It takes a while to build a living hill.

13 09 2005

We can probably all picture it in our minds. As the camera zooms out to embrace a breathtaking view of the Austrian Alps, Maria flings her arms wide and spins with utter abandon. She opens her mouth, and the exquisite ache pent up inside her explodes in spontaneous song. “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Except it wasn’t spontaneous. Rodgers & Hammerstein labored to compose the song. An orchestra of trained musicians played the score. Julie Andrews spent years perfecting her vocal technique. There was a director, camera men, a crew . . .

Wouldn’t it be lovely if one day we just woke up and discovered we could sing like Julie Andrews? There we’d be, minding our business, picking up a few quick items at the Piggly Wiggly. Then, without warning, overcome by the exceedingly abundant cereal selection right at our fingertips, we’d give our buggies a shove, jump on the back and–faces uplifted with rapture–sing, “The aisles are alive with the pounds of Mueslix!”

Okay, maybe not. But, if you’re like me, there’s often an ache inside–a desire to create something beautiful–and you don’t feel like you can do it justice.

How do we make our words sing with unselfconscious abandon?

The answer is, of course, hard work. We labor over phrases. We listen to constructive criticism. We sit at the feet of people whose writing we respect. We read books that teach or inspire us. And then we practice, practice, practice. And finally, one day, we sing. And we hear music.

I will never be able to sing like Julie Andrews. I do, however, enjoy singing. But my style is softer–more lullaby than aria. More stardust than blazing spotlights.

Likewise, I don’t write action-suspense-five-alarm thrillers. No car chases. No gang fights. If I tried to force myself into that mold, it would be like stepping on stage and attempting to perform an opera. It wouldn’t ring true. And, believe me, no one would enjoy listening.

I’m not holding myself up as an expert by any means, but I believe a big part of success as a writer is finding your rhythm and being content to dance to it. Then practice, practice, practice that dance. Sing for those who know something about the song, and listen to their critique. Learn from the masters, but don’t try to morph your voice into theirs. We already have their voices. We want to hear yours.

I’m thinking these hills could use a little action. You in?


This post will be part of September’s Celebration of New Christian Fiction, to be hosted Thursday, the 15th, by Mary DeMuth. I’m leaving town tomorrow, so I wanted to let you know in advance. If you’re interested, you’ll find the celebration here.

And speaking of practice and sitting at the feet of masters, I’m heading to the ACFW writer’s conference in Nashville this weekend. Please pray for safe travel and a productive time of “voice lessons.” Thanks!



3 responses

22 09 2005

I like your stardust, Jeanne. The aisles are alive…

22 09 2005

I like your stardust, Jeanne. The aisles are alive…

22 09 2005

I like your stardust, Jeanne. The aisles are alive…

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: