Welcome to our first post of DiVoran’s Writing Tips. She has a rich history not only in writing but in editing and poetry. Her tips will of course, be wrapped in one of her delightful stories
Most of my life, Mother said, “Make yourself the best you can and then be yourself.” When that wasn’t enough, God sent a friend to chime in with, “Nobody else can be you, so be yourself as much as you can.” They must have been trying to tell me something. I ignored them. I was a people pleaser, always figuring out what I could do to make people love, admire, and respect me more.
One day I let a painting teacher read the journal I had carefully written while on vacation. She had the gall to tell me it was pretentious. Believe it or not, I didn’t know exactly what she meant by that. Didn’t matter anyhow. I was mad (hurt). I figured I was the writer and she could just stick to teaching me how to paint and mind her own business. Then in another painting class, someone pointedly mentioned people who were pretentious and I knew she meant me, and I was hurt again, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
If I can study things I enjoy, I love studying, so when going through John Fox’s book on writing poetry, Finding What You Didn’t Lose, I discovered the answer. The title of the chapter is, “Leaving the Roots on Your Writing.” He says writers need to, “tell about those aspects of ourselves we tend to conceal.”
I think about that when someone talks about things I don’t understand. I have to make a decision every time to reveal my ignorance by asking questions. I think about it when I’m with people who know God better than I do. Can I share an honest testimony with them? I find it difficult. I don’t want them to know I’m not as advanced as they are. They might start telling me how to improve myself.
I’ve recently had the ultimate pretentious experience of my life, or so it seems now. One of my Beta readers told me the first-person character I was writing was too sophisticated to be true. I struggled with that. I couldn’t let myself understand what she meant. I wanted to argue and vent and well, you know…have a pity-party cupcake. But when the light when on and I finally understood, I was so grateful I could hardly thank her enough.
Here’s what happened. I got this college course on CDs that told how to write longer, better sentences. I am of the Guideposts and Reader’s Digest school of writing which is to write short and as plainly as possible. (Yes, White and Strunk started it). I got this course and I could barely understand it, but I decided to experiment anyhow. You wouldn’t believe the beautiful lace-like creation I crocheted my character into. It was hard work, but I felt I was learning how to write better. I was learning all right, just not what I thought. When the light went on and I realized my Beta reader was right-on, my stress left me. Let the character write as I naturally write. Now I get to rewrite many passages yet again. To tell the truth, I can’t wait. Writing simply has become like riding a bike, swimming, reading, in another word—fun! Next time through, I’ll leave the roots on. I hope the Beta reader likes it. Thank the good Lord, I have her to tell me the truth.