Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language." In it ... Read More
Do people everywhere say they covet prayers?
I have heard a thousand people say that they coveted my prayers, or the prayers of everyone. I’m glad there’s nothing in the Bible against coveting your neighbor’s prayers, because man would we need a lot of repentance in the south.
Do not be deceived, people of the listening audience; this post is all about the craft of writing (or singing, clogging, etc.) and not about prayer coveting. But is there a parallel in the world of writing? Let’s force one through, shall we?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s writing? OK. Let’s go with that, I guess.
I usually chafe a little beneath the bridle of our popular culture’s religion of selfish rebellion, with all its focus on originality and uniquity. Uniquity is defined (by me -because I think I just invented it –original!) as a sinful preoccupation with your own uniqueness. Witness the fad of denying the sufficiency and inerrancy of the Scriptures and the rush to express and encourage private, personal, non-binding, accommodating, and feckless meanings (which just happen to be fashionable).
But it can also be a humble approach to aim to express your own gifts. If we see them as that –gifts- then we should not be tempted to take too much credit for them. Nor will we be too surprised when the way we express ourselves as writers (or painters, or banjo pickers) is different from others. Maybe we’ll also be better prepared for criticism. Bonus.
Imitation, they say, is the highest form of flattery and I’m sure there are cases when it’s appropriate. But if you are a gifted writer, then be yourself. We do not need another C.S. Lewis. If we did, he would still be here. But we might need you.
Clones are boring.
In my youth (and adulthood as well) my wise father frequently quoted from that great fount of philosophical wonder –the Tooter the Turtle cartoon. In this show’s conclusion Mister Wizard would invariably remind young Tooter that his desire to be someone else (a knight, a baseball star, etc.) was misplaced. He argued for contentment, and his exhortation to use your own gifts and be your own self is folk wisdom in a grand, glorious gulp.
“Always, always I tell you, Tootor. Be just what you is, not what you is not. Folks what do this has the happiest lot.”
Sounds good to me. Now, about actually doing it…