All month long I clip websites, videos, and articles that I find interesting. And then at the end/beginning of each month I share them all here! (Only I missed last month — I was a bit busy wrapping up life at Mars Hill — so this is a double post.) Enjoy!
Theology is always on my mind, the natural byproduct of six years working at a church, 18 credits left in an MDiv, and a wife who is a pastor. This month I discovered Sally McFague and her wonderful work on metaphorical theology, I found a excellent post on feminine images for God (a much needed conversation in the church), and I wrote a lament called I Can’t Find Thee for my worship class (another conversation/experience the church desperately needs).
For the past few years I’ve said that I want to be a writer when I grow up. And it’s still true. (I’m currently looking through MFA programs at various universities.) In the past couple months Lifehack taught me to write, write again, and write one more time while the 99% gave me a slew of tips from writers on becoming a better writer.
While much of my life is filled with theology and writing, most of my life and work falls under the categories of creativity, design, and productivity. In the past couple months Roberto Verganti reminded me that an innovators role is making people fall in love with something they never asked for, Project Glass made me consider switching from sides in the ongoing Apple/Android battle, the 99% reminded me of the key to creating remarkable things, I caught a glimpse of J.K. Rowling’s creative process – from 30,000 feet it looks like art; from the ground it looks like a to-do list, I tripped over the obvious: design matters, I read a post that I wish all my professors would read, and Study Hacks reminded me that the feeling of flow is different than the feeling of getting better.
I’m a seven. So fun is may natural habitat. And in the past two months I found a bit of fun on the world wide web. I discovered that google can sink as well as search, hipsters can have their own (analogue) habit app, I don’t need to wait for the movie (or Netflix mini-season) for more Arrested Development fun, and this is how you get more likes on Facebook. (I should probably say something about cage-fighting nuns and tanks now.)
We all have favorite blogs. And my favorite bloggers threw down some pretty fantastic posts in the past eight weeks. From Rent to the breath of God to living for everyone else to a story catcher to the art of presence to a god with a heartbeat (or the 31 posts I wrote in April and May like this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this – ten bonus ninjas if you read them all; fifty if you read all 31).
I thought about categorizing all my favorite videos. Three of them are my new favorite music videos (well, one is more “unique” than “favorite”) . One is the proposal I wish I’d thought of. One is just amazing to watch. And so is the other one. You can find them all on their respective YouTube/Vimeo homes via the links in the last sentence. Or just keep scrolling down to view them all here.
Some people speak in tongues. And some of us write in fingers.
Either way, you need someone to interpret.
It’s no secret. I often refer to it as my own secret code; sometimes it’s even indecipherable to me.
One time I was in a cross-functional meeting at Mars Hill and we were coming up with ideas for something (it was probably super important). We had a few minutes to generate ideas before sharing them with the group. Ideas are always running laps around my head. I joined their stride, found a few that were fun or creative or helpful to whatever important thing we were working on, and wrote them down.
Only I had to write them down fast before they ran away!
Idea number 1, scribbled. Idea number 2, on paper. Idea number 3, etched in pen.
We began going around the table, sharing ideas and discussing each one briefly. When it was my turn I began talking about my ideas, ending with what I considered to be my best idea of the three (probably my best idea ever).
We tried to establish a baseline for my handwriting, figuring out which scribbles were an “a” and if that other wavy line was a “j,” “t,” or “i.”
We failed. And my best idea for this super important event was lost forever. I can almost see my grade school handwriting teacher glaring at me. (Yes, I had a handwriting teacher. Apparently we both failed.)
While my own personal code/shorthand is convenient at times, it’s not practical. I find myself scribbling a pen across paper as fast as possible, racing to keep up with the idea running through my head. It’s as if I have to capture the words immediately or they will be lost forever. Only when I capture them too quickly I risk losing them to my own illegibility.
And so this week’s #5daysinarow project is Five Days of Legibility. Rather than racing from idea to idea, I will slow down, hoping the pace of my pen will invite my body and brain to find a less-than-manic pace. I want to be present with each idea I’m capturing and word I’m writing, not the one that comes next.
Tonight I played the game Liebrary (yes, that is how you spell it). One person selects a card and reads the title, author, and synopsis of a book. Everyone else writes down what they think the first sentence of the book might be. The person who read the card writes down the actual first sentence (it’s printed on the card) and everyone turns their answer in. The answers are read, everyone votes, and whoever guesses correctly receives correctly gets points and whoever has their answer guessed gets points. It’s balderdash but with books.
I loved this game. It combines two of my favorite things: books and writing. And it taught me a valuable lesson: the first sentence is one of the most important. But it’s also the one people forget first.
How many books can you name their first sentence? (I can do War and Peace, Moby Dick, Romeo & Juliet, and Genesis.)
Anyone who writes anything will tell you that the way you open is important, and rightly so; you only get one first impression. As the reader, you (the author) have a split second to draw me and give me a hint at where the whole story is going. A well crafted first sentence can bring me to the edge of my seat and tell me much more than I realize.
This morning I was reading through the story of Jacob and Esau and I realized that even the title we give this story is actually a compelling opener. We call the story “Jacob and Esau.” And if you look close enough at this title you see it riddled with the entire story — Jacob, the second born (so his name should come second) lives up to his name (deceiver, heel grabber) and takes his brother’s place. What should be “Esau and Jacob” becomes “Jacob and Esau.” The opening title says it all, only you don’t even realize it.
It catch my attention. They tell the story before I even know the story. They draw me in.
But when it comes to almost any book you read, you remember the characters, the themes, the overarching ideas and scenarios more than you remember the opening sentences. You might be able to quote one or two lines of dialogue or prose, but chances are the first sentence is not one of them.
So as a writer, take care to craft a well written, intentional, and captivating first sentence. But accept that fact that most of us will forget the moment after we read it.
The first sentence serves a purpose: to draw me in. But it’s the rest of the book that I will remember. So spend some sweat equity making sure it’s worth my time.
George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, used six simple questions to focus his writing. ??I am convinced they could be utilized for all forms of communication and art (writing, speaking, design, etc.).
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