"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen


Don't Just Learn It

Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive
 yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 NIV

I've learned a lot about writing over the last few months. But at the moment, it isn't doing me a bit of good.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I've dedicated 2012 to learning more about the craft of writing. To that end, in just the first three months of the year, I've taken four online classes and read one and a half writing craft books. I've also read writing craft blogs, two monthly writing magazines, a quarterly writing magazine, and likely other things I'm not recalling.

I know more about character arc, novice mistakes, ways to make a character's emotional expressions more powerful, and rhetorical devices than I did at the end of 2011. A LOT more. And all this knowledge could help me greatly in making my current (or future) work in process a better, more compelling read.
But just because I have the knowledge doesn't mean I'll actually use it.
I remember vividly learning at least some of these things before. But did I apply them to my writing? Not necessarily. Having the knowledge is not enough - I must actually apply it to what I am working on (in this case, Handmaiden to a Princess)

This isn't only true in writing. James speaks of people who do the very same thing with God's Word.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:23-35 NIV
Do you not only read your Bible, but do what it says? Do you listen to, AND put into practice, the message your pastor preaches? Do you listen for God, then act on what you hear? If not, you may not be any better off than if you hadn't heard at all.

I'm planning to spend April going through my current manuscript, finding places to apply the lessons I've learned from Mary O'Gara, Kathy Ide, Margie Lawson and others during the first quarter of 2012. I will purposefully use what I have learned to improve my story.

I'll do the same with what I read in my Bible, learn in Sunday School, and hear in our pastor's messages. For acting on those truths will do more than bring me closer to a publishing contract: it will draw me closer to my Savior.

 How often do you "go through the motions" with your Bible reading? Do you take the lessons you learn from the Lord and apply them to your life, or is the Bible just another book to you? What stops you from doing what the Word says?

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength


  1. So true Joanne. We can store away a lot of information but it's only in applying it that we show we have truly learned it.

  2. What a good analogy, Funny, I think I apply more to my writing than I do to my life with all the lessons I learn. I think of all the years I've sat under good Bible teaching and when something happens it takes me awhile to draw on what I know.

  3. Excellent comparison! I heard someone say we know the Word is truly in our hearts when it starts coming out of our mouths and showing up in our actions. I suppose the same could be said of what we learn about writing... when we start to see it on the page, we're abiding in it!

  4. This was such a good analogy. Thanks for sharing this. Love it!

  5. This post impacted me in two ways. It encouraged me to be more diligent in seeking craft knowledge, and it reminded me to be more diligent in my walk. Things have been crazy in the Slattery house for maybe two months now, and I noticed I started "going through the motions"--praying while my mind ventured to numerous to-do lists, hurrying through my Bible reading time, etc. The result--a poor attitude and increases selfishness. Ick! God showed me I was not pleasing Him--showed me my attitude was sin and sin is a big deal. So, I found a godly, loving, honest friend to hold me accountable. :) Today I'm camping out in Philippians 2. Wow, I could stay there forever in my efforts to live it! I know I'll never get it 100%, but I'll focus on forward steps. :)

    Thanks, Jo!


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