I had a very brief email exchange with a dear friend last night about our desire to rush to Haiti to help. We both speak French, so that would be a plus, as would our experience with West Africans who share so many spiritual traits with their Caribbean cousins. She, though, is a nurse who could go with the ability to heal. What could I bring? All I have is words.
As I’ve thought and prayed about Haiti today, though, I’ve been reminded that Jesus came to fulfill many needs. He came as the Great Physician, true, able to heal maladies both spiritual and physical. But he also come as the Word, the human representation of what God would have told us if we’d had the attention span to listen long enough. He came as the climax to the story God has been penning since before time began.
It comforts me, the fact that words are important enough to God that he give his son the nickname Word. Carpenter, farmer, servant, teacher, friend. Whoever you are and whatever you do, Jesus validates your value by taking on those characteristics.
I can’t go to Haiti this week. I’d probably be in the way if I did. And eat way more than my fair share. But I can pray for Haiti and send a little something perhaps. And I can store up my words on their behalf and hope that someday they will bless the people of Haiti I love so much though I haven’t even met them.
Most headlines are so boring and predictable, like these from today’s edition of the New York Times:
E.P.A Asks for Stricter Rules for Pollutants Causing Smog
Chinese Decision on Rates Seen as ‘Turning Point’
Important, sure, but those headlines could be from any paper anytime. Once in a while a headline comes along that captures the imagination, that tickles the mind and spurs the heart to imagine not only what is, but what could be.
Alien Iguanas Free-Fall From Florida Trees
It’s poetic. It’s slapstick. It’s the most interesting weather headline I’ve read in a long time. I hope the iguanas (who fell from trees because the temperature in Florida dropped so low the poor cold-blooded creatures lost their grip) don’t suffer too many bruises when it warms up and they wake back up. Can you imagine? You’re sitting there, not even aware it’s cold, though you do note the grayish cast to your fingers and toes. Next thing you know, you’re lying on your back, staring up into the sun. “What day is it?” you ask, as if you’ve just slept off a double dose of Ni-Quil.
I know it’s not important (unless you’re an iguana), but it’s interesting and unusual and sets a writer’s brain spinning after the various stories it could concoct from such an inspiring headline.
December is my month off from writing. With all the whirling, swirling activity of holidays and family and company and chocolate overdose, I can’t concentrate on stories. Without fail, by the end of the month, I wonder why I am driven to write in the first place. Pent up angst surfaces its stubborn head and tells me I am a fraud. The thread of truth in my work in progress eludes me. The magic element that can turn an ordinary person’s story to something worth savoring begins to look more like ashes than pixie dust.
“Sit Down,” I tell myself. “Write something. Anything.” But I look for other things to occupy my hands and my mind. Just look at those cobwebs. And the floors? Disgraceful.
“Just do it. You’ll feel better,” I say again. But what do I know?
I know that fiction has the ability to make you care. Afghanistan seems too distant and unreal? Read A Thousand Splendid Suns and suffer along with Laila. Not sure how you feel about the tension between Palestinians and Israelis? Walk with Danny and Rev or any number of Chaim Potok’s other memorable characters and they’ll explain it to you. People like Scout Finch and Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Shirley and Sherlock Holmes have changed our world. I can’t imagine life without them.
It’s a good time to back up, to look less at the problems of plot and character development and more at the reason for writing. It’s time to remember that, succeed or fail as a writer, there are characters living inside me that can make the world a better place if they’re only given a chance to live.
I held a nook ereader the other day. It felt sleek and comfortable and right… and somehow like someone else’s child. Beautiful, sure, but not like my own. For the wonder of the nook to me is not what it can do but in what words and information it will hold. That’s what makes it personal.
One of the gifts under the Christmas tree had a rattle. It was heavy for its size, but all the weight was in one spot. And no wonder. Mom’s bag of coins, wrapped in yards of tissue paper, was whisked from my hands before it even registered what it was.
“That’s not your gift. Open the card.”
The tri-fold card had only one letter on it.
No, wait… if you turn it right way round, it’s an
As in nook. Which won’t arrive until February. It was a big surprise, a very generous gift from the whole family, and I’ve already
been enjoying browsing bn.com for ideas on which books I should upload first. Once I got it in my head, I couldn’t wait to hold one. Good thing Barnes and Noble’s brick and mortar store is close by. And good thing they’ve got a nook display smack in the middle of the store. I can go visit whenever I want until my own machine arrives. In 5 weeks.
I got the sweetest note from a missionary friend who just received the box of books I sent to his children. When they opened the box, his young son cried, “Oh, these are my favorite books I’ve never read before!”
I love that. And I know the feeling. I browse the aisles of Borders, Barnes and Noble, and – the pièce de résistance – Powell’s City of Books. Millions of books begging to be given a home. They don’t want to live on the bookstore shelf. They call out, “Pick me! Pick me!” They entice with their bright covers and clever titles or their comfortable old spines. I choose one at random and hold it in my hands. A nice book, but not the one. I choose another and it snuggles down into my palms. The first page shows promise.
Yes. This is the one. My favorite book I’ve never read.
Visiting with a friend this morning, I was gently reminded of the importance of following your dream while you have a chance. For me, it’s writing. And missions. And preparing my kids for their future.
My friend’s wife has been battling MS for the past 20 years. She always wanted to write. She could have been brilliant. But she’s losing herself, first her muscles, then her memory. She redefines herself morning after morning as she adjusts to a life that’s a little more difficult with each passing day. Her husband imagined years of retirement filled with trips and fun together and now sees a future of running the errands, keeping house, and visits to the doctor.
When you sign up for better or worse, you never expect worse to come, but it does for so many.
Seize the day.
Now put your butt in your chair and start writing. (Or whatever it is you need to do before it’s too late.)
some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
I’m editing part time now.