Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Writing

Author, Extraordinary Mom, and good friend Heidi Saxton stopped by the other day on her way to the Catholic Marketing Trade Show and Catholic Writers' Conference in Somerset, NJ. It was an utterly delightful visit that ended too soon. I wish I could have gone on with Heidi to the conference but it just did not work out for me this year. Heidi was getting ready to give a talk which hopefully will be online at some point. In the meantime, here are some of her thoughts on writing:

I recently had cause to contemplate this experience in connection with a book I’d recently picked up at the suggestion of a friend. I read the first few chapters and put it down again, appalled. That this was a talented writer was indisputable. That his editor had betrayed him was equally evident, at least to me.

When the complexities of the human experience are reduced to a simple lustful exchange, this is not beauty or truth. Certainly it is not authentically Catholic. How I wish the author had raised his sights just a bit higher!

All truly good writing is ordered toward the ultimate good, which is God. While a book need not reflect a distinctively Catholic world view to be truly good, a quest for transformation is essential. Goodness and beauty, along with truth, naturally elevate the human spirit. Wallowing in the muck of human frailty, without that redemptive trajectory, does the opposite.

Good writers are to truth what a good craftsman is to a gemstone: through dedicated labor imperfections are stripped away, until the full brilliance is illuminated from within. Not all stones are equally valuable — some are inherently flawed, and no amount of polishing can change that. Conversely, the value of an exquisite gem can be greatly diminished if it falls into the wrong hands. But put that flawless gem (or that flash of genuine inspiration) in the hands of an expert craftsman, and you have a prize of lasting value!

...For those of us who aspire to write a book that will withstand the test of time, there is a lesson here, I think. Technical excellence is important — but insufficient. The book must be illuminated from within with the fire of genuine revelation, and fulfill the longing for truth, beauty, and goodness that God has placed within the human heart. To settle for less is to labor in vain. The end result may be pretty — but it will never last.

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