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Beware the parenthetical

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” belts the Great Oz. And oh how our attention goes there. Immediately, we peer behind and around or we want to, first chance we get, when no one is looking. Because when someone says, don’t look, that signals it is something they don’t want us to see, which means it is something important we should know. Or we’d be well-advised to, anyway.

We writers are a funny lot where this is concerned. We control the power of the pen! We put onto the page only what we want readers to read (except for the parenthetical, of course). That’s something we have left out but can’t quite bear to move on without recording. It’s what’s behind the curtain. And it’s very, very telling. Because parentheses immediately draw attention to it and away from the flow of the work. They draw attention to the author instead of the authored. And that stops you cold.

I am very grateful to the people who first showed me the effect of striking the words in the parenthesis. You don’t need them. In fact, you’re better off without them. Edit yourself out and let the words speak for themselves. Trust the reader to come to the right conclusion, or at least the conclusion that is right for them. What right do you have to tell them?

Somehow there is incredible power in this editing of self so the word can speak. I would do well to keep telling myself this every day. Because the temptation always exists to add just one little aside, one tiny exasperated expression, one telling remark (because after all we don’t need to hear this but others do, right?) And in that moment my pile of pride is right there on the page, glowing in glossy splendor.

Oh, I don’t deny it. There is that authority figure that comes knocking every time I sit down to write, but I can resist it, if I want to. Even if it means writing those words and then erasing them. Very much better when erased because, my goodness, how full of myself I appear later when I read it again and I’m painfully exposed all over the page.

My job, as author, writer, blogger, and probably too as mother, wife, coach, cook and everything else, is to pour everything I have and all that I am onto and into the effort and then disappear from view. No boxing or dodging. No arguing or sarcasm. No excuses and no apologies.

Say what you need to say in a way that pours right through you. Do your best not to meddle with it much. Give it the honesty and sincerity it deserves, but don’t claim it. It’s not yours.

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This band is cramping my style

Complaint free bandThis little purple band is a curious thing. We have been to challenged to wear it as a reminder of our commitment to the “No complaining for 21 days” effort.  We’re to switch wrists if we complain and then start again at Day 1. (for more read more here)

Friends tell me:

  • their kids refuse to wear them. Of course not! What kid would willingly give up the power they hold in complaining?
  • it is annoying! They don’t like anything on their hands. What is a reminder, if it doesn’t get your attention.
  • their grand kids have made it their mission to get them to complain, thus having to switch their band. Clever grand kids.
  • they have censored themselves on Facebook. No comment.
  • they handled a thrashing on the athletic field as “great opportunity to improve” and this spoken in halting words as they rolled up their sleeve to twang (but not switch) the band.

It’s a purple piece of rubber!

No one else in my family is wearing this band. As far as I know, no one else on my street is wearing this band. Now that the weather has turned cool and we have pulled on our sweatshirts and jackets who could tell? But I am and I know it, because the thing keeps slipping up and down my wrist and flopping in my way and getting caught on my sleeve and falling off when I take off my sweatshirt and sticking on my mouse pad when I try to type and obscuring my watch face when I look at the time and do you take it off in the shower and…well, you get the picture. It demands attention. That’s its job.

Who knew what power a wrist band could have? I’m not sure it’s the band. I think it may be the power behind the band. Our pastor has called the attention to a non-complaining lifestyle a spiritual discipline, and it seems to have claim each of us differently. Which sounds very like the Spirit to me.

For me, it’s a self editor. Not a “shut up and don’t say that” but more of a “check and see if this is what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want them to hear it.” Now, there is  a learning curve, my family would assure you. I’ve had plenty of, ‘oops, that was a complaint’ moments. (switch) But increasingly they are, ‘I said that positively, right?’ or ‘lemme think how  best to phrase this’ or ‘perhaps this could wait’ or even ‘never mind, it’s not that big a deal’ moments.

Yep, ironically, there’s been a progression in the no complaining process. That band and its prohibition has got me stopping and thinking before speaking. Go figure. I think it even has me dismissing complaint-thoughts more quickly. “Can’t complain?…what’s the point in wasting the energy?”

Which makes me realize that my complaining may have been fueling the thoughts all along. My words igniting the thoughts, which were inciting the words, which were enabling the thoughts. A vicious feedback loop. Now that I’m not giving it the satisfaction. Poof, the whole energy sapper starts withering away. Which is just fine with me. Who’s got time and energy to waste?

I kidded with my friends that the bands were an outward sign of an inward dis-grace. But I fear it’s true. Nothing like a physical annoyance to remind us there is work to be done and it requires our attention.

God in the tag cloud

What’s in a title? a name? a tag? A lot, I expect. It’s what we read first, in capital letters, and then decide whether we want to enter in. The funny thing is, the title is usually the last thing I give my posts or my articles. Because I’m really not quite sure what they will be about when I start them. It unearths itself in the process.

Yesterday’s post “When do we get around to doing what can be done anytime?” started out as “If we can call on God anytime, when will get around to Him?” I thought the whole refer-to-God-in-the-title thing was a bit off-putting. I mean, who wants to be bombarded with stuff chastising you for not doing what you’re “supposed to”? (Where DOES this question mark go?) If you’re on the fence about God, you’re definitely gonna hit the “delete” on that.

So I changed the title, in order to invite people in. But I tagged it “God” along with a bunch of other things. Tags invite people in, too. People who are looking for writing about a particular topic can search by tags. “Want to read what other people are writing about ____? Click here.” So it’s a covert sort of evangelism, I guess. If you’re already seeking God, you might recognize Him here.

But I’m wondering whether it’s a cop-out on my part. I mean, am I doing God a disservice by not saying, right up front, this blog is about God in my physical life? I’m considering this as I get ready to post with the new title, while scrolling through the “tags most used” cloud in my blog’s dashboard. The words are there, some smaller, some larger based on how many times I have used them. And there, floating in the middle of perhaps a hundred different tags of all sizes is one, very large, blue word: GOD.

I chuckled out loud then, right in the middle of the Starbucks. ‘God’ is by far the most used tag in my posts. Even when I don’t put Him in the title He is there; I have written Him in. Simply by tapping those three keys, in that order, time after time, GOD has emerged in the cloud.

So I guess I haven’t tucked Him away after all. Even when I don’t call Him by name He is there, among us. Here, where 2 or 3 are gathered. Or at least He is there, in my midst and my mind as I tap out my ponderings. Those three keys, in that order, time after time. Not randomly, but regularly.

I do think titles are important, though. That’s how we know what to call things, how to refer to them, how we connect with them. They do serve as an invitation and they get our attention. Kind of like when someone calls our name. We’re told that our Shepherd will call us by name. I’m not so sure He will use my first or my last name. I’d like to think I would just get a tap that says, “mine,” in a voice I recognize as His.

And not like those crazy gulls from Finding Nemo…”mine. mine. mine. mine.” Or, maybe so. You can find God in most any script, can’t you?

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