Today was my first experience of Word by Word, the writers’ group that the Beilharzes run. Ben was away today, but Karen did a great job on her own. There was a good group of about 11 I think, a couple of newbies like me, but most of them old hands – and we were all made to feel welcome!
The first thing we did was the devotional, and Karen allocated each of us 2 chapters of Proverbs. We had to go through and see what sort of advice there might be for writers within those two chapters and then share them with the group. Proverbs is such a great book – full of amazing snippets of wisdom, all crammed in together. You could meditate on a couple of lines for an hour! So it took me a while to get through my two chapters (22-23), because every few lines there seemed to be something that could be applied to writers and writing. I found the themes running through those two chapters was to speak the truth, to use words graciously, to be faithful to what you believe and not to compromise. I think this is summed up perfectly in chapter 23:8:
My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.
Next we had a writing exercise. We each had to write down three things we wanted to write about, put them in a box with everyone else’s, and then each pick one out – luckily everyone got someone else’s idea, nobody drew their own back out! We wrote on those topics for ten minutes and then a few of us read ours out. I got ‘A Christian approach to materialism’ and this is what I wrote:
I want it.
I can’t explain why. I just want it. I stare at the glossy curves, the flatness of the screen, the warm glow of the sleep light that pulses…on…off…on…off…come here…touch me…use me…fall in love with me…
Almost like a hypnotist has snapped his fingers, I break out of the trance. I’m standing in front of a computer in a shop stuffed full of gadgetry and technology. Sure, it’s a beautiful machine, sleek…shiny…but $3000 – what could I do with $3000?
What could somebody else do with money like that? I go home and look at the picture of my World Vision kid that’s pinned up on my corkboard. This tiny little boy, Felix, standing in his best clothes – a moth-eaten jumper and dusty sandals – on a hillside in Peru. his eyes are wary, his expression guarded. he lives a life so far away from flatscreen iMacs and the latest gizmos. What could he do with $3000?
Jess Green, who is a designer at Matthias Media, then came and spoke to us about layout and typography. I was familiar with a lot of what she was talking about, but as I have taught myself everything I know about design (with a huge amount of trial and error) it was really interesting to learn the correct names for and principles behind conventions of design, and to find with some relief that most of them I was following correctly (although we did have a discussion at one point about typing double spaces after each sentence, and this is apparently a huge no-no, a throwback to the time of typewriters and completely unnecessary on the internet and with word processing programs that automatically adjust the spacing to be the most readable. I never knew that! I was taught to type by my mother, who was taught at secretarial school on a typewriter, so I guess that’s where I get it from, but even as I type this I find it really hard not to put the double space after the full stop. I guess it’s something I will either have to train myself out of, or stubbornly stick to as a point of difference…).
I’m finding myself more and more fascinated by typography. It’s obviously something you can get completely obsessive about, but I don’t think it’s an unrelated obsession for someone who loves words. But that may be another post, some other time.
We then all went off by ourselves and wrote for an hour. The time just flew by! I continued writing the new character from my book – Jasmine’s flatmate, Susan. She’s an interesting woman, and already creating a point of tension between my two protagonists, so she’s incredibly useful too! I’m enjoying getting to know her, and was regretful when the hour was up.
We all had Thai together, and then were supposed to workshop, but I very rudely left because of my persistent headache. I came home and slept for a couple of hours, and now am enjoying having this cool evening to just potter about, write a bit more and sit with candles lit and music on (KT Tunstall at the moment…actually it’s just changed to Corinne Bailey Rae). I have a couple of things I’ve been invited to tonight, but I’ve blown them off. I think I need this time to just be uninvolved and uncommitted.
Maybe I’ll bake a cake…