By: Dennis Bates
It was almost exactly two years ago that my partner in this blog took me on a magic carpet ride that I have never really never left.
Just a small about of back story first. My undergraduate degree is in Journalism, with an English minor I wrote for nearly four years on a middle sized newspaper and for a international wire service. Then I got the bright idea to go to law school, but even there the ability to write coherently saved me many times because no matter how little I had learned in the class, the Professor could at least understand what I was saying.
Spelling was another matter, so let’s leave that out of the equation. I usually do.
I offer this to indicate that I knew technically how to write, and I was somewhat successful at it. What I didn’t have a good grasp of was how to write from my heart. None of my previous writing experiences had required that kind of a personal connection, and in fact that kind of writing was not desirable in journalism back then.
Staci recognized that, but instead of shredding some of my early manuscripts, she encouraged me. Several, but certainly not all of the members of a large Christian fiction writer’s board also encouraged me. Staci took it one step further. Even though we had never met at that time, we watched several movies together (virtually) and then rewrote specific scenes as we would have written them. We didn’t change the facts; we merely put them into words, trying to capture not only the actions but also the emotions of a particular scene
Then we exchanged what we had written to see how each of us had seen the same scene and translated it. The results of that little exercise were staggering almost from the very beginning. I had always had stories sliding around in my mind like cargo on a ship that needed to be tied down more securely, but I never knew how to do that. Now I did.
There so many things I learned from that exercise, including the fact that Staci is a naturally gifted teacher. However, there are two things that changed my writing completely. First, I learned to become the character and see, feel, taste, and smell what they do. When they are happy, I am happy; when they are sad, I feel their pain and verbalize it for them.
Second, I accept the simple truth that most of the stories I write have a Godly purpose even if the story itself doesn’t say so overtly. God knows what He has in mind, even though I don’t. So I trust Him and make my fingers available to type what He puts into my heart and my mind. I try to write, not only how I see and feel about things, but how He does.
It occurred to me as I worked on a new manuscript yesterday that if I can learn how to write from the heart, I most certainly can and should learn to live from there too. And if we all can learn that then the Word as captured in 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 truly will become flesh in us:
“And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
I encourage you to do everything from a Godly heart, especially living your life, so you can encourage others to do the same thing. Your life will be so much fuller for it.