Writing is Hard Work

Monday, December 8, 2014

Good writing is hard work. Sometimes the words flow easily, and sometimes they don’t. But even when they do, they usually require a lot of editing. Here are a few quotes from established writers.
“Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.” Harlan Ellison 

“I would never encourage anyone to be a writer. It’s too hard.” Eudora Welty 

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, 1947 

My church holds a women’s Advent Tea every two years, and each table has a hostess who decorates it and provides the dishes. One of the fun things about the event is the table viewing before lunch is served. Some of the tables are elegant and others are whimsical, but all have either an Advent, a Christmas, or a winter theme.
The first time I acted as a hostess, I used children’s books about Christmas for my theme. Last time I used lighthouses, inspired by a poem I had already written. The tie-in there was easy, because Jesus is the light who came at Christmas.
I’m a serious amateur photographer, and I looked through my pictures to see what I could use this year. Although I have photos of Christmas displays and family dinners, none of them struck a chord. I’m not sure why, but it was my seasonal photography that caught my attention. So I decided to use the four seasons as my theme.

But how could I tie that to Advent? I knew how it fit, but would the people viewing the table figure it out? I wasn’t sure, so I decided to spell it out in a poem.

That’s where the hard work began.

At first it flowed well enough. And after I got a couple of verses to a point where I was happy with them, I realized that each one had a 5-7-4 pattern: five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and four in the third.*

But then I started writing the verse about winter, and nothing seemed to work. Either the wording was clunky or dull or the syllable count was off. After a lot of reflection, thesaurus work, and wording changes, I finally came up with a winter stanza that I thought I could live with. It went like this:

He comes in winter
Among barren gray branches
Appearing dead.

Then I sent the poem off to my online critique partner. She though that stanza was too negative to fit the general tone of the poem. She made a similar comment about one of the words in the autumn verse, but the reference to blood was intended to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice, so I left it.

I had never been happy with my winter verse, however, so I went back to work trying to come up with something better.

Here is the finished poem. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it served its purpose. You can decide for yourself whether my hard work paid off.

He Comes 

He comes in summer
In thunderstorms and showers
Cleansing the earth. 

He comes in autumn
When trees proclaim his glory
With blood-red leaves. 

He comes in winter
As white blankets cover seeds
Soon to awake. 

He comes in spring
When a tiny robin’s egg
Brings forth new life. 

Jesus comes all year
Into the hearts of Christians
Saved by His grace. 


* There is one exception to the 5-7-4 pattern. Each stanza starts with “Jesus comes in [season].” Since “spring” has only one syllable, that line has four instead of five. I chose to sacrifice the syllable count to retain the wording repetition.

No comments:

Post a Comment