Thursday, June 11, 2015

Important stuff to write when you don't have Important Stuff to Write

A guest post by Rebekah Curtis

I've read a number of books on writing, and somehow the one I liked least has one of the lessons that stuck with me most. The book is The Right To Write by Julia Cameron, and there isn't anything wrong with it, it's just not my style. But I thought the author had a useful perspective on publishing: who cares? If you like writing, write. Go out of your way to do it. 

I have been very blessed to have some of my writing published. But I have also written a whole bunch of things that have only been published on my home printer. Writing for your church is a low pressure way to contribute to the life of your congregation, and homes can also gain some great things from a writing family member.  Here are some of the ways I've gotten my write on in my regular life.

For church

1. Write a Christmas program. I stumbled into this because it was such a pain to try to fit our parish's kid-resources into a pre-fab program. It was easier to write around the kids we have than to try to makeshift and substitute. You can tailor to your congregation, both in terms of what they're able to do and which ideas they'll benefit from hearing more. Your pastor is your doctrinal reviewer; I always learn something from his comments and edits.

2. Write press releases or articles about things going on at your church for your local newspaper/media source.

3. If your church has a secretary, ask politely if she would like some of the church's stock letters updated. A lot of churches have been ker-chunking out the same cradle roll letter or fundraiser notification for the last 40 years, and sometimes they get a little mildewy. (But some are too funny to change, so use discretion. Our church's Dinner Auction letter is gold, and includes such formulations as: "Callers will be in contact to find out what your donation is by April 7. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE ITEM READY ON APRIL 7. NO!")

4. Write notes to shut-ins, college students, snowbirds, deployed members of the military or people in the congregation who are working away from home. Sometimes I think this sounds trite until somebody sends a note to me and I remember again how nice it is to get one. This also helps if you're an awkward person and better on paper than in conversation.

5. Write silly songs* for Rally Day, the church picnic, the last day of school or Sunday school, your pastor's ordination anniversary, and for something to do that isn't unloading the dishwasher. Add a ukulele, and you can live in a house of squalor and beautiful homemade music indefinitely.

For home

1. Use a dry erase maker to write very menacing notes about basic courtesies on the bathroom mirror.

2. Make memorable events in your life into a story or poem. If you're a lot less lazy than I am, you could even have it printed up at Walgreen's or something and make a historical document out of it. Make sure you pick something significant, like the time the kids caught a leech in a creek and you had to treat it like a cherished family pet for four days.

3. Write a Christmas letter people will like reading, or one you like writing.

4. More songs, more ukulele. I'm pretty sure if you write songs for kids, you don't have to do puzzles with them EVER.

5. Blogging, duh. Our kids love to gather round ye olde family blog and reminisce about the months of yore.

Displaying IMG_0829.JPG6. Write down the family stories from your grandmas and grandpas. Ask them to edit your drafts, and do your best to preserve their voice.

7. Teach the kids in your life to write. I love it that when my kids have writing assignments for any class, I feel like I am really able to help them think about and improve their work. Every grownup has to write sometimes, and the practices you show little writerlings along the way will shape them as writers in whatever writing work life gives them. Help a little poet with his meter; help a narrator never use the words "awesome" or "amazing"; help a reporter economize.

*There is also hymnwriting. I think it's best to wait to be asked for the use of one of your hymns so as to avoid becoming That Hymnwriter. There are several good hymns out there, so demand isn't huge, plus it's really hard to tell if your own hymn is good.

Writers gotta write. Who better to write for than the people you love most?

Displaying Rebekah Curtis headshot.jpgRebekah Curtis and her sister Rose Adle are co-authors of LadyLike, a collection of essays from Concordia Publishing House.

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  1. I am so inspired to think up cryptic mirror messages!

  2. I look forward to your Christmas letter every year. :-)

  3. I definitely need to try to the menacing notes suggestion!

  4. The bathroom one really doesn't work, but it is a good way to practice saying something moldier than all get out in a new way. :D Ukulele, though. For real.

  5. I've been thinking on the bathroom one... it definitely should rhyme.

    "Hey kids, wouldn't it be neat
    if everyone kept their pee off the seat?!"

    Wipe yourself, and don't leave drips
    or smears or stains or stink
    If mom finds out you were the one
    You'll be cleaning for a week!


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