Friday, May 18, 2012

Applying the Gift of Writing - 3 Things to Consider

I have a dark gift.

I have several dark gifts, actually. And they actually aren't dark in and of themselves. But most of the time people think of them as being dark, because they're so easy to misuse.

The gift I'm going to talk to you about is a gift for NOT GETTING CAUGHT.

There are those who are natural spies and sneaks and there are those who are not. I have a sixth sense about knowing if someone is going to come in, if someone is going to turn a corner, if someone is moving from room to room. Before, when I used my power for EVIL (sneaking snacks from the pantry as a young boy... which... I would NEVER do now... *coughs, looks away*) I was a master of timing it perfectly. Knowing exactly when to enter and exit the pantry, knowing how to open the snack without making any noise at all, knowing how to dispose of the evidence in untraceable ways... oh, it was GLORIOUS.

And of course, utterly evil.

But Joseph, you ask. How in the world is that not a dark gift? Sneaking? Not getting caught? Disposing of evidence? Where on earth are you going to use this in a non-criminal fashion?

I have but two answers for you. (There are more, but these will suffice.)

1. Christmas Presents
2. Anonymous gifts and favors.

When I truly focus my gift, I'm the sneakiest dang Christmas guy you ever knew. And I have never ONCE gotten caught delivering an anonymous gift. Not ONCE. I get the same rush from doing a high-risk-of-discovery secret gift or service that I did from sneaking snacks. It's like a heist in reverse.

It's all about the application.

So. Writing. How do we know how if we are applying it correctly? (By 'correctly' I mean 'in the way most likely to make us actually happy, instead of fake-happy.) Because writing, my friends, is a gift. We don't write well because WE'RE so awesome. We write well because God gave us the ability to learn, to hold a pen, to string words together, to make them fit, to make them powerful.

Well, here are a few things I think might help me, and maybe you, know if we're using that gift correctly.

1. Who are you focused on?

When you heist snacks, guess who you're focused on? Um, yourself. And... yeah, yourself. And probably... yourself. It's actually a pretty miserable life. You worry about failing. You worry about getting caught. You worry about whether the snack will be stale or not.

When you heist a gift it's a completely different feeling. You're still a little worried about failing or getting caught, your heart is still pounding in your ears, but it's not about you. It's about - I don't want to ruin the surprise for this person. I want them to find it, and feel loved, and I don't want any payoff, I just want it to work and for them to feel good.

I think we, as writers, would benefit from the question - Who am I focused on?

2.  Who is the intended beneficiary?

Thievery? Benefits the thief. Gifts? Benefit the reverse-thief AND the person the gift is given to.

Who does your writing benefit?

3. How will you feel if you get caught?

Ah. This is the painful question. Getting caught.

If you are a snack thief... it feels like crap to get caught. (I've not been caught often... but my dad's pretty good at being sneaky too.) It feels horrid to be exposed, especially to someone you care about.

If you are gift-heisting... then while I imagine it would be embarrassing to be caught (having never been caught gift-heisting) it wouldn't feel half as bad. In fact... it would turn out okay, somehow.

Now, think of this: The person who's opinion you care most about in the world reads your writing. God, maybe. Or a personal hero - someone you greatly admire from history. Or your mother, who you adore and who adores you.

How are they feeling as they are reading what we wrote? (I'm not talking about our WRITING here, I'm talking about our THEMES and STORY. I'm talking about content, not mechanics.) How do we feel as we are 'caught'?

There is the slight embarrassment of being exposed as our real selves - which our writing inevitably does - but then there is the shame of: 'well, I actually only wrote this to please people whom it really doesn't matter what they think,' or 'I wrote this and I was half-ashamed as I wrote it because it really doesn't fit inside what I know is right and true.'

We, as writers, naturally want to use our gift in the best way - the way that will make us REALLY happy, instead of fake-happy. The key to that? Application. It's all about application.

What other questions do you think are good to ask ourselves? And who out there has a 'dark' gift that they use for good?

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