You may be in for a treat. It's been a great but long week.
While I was busy doing more than my usual work and family and social things, Sharon*, Bonnie and Debbie posted some wonderful advice on the staging of scenes and the surviving of a writer's life. In trying to think of a topic as helpful as theirs, I keep circling round to the question: Why exactly is it, that I so often write better when I am tired (and perhaps you do, too)?
My theory is that the censors in our brains that tell us what we can and cannot say in print are a pack of old hags** who badly need their beauty rest, and so they turn in early. Don't stay up too late, they warn. And do please try to behave yourself.
But now that they're out of earshot, I'm going to tell you something I would never tell them: the thing that makes me drop a novel fastest has nothing to do with style and everything to do with yawp! - or rather, the lack of it.
You did watch The Dead Poets Society, didn't you? I'm referring to the line from Walt Whitman's poem, ''Song of Myself:"
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
We Christians rarely sound barbaric yawps. And we need to.
A few premises for Christian authors:
- You live in a fallen world.
- So does your reader.
- You have not - have not - come out unscathed.
- Neither has your reader.
I emphasize #3 because so often we pretend that in the act of redeeming us Jesus also unscathed us, so that we no longer bear the marks or even the memories of our wounds. It's a nice thought, and it might be pleasant if it were so, but it's not, and it's not biblical. David made no pretense of living in a powder pink world, and neither did Isaiah or Solomon or Jeremiah or Paul... or Jesus. Redemption - "re-naming" - is meaningless in a powder pink world.
Your reader needs to hear from your barbaric self.
I love to read books that shock me with some fresh recognition of a dark part of my experience, that make me wipe my tears and say, "yes, yes, it's just that way," and then walk me through to the bright light of redemption. I love authors with the courage to look at their own lives with such searching honesty. I know that they have done deep soul work, that perhaps they have journaled tired, so that the words came out uncensored.
In your comments today, I'd love it if you would share the "yawp" moments you have found in your reading. You writers: how have you accomplished it in your own work, and how did the experience affect you?
We love to read what you have to say.
*Bless Sharon for quoting that segment of Dance that I thought my publishers would surely cut - but they didn't.
**Definition for hag:
1. An ugly evil-looking old woman
2. Eel-like cyclostome having a tongue with horny teeth in a round mouth surrounded by eight tentacles; feeds on dead or trapped fishes by boring into their bodies