Carroll Dale Short

• Writing Tips •

Who Do You Think You Are...Jesus?

Our text for this morning, if we had one, would be the book of Mark, 11:27 and 28...

“And they came again to Jerusalem: And as he was walking in the temple they came to him, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and said unto him, 'By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority to do these things?'”

Think about it.

Here's this nice, young local guy named Jesus. They've known him and his parents since he was a baby. Then one day, he starts walking on water, multiplying one small basket of food until it can feed a multitude, raising people from the dead. That kind of thing.

Do they say, “That's amazing! How did you do that? Could you teach us?”

Nope. They're irked, and they confront him: “Who gave you permission to do that?”

With the distance of two thousand years, it's easy nowadays to rag on the priests, scribes, and elders for their cluelessness. But the cold fact is, these people were the state-of-the-art human beings of their era.

These were the people who ran things: the government, the legal system, the churches. (Or in this case, synagogues.) They were the Experts.

Humanity has come a long way since then, except in the matter of human nature. As a result, most of us spend most of our lives trying to get permission—to be the kind of person we want to be, to do the kind of work we were born to do.

And we're in a special kind of tight spot if the work we were born to do includes writing a book, writing a song, writing a play, painting a painting, or sculpting a sculpture.

Because we're uneasy about doing this, we explain our plans to others in hopes they'll encourage us. Instead, those others look at us as if we'd just dropped down from another planet: “You don't know how to do that!” they say. “You're not a professional.”

And all too often, we listen. Or, if we do proceed against their advice, we do it in baby steps.

I was perusing the website of a creative writing group once and saw this note: “Attached is the first chapter of my novel. If enough people like it, I will write more.”

I never found out what the response was, but I'm guessing it was similar to what the screenwriter of my favorite movie, “Field of Dreams,” faced when he first pitched his idea to a table of Hollywood big-wigs:

“OK, this story is about a farmer who digs up his fields so all these old dead guys can come play baseball!”

Uh, yeah. We'll get back to you on that.

Unfortunately, there's no such term in art as “partial.” You've got to go whole hog, or not at all. Or as a football coach would say, “Don't leave anything on the field.”

This week, that ancient truth even made an appearance on Twitter: a marketing expert who advised, “You can focus-group an idea to death, but the fact is that people often don't know what they love until they see it.”

So. Go whole hog, finish a piece of work, then fine-tune and revise it until it's as good as it can possibly be. Submit it, not to your friend or neighbor, but to somebody who is in a position to publish, record, stage, hang, or mount your piece of work. The first time, they'll probably give you a polite, “No, thanks.”

No problem. Go whole hog on a new project. Rinse, and repeat.

At least it beats waiting for somebody's permission. You can grow old and die, doing that.

Amen? Amen.



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