Fact: I make this resolution every year.
Fact: I probably know Genesis better than any other book of the Bible.
You know why, don't you?
Ten or even five years ago, I might not have told you what a Bible-reading failure I was. But somewhere around the age of %@ (oops - typo!) I took up the practice of self-acceptance. Since that time I have realized that my resolutions, however broken, have led me to read much more of the Bible than I might otherwise have done. I've given myself permission to start in other books besides Genesis, and when the day inevitably comes when I find I have fallen hopelessly behind, I've decided it's okay to scrap the schedule altogether and just read Habakkuk or Titus or any book that catches my eye.
In short, I've learned to stop flogging myself, and start enjoying myself as I read, and read, and read.
Funny the things you notice when you enjoy yourself. For instance, I have observed that biblical authors seem to take little thought for their readers' sensitivities. The writing can be sensual, gruesome, even vulgar at times. The message is often obscure, mysterious, wide open to interpretation. The Bible can shock and offend and drive you crazy.
I love this book.
You do get, don't you, that this is a post about writing? I'm inviting you to loosen up. To charge through the temple overturning tables if you must. To wrestle with angels and make demands. To dance naked for joy.* To love with abandon.
Especially to love with abandon. It's the first rule of life... and of writing.
In an earlier post, I said that what I'd learned from Walter Wangerin Jr. was to love my characters. (Did you listen to the story I linked to? If you do, you'll hear what I mean.)
To start the year off, I'm going to give you a few writing prompts to help you find what it means to love your characters:
- Write about someone you've known and loved for a long, long time. Tell what it is about him or her that steals your heart away. Do not - do not use any adjectives like "kind," or "funny," or "dependable." Don't even tell what they do. Don't write that your husband rubs your neck when you're tired, or that your best friend always remembers your birthday. That's not the stuff we want. Pick just one moment. Write details about the look that crosses her face in a specific moment when she's angry and doesn't want it to show. Or about the way he moves his body when he finds something funny. You get the idea.
- Write about someone you don't like, and do something similar. Place him or her in a situation doing that big thing you can't stand, and in the middle of that awful thing, write about the small gesture that reveals that person to be made in the image of God.
- Write about yourself in the same way, in love. Don't say "I did," or "I felt," but "I touched," "I moved," "I turned."
- Make someone up. Make them unique and wonderful, full of unexpected responses and hidden beauty.
*You don't have to take everything I say literally.