end of the road the humble author always wins. Not only do they find themselves achieving big goals, but they also better their craft in the process.

I was at this crossroads a few weeks ago. The book I’ve written was sent to a favorite author of mine. She did some critiquing of my work, and like the student who failed his English essay she sent it back with all of her markings coloring my manuscript red. For a millisecond I contemplated throwing the whole thing away and finding a new hobby. After reading the comments I realized that she was right about many of my mistakes, but none of them were detrimental to the story itself. I had made my fair share of grammatical errors, but I chose to work through them and learn from the process instead of taking a prideful stance against her wisdom.

As a result my story is so much stronger now. What once was a word and story dump is now a refined piece that I am proud of.

Stop Being Teachable

“You cannot please everyone and be a good writer.” (Gerke 30)

After much learning about fiction writing we eventually get to a place where we have to start producing. For some, it can be crippling when they look at the long list of dos and don’ts. Many rules are contradictory to one another and the fear of messing up can keep you from ever finishing a project.

At some point you need to examine the information you have gathered and decide for yourself what your writing voice will look like. You have to swallow the fear of imperfection and press forward, confident that your informed writing style will appease some group of writers. It’s impossible to adhere to everyone’s advice. Once you reach the point where you are ready to turn out the product you get to make the decision about which critiques you will take into consideration and which you will chose not to include in your edits.

When it comes to forming your own voice consider the books and types of writing you prefer to read. Examine that writer’s style in-depth, and then make some decisions for yourself. Ultimately, a heart of humility is what helps us to develop our style and craft as a writer, but a little confidence can go a long way in uncovering your unique voice.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Faith

Humble Leadership

Have you ever thought about what it takes to be a leader? Most of us have been labeled a leader in some way, but do we truly know what it means to lead? Lately I’ve been examining leadership beyond the surface level definitions. Leadership is so much more than just being in charge of someone else. I’ve been learning that in order to be a leader one must first be humble enough to serve those that they are leading.

In John 13:1-17 Jesus paints for us a picture of humble leadership. First of all, he is only days away from His Resurrection at this point. Secondly, he is in the presence also of one of his followers about to go rogue. Judas, who will ultimately betray him (which Jesus knew ahead of time) was amongst those that Jesus chose to serve. God had made Jesus aware of what the near future held for him, but instead of running from his mission Jesus humbly accepted it and chose to spend some of his last days serving those who called him “leader”.

After sharing a meal with the disciples Jesus trades his robes for a towel that he wraps around his waist and proceeds to wash the feel of each of his disciples. This was an act of selfless service. The purpose of this act is explained by Jesus in verse 15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

For each and every one of us we are leading and impacting someone else. We can all be called a leader in some fashion. We lead our families, friends, colleagues, congregations, and neighborhoods. If we are called to be leaders in some way then we are also called to humility. That last statement may be disagreed upon in a secular society. After all, doesn’t this dog-eat-dog world tell us that in order to lead you have to get ahead even if it means stepping on some toes or crushing the competition? But Jesus very clearly sounds his reverberating message throughout scripture that this is not a true picture of what leadership looks like.

In Matthew 20:16, Jesus tells his disciples, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This concept defies the very ideal of leadership in our society. We live in a world where it seems like everyone has set their eyes on becoming the best, but Jesus reminds us over and over again that true leadership looks more like trading in our robes for a towel and washing the feet of those we lead.

Today, the act of actually washing another’s feet isn’t quite the same as the act Jesus performed. In the context in which Jesus carried out this act of service men wore sandals and as they walked the dust and dirt of the Earth would accumulate on their exposed feet. When they would walk into a building they would stop and remove their sandals and wash off the filth before ever stepping foot inside. When Jesus took to his towel and bowl of water he was cleaning the nastiest part of these followers.

I can’t think of an experience more humbling than cleansing the filthiest part of another. I get queasy changing some of my daughter’s diapers, but isn’t that what Christ did for us when he died in our place? He died for the worst of the things we were yet to do. And in his act of cleansing the feet of the disciples Jesus included Judas, whom he knew was about to betray him and hand him over to be killed. What a picture of humility.

We may or may not be called to serve our followers through this same act Jesus performed, but the principle here is the lesson. We are called to leadership through humble service toward those we lead. What act of humility is God calling you to perform for someone that you lead today?