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Nitty-gritty Work

by on February 5, 2011

Some thought provoking words from Kevin DeYoung:

How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish begins with this striking anecdote:

In her book The Writing Life (1989), Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, “Do you think I could be a writer?” “Well,” the writer said, “do you like sentences?”

How true. The difference between enjoying writing and enjoying having written is whether or not you like sentences.

There are a plenty of good books written by bad writers, and many more by smart, godly people who have something to say but don’t enjoy the process of saying it on paper. Conversely, I would guess that those who delight in writing not only feel passionately about their subjects and want to teach others what they’ve learned, they also like sentences. They like to play with words. They like experimenting with rhythm and syntax. They like reading sentences they make you say, “Wow, how did they do that?”

That simple question “Do you like sentences” is wise for writing and beyond. Don’t sit down to write the great American novel if you don’t like sentences. In the same way, don’t sign up to be an elementary school teacher if you don’t like kids. Don’t set out to be an amazing counselor if you don’t like questions, if you aren’t curious about people and love to hear their stories. Don’t dream of being a concert pianist if you don’t take some delight in scales. With these professions and a hundred others we need to push past the grandiose aspirations and romantic feel and consider if we actually like the nitty-gritty work required to be a success.

(HT: KD)


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