Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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I am not sure forceful writing is something all of us strive for. But I do believe many of us would like to know how to add impetus to the words we write.
How do we write with overwhelming influence on our readers, on our culture? I have thought a great deal about this and I think I have some things to say about writing forcefully. However, before I begin I suppose I should grant you a disclaimer. My books are not, nor are they likely to be, on the New York Times best-seller list. My writing is hardly shaking the world. My lack of authority on this issue opens these suggestions up for discussion. What do you think about each of them? I suspect all of us thinking about our writing, would come up with some principles that could transform our writing and possibly the lives of our readers.
Let me begin with my oldest principle.
Brevity is Force.
Especially for young writers, this may sound counterintuitive. “You are saying, 'The less I write, the greater the impact,?’” Well, that is close to what I am suggesting. I am saying, “Expressing the same thought in fewer words will say it better.” I have a friend who is a riveting preacher. His exposition is brilliant, his illustrations are moving, his logic is cogent and often humorous. But it often takes him over an hour to preach one of them. I have been in some places in the world where that would be ideal, but he does not preach in any of those places. The length of his sermons takes much of the force out of what he has to say. This is every bit as true of writing as it is of speaking.
Clarity is Force.
Most of us would like our writing to be impressive. I remember a comic scene on the old Lou Grant show where someone found an article written 30 years before by their managing editor, Charlie Hume, when he was a cub reporter. The byline on the article read “F. Charles Hume.” He defended himself by saying, “All of us have been pretentious from time to time.” When one of the other characters asked him what the F stood for, he answered, “Nothing, unless you count F. Scott Fitzgerald.” It is always tempting to use big words and try to sound impressive. But the main issue of writing is clear communication. One of the passages of Scripture God has used to speak to me about my writing over the years is Habakkuk 2:1-3. Verse 2 calls us to “write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets.” Great writing is always understandable. A good writer makes what may be complicated plain for people to understand.
I am intimidated by the next of these.
Beauty is Force.
I never feel like my writing can be beautiful. And, indeed, I'm no C.S. Lewis. But writing is an art as well as a craft. Beautiful writing will affect people's lives. Most of us have a sense of beauty when we see it on a printed page. And while I will never be C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, or Philip Yancey, I can read such authors in the hope that their beauty will rub off. And I can strive to improve the beauty of what I have to say and how I write it.
Truth is Force.
I'm not sure this is not the most important of these principles. One of the best writing prompts I have ever seen, especially for poetry, says, “Write the truest sentence that you know.” I am writing primarily to Christian writers. You actually have an advantage over others in this area because you have a grip on ultimate truth.
Conviction is Force.
You need to know why you believe what you believe is true. A good writer is a clear thinker. A good writer is always asking why. You will spend time thinking through things until you come to a bedrock of conviction. A good writer knows what she thinks and why she thinks it, what she knows and how she knows it, what she believes and why she believes it.
Compassion is Force.
Good writers care about their readers. Christian writers pray for the needs of people who will read their work. The importance of what you have to say relates directly to the needs, sometimes the deepest needs, of those for whom you are writing.
God's Moving is Force.
The most life-changing force in writing is the hand of God on your words. At this point I'm talking about something that goes far beyond your craft. The hand of God on your writing flows from the depth of your relationship with God, and the effect He has on all of your life. I believe this is true whether you are writing a devotional book, a theological treatise, or a baseball story. What God is doing in your life we'll impact the lives of your readers.