Over the Christmas holiday (late notice I know, but...) I read Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography sequel to The Hiding Place entitled Tramp for the Lord. It was wonderful, but it went too quickly. The next day I started Stephen King’s On Writing autobiography. It was quite the juxtaposition, as you might imagine.
Certainly they have entirely different motives, and I won’t judge, make an endorsement, or even compare them. Yet from a writing standpoint, surprisingly some parallels emerged in how they used writing for their life’s work.
#1 – Words have power and can accomplish things bigger than ourselves.
Both individuals used writing as a vehicle to accomplish what they felt they were born to do. For King, that was merely to tell stories. He skewers writers for worrying too much about symbolism and meaning and stressed just telling a good story. For Ten Boom, she wrote simply because she realized it helped her spread the Gospel. And what a message that is for us. How many of us would know her testimony were it not for The Hiding Place?
#2 – Writing is not massage.
Stephen King – Writing is not a way for us to find ourselves or find therapy: "Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."
King contends that writing is a grown-up’s profession. He scolds anyone who calls himself a writer but isn’t writing four hours a day (even if working full-time in a job other than writing! King wrote what sounds like every waking hour as a young writer and still puts in an eight-hour writing day now.). Also, he considers reading an inseparable part of a writer’s life: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
While Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography was not specifically about her writing, I was struck by her seemingly inhuman drive and tireless work the world over to spread the Gospel. And over and over she shared personal incidents that demonstrated her pursuit of divine direction from God. What does that have to do with writing? My take is that she approached writing (Library of Congress reflects 24 works she authored) the same way she approached anything else: a God-called task that required her all.
Lessons I’ve learned:
· Write intentionally. While I haven’t written the 4 hours a day King preaches, I do keep a running list of story ideas in my phone, and I’ve written more consistently this year than in past years. I have made it a conscious part of my thoughts to think during the day: “hmm, could that be a story?”
· Think of others. Writing is not just for me to do for kicks at end of day. I should do it because I genuinely have something to say to people.
· I don’t have to have all the answers up front. (King talks about simply starting with a scenario and letting the story tell itself.) If I wait till I have my entire novel plotted to start it, I’ll never get there. Time to just jump in and see where my writing takes me.
King Quotes to Ponder
- While I’m not endorsing King or his work, some of these quotes are funny, some are argumentative, and some could challenge us as Apostolic writers:
- "A tragedy is a tragedy, and at the bottom, all tragedies are stupid. Give me a choice and I'll take A Midsummer Night's Dream over Hamlet every time. Any fool with steady hands and a working set of lungs can build up a house of cards and then blow it down, but it takes a genius to make people laugh."
- “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule."
- "The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear."