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Editing from a Distance

editing from a distance

Simon says take 5 giant steps away from the work. Pull my head out of the details and look at it as if it’s not my own. This is how I’ve started approaching the editing of the past couple revisions of the book I’m writing. I read it as if it’s not my book. I read it as if I’m one of my few close friends who I have asked to review the current draft.

So, when I see something that seems unclear or awkward or just not right, I don’t have the burden of having to find a fix. All I do is flag it as needing work. I attach sticky-notes that generally state what’s wrong with the sentence, paragraph, or entire section. Then I move on. It makes this first part of the editing process easy – just point out problem areas.

But of course, as the writer of the book I still have to eventually go back and fix all the problems I had flagged. But I’ve noticed that I catch a lot more weaknesses with this two-step editing process.

And maybe by first pretending I’m not the writer, rather just a reviewer, I’m dodging my ego; my ego that usually has problems recognizing my own errors. It sure can be hard to do good writing when my self-centered human nature gets in the way.

Cheerio

ugliness

They made me feel like they were constantly judging my behavior and actions, always looking for some weakness to shine their spotlight on. They projected an air of superiority. They rarely hung out with anyone who was not a member of their exclusive organization. Yet they always seemed to be pressuring me to leave my life behind and join their perfect club.

But they themselves weren’t perfect. In many ways, they weren’t much different than me. This hypocrisy and the judgment and the arrogance – these are the things that turned me away. Join their club? Forget it!

For much of my life, this was my response to Christians. But eventually I started learning the truth about Christianity, and how Jesus led by His example. Jesus hung out with sinners, like me. Jesus didn’t come to judge us. Jesus loved unconditionally. And He didn’t form some exclusive club. The more I learned about the truth of Jesus, the more I realized that the ugliness I had seen in some Christians came from human nature, not Jesus. My challenge is to keep my own ugly human nature from gaining the spotlight.

Truth and Peace

truth and peace

 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: … love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19)

Truth and peace – I have to admit that I sometimes find it hard to include peace with my blog posts about truth. I indeed love the truth. When I write about truth in a way that confronts some false message within Christianity, I tend to get passionate. Yet I am sometimes a bit harsh in my response to deception. I have a hard time including peace while I lash out at some religious doctrine that is contrary to the truth of Gods word. The truth is so important to me – I lose sight of the need for compassion. My prideful human nature often closes my eyes to the peaceful approach.

The peace I wish to bring doesn’t come from me – it comes from the Holy Spirit within me. So if you read a blog post of mine that includes just the right mix of truth and peace, then you will know that I stepped out of the way and let the Holy Spirit of God speak through me. And if the peace is missing from my message, I sincerely apologize to you, and God.

Learning the hard way

learning hard way

The most effective lessons are the ones you figure out yourself.

Almost daily, I earnestly ask God to show me how to do something, like solving a writing problem in the book I’m working on. Though I feel His presence with me, and at times, He does seem to give me the answer, He doesn’t solve all my writing challenges.

It just occurred to me that maybe God has a good reason for not showing me the solution to all my problems. Like any good parent or teacher, maybe God is telling me that for some problems, I need to figure out the solution myself.

What do you think?

Prisoner of Fallacy

prisoner of fallacy

I was twelve years old when my mom married my second stepfather. I still remember his mother telling him he was going to hell because he divorced his first wife. That was over 40 years ago and my stepfather, now in his 80’s, still carries around the guilt piled onto him by his devout Catholic mother. He is a prisoner of that guilt. He is a prisoner by holding onto falseness that he believes just might be true. Whether you call yourself Christian or not, you may be a prisoner of lies – for lies are like shackles on our hearts and minds, hindering us from truly experiencing life.

We are all prisoners of the lies we believe to be truth. The most dreadful prison is the one where you don’t realize you are a prisoner. Did you ever see the movie The Matrix? People were prisoners without knowing it. So it can be with us. We can only be free, free to make choices based on truth, when we know the truth.

As Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

hammer and chisel

Though best known for his painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s passion was sculpting marble. And he considered that the figure he was sculpting was always present within the marble block. All he had to do was remove the surplus marble to reveal the figure within.

This is the way I’ve been approaching my writing lately. I keep chipping away at the block of words, removing the surplus junk to reveal something that will hopefully be worth looking at.

One of my favorite books on writing nonfiction is On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Three of his key elements of good, nonfiction writing are clarity, simplicity, and brevity. This goes along with one of my favorite bible verses: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11)

The first draft of the book I’m writing had grown to a flabby 205,246 words. Seven revisions later and it’s now down to 63,300 words, and still on a diet. I keep chipping away at the surplus stuff, making it simpler, clearer and way briefer. And I love the editing process. It’s fun to remove the junk that adds nothing, and discover the shorter message that is much more powerful. Though writing can be hard, editing is fun.

Ferguson Mo

Yesterday coffee with the usual Wednesday morning guys. Rick brought up the stuff happening in Ferguson, Mo.: The agitators from outside the community, and even outside the state, stirring up trouble. The celebrities, like Al Sharpton, also feeding the anger. And the store owners, staying up all night guarding their shops, trying to protect their livelihood from looters. Then Rick asked a question that was hard to consider, especially since I had barely started drinking my coffee: “As Christians, what should be our response to all this?”

It would be so easy to get sucked into the anger, and lash out at one side or the other. But I really don’t think that’s what Jesus wants me to do. Look, everyone involved is just a normal, broken human being. We are all messed up, full of sin and selfishness. Things like compassion don’t seem to come naturally. It’s the ugly responses, the judgment and harsh words, that seem to naturally ooze out of us. What should be my Christian response? I choose compassion and love. For how could I judge those who are no different from me – a typical screwed up person?

J.S. Park

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