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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

In a world where (aggressively shifting) vocabularies rule our comprehension and communication is often compressed into a “tweet” or a “text”, the elegant structure of grammar as an aid in clearly passing thoughts and information from one person to another may be a lost art.  How can we withstand it?  Maybe language ought to be more poetic, about the images it gives us, the feelings with which we respond, the ways we wish to interpret what we hear.  In which case, all those little in-between words aren’t so necessary anymore…

 

I once had an experience with a young woman who believed God wished all people to be vegetarians.  We read together from Genesis 9: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, [that is], its blood.”  She picked out a few words on which to base her application: “not eat flesh” and she said this was because of the “blood” and respect for “life”. 

 

This girl had a subjective interpretation that served her preconceptions.  The last words had more impact on her, too, I believe, because she remembered them better than the first sentence.  She seemed unable to grasp the relationship between one thought and the next, though she used cause and effect words (not rationale, only the vocabulary) in defense of her own position.  People like her know what words sound persuasive, what words make people feel good.  I wonder how often more intelligent speakers are condemned for being judgmental simply because our vocabulary made people feel bad, made them feel that we were dealing in stark absolutes. 

 

And I am encountering this phenomenon in lesser degrees more and more.  A word in a sentence might just as easily suggest its opposite as its traditional meaning.  A word may or may not be modified by other words in context.  My interpretation of what you say or write is just as valid, just as likely to guide my decisions, as the interpretation you intended.  Ideas cannot be comprehended if they take more than three sentences to build and capstone. 

 

What is our obligation to combat these trends?  How much are we the communicators responsible to mind our audience and deliver our messages in ways that will have the effect we desire? 

 

These are the questions I wish to explore with my new blog, “Retold for the Modern Reader” at www.LanguageDeconstruction.blogspot.com

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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Impossible that it’s ten o’clock.  April is poetry month, so I’m told.  Happily I already celebrated unknowingly by spending time with some friends passing Longfellow back and forth.  Our favorite was either “Maidenhood” or “The Village Blacksmith.”  When I was in school my mom/teacher made me write poems.  On demand.  Come on!  Inspiration does not come at my beckoning.  And how often do I feel inspired without any words to express the perfectly poetic sentiment of my day?  I think that’s what I mean by “romanticism.”  Anyway, I did so want to write a poem for my sentiments, and it is poetry month, so I gave myself the assignment and resorted to the means I used to complete my high school English assignments: list what strikes you as poetic about your thoughts today, and form them into some sort of verse.  Except they used to rhyme.  So ignore my ridiculous form.  And forgive the fact that the strongest point of my poetry is using words with precision, but not so much creativity or parallel. 
 
Friday afternoon, mind swimming with Synonyms
For diligence and self control, perseverance and temperance
I’d rather think of poetry, of rain and wind and crashing seas
Scottish shores and Celtic tunes, flutes and violins wailing. 
 
Sitting to think and compose and to focus,
I lie back against the pillow on my bed,
Fully awake, I let my eyes close
Mysteriously, just being, with a hand above my head. 
 
Missing my friends, strange loneliness dull
As the soft throb of my heart behind
High, keen thrills of longing and wishing
Ready for a change and afraid of what it might be
 
Needing one to excite me, to share
The passion of a poem, a truth, or a care
Tears are more fitting for the sorrow of life
And days still come with love and laughter
 
Sisters eating cookies together, not looking at each other
Barely talking, but just being
Existing, Individuals not stories
Being personal and together
 
Books are exciting, words speak for themselves
Metaphors alternately dry or compelling
History the truest voice into my need
Casually combines love, war, and theology. 
 
 
That’s it.  Are you a real poet?  What do you have to share? 
 
Oh, by the way – I found this real sonnet by an authentic poet, and I bookmarked it on del.icio.us today.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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The book I just finished, A Walk with Jane Austen, is about a regular Christian girl who wouldn’t want me to call her that any more than I would want to be called ordinary. But she is a Christian, single, no one born important. She loves Jane Austen, knows a lot about her books and life, wanted to go to England, and so she did. This authoress has her ups and downs, struggles wandering about England looking for sites associated with her heroine. There is romance and analysis of romance and longing for the love that lasts beyond the wondering.

Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.

For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.

On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.

When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.

My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.

The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.

Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.

I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Mugs and Cocoa

To think this pile of brown dust turns into a delicious, warm, indulgent chocolate drink is wonderful. And if I pour the steaming water from several inches above the brim, the cocoa will be frothy. After a few minutes, casually stirring and waiting for the cup to cool, the bubbles are still there, but smaller, a foamy chocolate layer on top featuring swirls and spots of darker chocolate, not totally blended yet. Marshmallows keep hot chocolate warm longer, by insulating the cup from the top, like the ice on top of a lake that allows fish and life to continue beneath. One small sip, breathed rather than drunk, promises a mug full of pleasure, a sweet and filling substitute for a healthier lunch.

I love my mugs. The one at work, whence I type this, is cobalt blue with white etching of Colorado evergreens. I can slip most of my fingers through the handle to warm my hand without doing anything useful. It’s a thinking position, the cozy act of a multi-tasker not really thinking about her work. The brim of the mug has no lip, is simply straight, allowing the breathe-sipping and preventing strange sticky mustaches from forming on my lip.

At home there is a large, paler blue glass mug that promises abundance, luxury, a long afternoon to enjoy its contents. There is a rounded goblet-like mug that looks like a candle-lamp, with a small, finger-sized ring for a handle near the bulbous bottom. It looks more like dessert and beauty than comfort and ease. And I have my Chicago cup, short and wide, purple and unappealing except for the complete redemption of having Chicago written on the outside, reminding me constantly of my favorite city.

Ok, so I have several more mugs, and sometimes I even feign British propriety and use a teacup and saucer (which is almost always profaning the use, as I drink cocoa much more readily than tea). Each of my mugs is a privilege to use, and makes me wish that I stayed home more, reading a good book, instead of shopping or skipping about to work and libraries (the last thing I need is to read books I do not own instead of the stacks of those unread editions that I do).

The very fact that I’m writing about cups and cocoa proves that I am absolutely given over to a writing craze. I’ve been reading a lot, and every thought forms itself into a communicative sentence that insists on being written and remembered. I will try to be an Elinor, of Sense and Sensibility, to push aside my instincts and follow my sacrificial duty. Perhaps my sense of story will infiltrate my responsibility and make it poetic. Wish me luck.

A few hours later I have most irresponsibly finished reading a book. My cobalt blue mug contains a half inch of cold, watered-down cocoa, having been refilled with hot water to make the last bit last longer. I cannot get into the story of Ephesians 5 and 6 sufficiently for it to say what I thought it said, so maybe I should start over and let God say what He says. I want connection, though, between what God has been saying and what He will say.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I want to write about things that mean a lot to me: ideas that keep me going or inspire me.  But some things are too close, too dear, for words. 
 
Today I wanted to write stories, but when I tried to form sentences I realized all I want to do is practice.  Don’t write; do.  And I want to do coy debates and romance and being a wife to an incredibly faith-filled man.  As that is clearly not God’s plan for my day, I had to ask what to do with this surge of inspiration.  I’m emotional today, and I need a vent for all this rapture. 
 
So on my way home from work I looked at the sky (stubbornly trying to rationalize how I could be grateful the sun wasn’t down while still hating Daylight Savings Time).  I want to own this day.  A photo wouldn’t capture it, and a painter would have to be a master to get even one glimpse of this day right.  The sun lit the dark blue clouds in the east, intensifying their color and varnishing them with a glorious haze.  Between the clouds and me were trees, still bare from the cold of winter, every twig illuminated separately.  Where the light didn’t reach, the shadow asserted itself with depth and variance and character.  The little whiter clouds nearer the zenith blew in and out of formation, constantly contrasting with the colors and shapes around them.  Praise God who created shape and color! 
 
And it was all a gift to me.  Songs I have not sung in months came to mind, and I sang of my Savior coming for me.  “Hear the roaring at the rim of the world… Behold He’s coming with the clouds.”  The clouds and glimmering landscape captured my eye and imagination, as though cracking the door open on the edge of the world.  I sang of who my Savior is, what He did on earth, and of His passion.  And then I dreamed again of when He will come back.  “I saw the holy city… and now our God will dwell with them.” 
 
And this is all about waiting, and love, and faithfulness, and longing, and worship, and beauty, and glory.  I want to write how I feel at those times, and what I know, and the million connections being made between the things I know about my God… but I can’t.  For now the topics that mean the most, that are most gifts of God, must stay that.  I pray that someday He will call me to share them, and bless me with the words I don’t have today. 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
PS: Michael Card’s Unveiled Hope album is a soundtrack to Revelation, and a soaring symphony to the King on His White Horse coming back for me. 

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After this weekend, I’ve been thinking about art, and the levels by which it becomes more difficult.  Here are my rough draft thoughts:

Art is work.  Have you ever thought of that?  One of my favorite words for the product of art is wrought.  Dictionary.com defines it as (among other things):

3. elaborated; embellished.
5. produced or shaped by beating with a hammer, as iron or silver articles.

 Art:

Writing tends to be the most vague.  Composition can be creative, poetic, skilled and beautiful.  But it always relies on the reader’s imagination and experience to get a mental image of the suggested idea. 

 

Painting or drawing is a two-dimensional representation of an idea.  The observer has no freedom to add to what is given, but the artist must put more definite thought into his work.  He must take the risk of his specific expression being rejected. 

 

Sculpture, set design, home decorating, costuming – these are three-dimensional, still manifestations of an idea.  I crave this sometimes.  I will be inspired with an arrangement, or want to imitate a form – a shape that is not quite expressible in a drawing.  A room may be visited.  As a connoisseur of art, I want to tour locations of beauty or meaning, not just read about them or look at postcard-pictures. 

 

These last two art forms get more complicated.  There is more work involved in their creation, and less control.  There is risk not only that the concrete vision may be rejected, but that it may be marred.  On the other hand, our visions can benefit from the dye and sculpting of human interaction. 

 

A moment may be crafted.  The idea that comes to mind is when a man proposes.  Or it could be like a party.  Last night I was at a Christmas party – yes, in January – where the hostess had engaged in three dimensional art (her clothing and hair, and the table setting) which contributed to the moment she created when she made a speech (really a toast without glasses).  She designed a moment to make us feel special.  We lived through gifts, smiles, and words that communicated emotion, atmosphere, ideas. 

 

Life is a work of art.  Fundamentally a life is God’s work.  Paul tells us as much in Ephesians 2:10.  To different extents friends and parents are artists shaping moments for others, which in combination shapes the friends and children.  Those who are molded in this way go on to make a series of decisions, to have a sequence of experiences that come together to make a life.  Here we have relationships, characters, feelings and thoughts, intentions – and failures. 

 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 – “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:  Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In case you’re new, or you’ve forgotten, or you just needed an excuse to visit one more web page, Lisa of Longbourn posts her creative writing snippets at When the Pen Flows – and invites you to share the creativity by submitting your own stories or poems for publication, by commenting, and by telling your friends. Get inspired. Practice your writing skills. Give me an excuse to practice mine.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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