The Internet can be a wonderful tool. A few weeks ago my husband was able to screen share with our daughter who was in another town and walk her through filing her online tax return. I Skyped with my mom the other day to try to walk her through using her blood sugar monitor. And just this past weekend my husband was able to watch You Tube videos that gave him really tangible explanations of how to replace a broken flange on our toilet.
The Internet can be useful. It can also be a time sucker. It can be a lot of things that have been widely debated. But there are a few things the Internet can't do.
Although it can teach you how to do your taxes, you still have to be able to answer those qustions and fill in the blanks in the form. While it can help you to know which buttons to push on your blood glucose monitor, nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to prick your own finger and then have to perform a series of steps without losing that precious drop of blood. And even though it can show you step-by-step how to replace a toilet, no amount of video watching will ever be able to instill the kind of confidence you get from having gotten your hands dirty.
Writing is like that. There is so much out there, especially on the Internet, that is so valuable to writers. I was leafing through a summer 2010 issue of Writer's Digest at the library the other day. It had the "101 Best Websites for Writers" list. What a great find! And yet, I picked out only a handful of sites that looked incredibly interesting and I lost an entire day trying to pick through and find things that I could use. I don't mean to say there was nothing valuable out there - of course, there is...
However... nothing will teach you to write like the old 2 standbys:
I've been working on some new fiction lately. If you're intersted in reading it you can find it on my blog. What I did was post roughly the first chapter of a book I've been working on. And when I say roughly, I mean Anne Lamot, **itty first draft kind of rough. Just tossed it out there, first draft, warts and all and then had the audacity to ask for feedback! Essentially I formed an Internet critique group, only I invited the entire world to participate. A lot of people would call this crazy - that it's suicide to put anything but polished ideas out there. I mean, God forbid an editor or agent should stumble on my blog and make a solemn vow never to publish my work! But before you join them in blowing me off, listen to this:
In 2004 I was at a writer's conference deep in the mountains of New Hampshire. Each night before the keynote speaker took the podium there was a bit of worship. The first night there was a man who led worship and it was technically perfect. His band was tight, he had a good voice, and he did all songs that people knew so they would be more likely to engage. It was really good. But it wasn't all that great.
The second night a woman got up to do worship. Just one woman with a keyboard and a microphone. From the first note that rang out something changed in the atmosphere of that room. God showed up. And he showed up even though sometimes her voice got pitchy, and every once in a while she hit a bad note or disonant chord on the piano. In that half hour she took us with her into the throne room of heaven and deposited us all into the loving arms of our Father. So what if she's not technically accurate 100% of the time, and she doesn't have perfect pitch. I happen to think that's what I like most about her!
The woman who led worship was Rita Springer, and I own every CD she has ever made, because there's something about her worship that still transports me. Her writing is real and beautiful, her melodies uncomplicated - simple, yet powerful.
That's what good writing should be. Simple, yet powerful. Something capable of transporting its reader.
I don't know about you, but in my life, I have learned more from people who are willing to be imperfect than from those who have polished themselves to an untouchable gleaming perfection. I want to be a writer who can show both sides - finished product as well as work-in-progress.
My writing is far from perfect, but I too am a work-in-progress. For now I am reading a lot but not books about writing, and not on the Internet. I'm reading real books that I love. Books that feed my spirit and fiction that inspires me to write unforgettable characters.
The character in this latest story is one whose genesis was right here on the Master's Artist - something I wrote for a post back in 2009. The character was birthed then, and she told me some of who she was, but I didn't hear her really begin to speak to me until just recently. Some characters are like that. They lie dormant and prefer to stay asleep until they have something to say. Truly was like that. She just started talking. And I just started listening...
All this to say that even the greatest, most technically accurate writers probably write crappy first drafts. But it's the heart of each piece that matters. So make sure your heart is in it first, because you can always work on pitch correction later... ;)