Why wait to be moved when you can move?

Use More Active Verbs:
That’s one of the prime advisories offered by writing coaches everywhere.

This confused me at first. I mean, it’s a verb, right? So it’s already active. Someone or something doing, right? Or, being done to or acted upon. And there’s the rub. No one wants to read about someone being acted upon. How boring. We want to read action. Active verbs are alive.

Here’s a sample I borrowed from the internet:

Active: The producer was making an announcement.

Passive: An announcement was being made.

The first one invites you in. The second makes you wanna loiter out in the hall and finish your coffee and scone. When we stick that passive “to be” verb in there, it makes us the acted upon rather than the actors.

That struck me this morning as I read, “I came to be inspired, but that just didn’t move me.” Dissatisfaction oozes from every syllable. (Oozes, a very active verb!)

I hear that in our churches. I hear that from our students. I hear that about our politicians. We, the people, haven’t been inspired by…something or someone we had high hopes for. Isn’t it odd that we insist on active verbs in our books, but we wait to be acted upon by our lives? We like action and people who take action. But we aren’t those people. We want to be moved, but we’re plenty comfortable staying right where waiting for someone else to overcome our inertia.

Isn’t it funny, then, when children don’t want to wait, we chastise them and call them impulsive? They want to move first and ask questions later — maybe. They wanna show you what they can do – their dance, their song, their artwork, their new shoes. They’re not trying to inspire you, they just wanna bring you into their joy.

I will never forget little Stephanie, my middle daughter, after we had gone on a clothes shopping excursion. She would pull the stool into the middle of the family room floor, climb atop it in her latest new outfit, spread her hands wide and loudly proclaim, “Pre-senting!!” We, of course, would all laugh and applaud while she ran to add a headband or change into the matching top. It would never occur to Stephanie to send word that she was trying on clothes in the other room in case anyone wanted to come see.

Kids today – yes, “those kids today” – are the same. They’re not waiting to be moved or to be inspired. They like to do the moving. To live life in the present tense. I guess that’s why my writing teacher told me that “to write for the young adult audience I should use the present tense.” I find that quite difficult. I keep falling into the past or springing ahead into the future. For now I would probably do well just to work on using more active verbs.

I can’t presume to be inspiring. I don’t what a reader will find so. And, let’s be honest, some people are hard to please. Perhaps I would do well to follow my daughter’s example, climb up on the stool and be totally delighted to say, “Pre-senting!!”

That was the other thing I read this morning. Much more inspiring.

“Dear God, show us what it means to delight in your presence.”

Not to be delighted or to delight You, just to delight. Active form of the verb.


About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on March 4, 2013, in Body, Mind and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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