Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Better Time to Fall in Love

Fact: One of my New Years resolutions is to read the Bible through in one year.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Write about yourself in the same way, in love. Don't say "I did," or "I felt," but "I touched," "I moved," "I turned."
  4. Make someone up. Make them unique and wonderful, full of unexpected responses and hidden beauty.
Fall in love. Then start writing.

*You don't have to take everything I say literally.


Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I'm relieved not to be the only one to hit the 'reset' button each year on my Bible reading schedule! And today's word is 'abandon.' Hmmm...I like it!

Patti Hill said...

I'm using your notion, borrowed from Wanegrin, that we must LOVE our characters--including the antagonist--to revise my WIP. Wow, what a difference! My antagonist is much more rounded, certainly more empathetic. And so, I find your writing exercise thrilling. This sounds like a writers retreat to me.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I love this, Kathleen! After I stopped flogging myself, it could a lot better! I'm going to cheer myself on this year... sounds like a good plan!

These prompts are great! Can't wait to try them!

Unknown said...

You are singing my tune, girl. And your post made me laugh!

Kathleen Popa said...

Debbie, I'm relieved too. I know so many people who finish their reading program every single year. Or at least they say they do.

Patti, so cool (and so humbling) to learn that I have a small influence in your lovely writing. Can't wait to read your new book.

Kristen, so glad you're checking in here. All of us on Novel Matters are cheering for you.

Bonnie, so glad I made you laugh. You are one of the funniest people I know. (I mean that in a good way.)


Anonymous said...

Kathleen--there are so many different plans out there. There's no need to start with Genesis. Probably the best type you could try is the genre one. You can do this!

Unknown said...

I'm sold on the Narrated Bible by LaGard Smith. It's chronological, and gives some explanations of the flow of history as you go along. It's the Bible I used to read through with our son during his junior and senior years of high school (I was committed to having my children read all the way through the Bible at least once before leaving for college.)

In our small group, many adults had never read all the way through the Bible. This one has daily readings and also you can get a devotional guide to go along with it. One man in particular says that just the act of reading through God's Word has transformed his life.

So, you go gettum Katy! I'm proud of your persistence.

Unknown said...

I have done a read through the bible in a year - you read some OT, some NT some Psalms and some Proverbs each day. I enjoyed it - using that program I've read through the bible many times.
Still, everyday I find "new" verses that amaze, startle, and thrill me.

Like, 'be patient in affliction'


The resurrected Jesus talking to Ananias about the recently converted Saul: 'I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'

Shocking stuff, the bible.

Steve G said...

My dad has read the Bible through in a year some 40 plus times. He finds stuff like "Stricken with age" and a verse that said because he is following God he is fat.

I know you have fingers in other pies, but how is your new book coming along? What characters are you currently loving?

This sounds like a strength based approach to me, too. Don't focus on we didn't do, but on what did go right; and then to work out of those areas. I am loving that concept more and more!

Kathleen Popa said...

Lynn, Bonnie and Latayne, thanks for the suggestions. I'll look at the Narrated Bible. Lynn, the Genre plan looks interesting. Right now I'm using the M'Cheynes plan - It skips around in a similar way, and works with the Bibles on my cell phone/pda. I recently added the Net Bible to my collection, and I'm loving the translators' notes. Of course, those slow me down even more, but how fun!

Bonnie, I wonder how the resurrected Jesus would fit in the culture we've built in many of our churches. Seeker-friendly he's not.

Steve, thanks for the prodding and encouragement. Right now I'm loving a wild-haired old man who is riddled with self-loathing and a passion to do just one thing right before he dies.