By Delia Latham
A writer friend recently mentioned (on her blog) writing a personal 10 Commandments of Writing as an exercise. I loved the idea, and immediately set out to do so.
I discovered it isn’t as easy as it sounds—not if you want to come up with a solid, sincere set of writing tenets. It requires some prayer time and serious thought. But once I’d written mine, I was so glad I had. I recommend the exercise for every writer, and not just as an “exercise.” It forces a bit of focus: Why do I write? What do I want to accomplish with my words? Who do I want to reach, and what do I want to say to them? Where does writing fall on my priority list? What’s ahead of it? Why?
Each writer will have their own questions to help them create a “tablet of commandments.” Each person’s commandments will have different meanings to them, even if they read similarly to someone else’s—and that’s okay. But I firmly believe every writer who makes the effort to create his/her own personal 10 Commandments will be glad they did so.
Mine are below. Maybe they’ll be an inspiration to someone else.
1. Thou shalt not make writing thy god.
II Peter 2:19b—People are slaves to whatever has mastered them.
Whatever has top priority in our lives becomes our god. In my life, only God is God. I will control my career; it will not control me. Writing is high on my priority list, but God is #1 on that same list. Family is #2. Then comes Career…#3.
2. Thou shalt never forget Who gave thee the talent to write. Allow this Giver of Gifts to dictate the words thou writest, and never forget that thou art nothing more than a scribe for Christ.
God is the author. I am only His transcriptionist. ALL the glory…ALL the honor…ALL the recognition belong to Him. Should I ever be blessed with success in the publishing industry, I will never fail to recognize the true Author of the books whose covers bear my name.
1 Corinthians 10:31—Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
3. Thou shalt write something every day.
A journal entry, a blog, a short story or article. A chapter in your current WIP. Something. Every. Day.
That said, life sometimes hands out a slice of “Surprise Pie” that puts a kink in the works of my best-laid plans. Things will happen that I cannot control. As often as possible, I will push aside, climb over or dig under the road blocks and write anyway. But on days when it “just ain’t happenin’,” I will not let that little kink clog my writing arteries. I will make up for the day’s loss by writing more the next day or two.
Proverbs 24:16— For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.
4. Thou shalt write a certain number of words per week on a current WIP.
Even when certain days do not include working on my WIP, by the end of the week, my specified word count goal should be met. Consistently. Every week. Otherwise I’ll end up being buried someday with a stack of journals no one wants to nose into tucked into the folds of my satin-lined casket…and very few completed, published and well-received novels.
Proverbs 16:3— Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
5. Thou shalt not be kind to thy hero/heroine.
Effective conflict does not happen with spoiled characters.hardship, heartbreak and hopelessness. Take away the things they love most. Put them in situations that seem impossible to overcome…and then help them overcome them. (Or, in the words of James Scott Bell, “Get your lead up a tree, throw things at him, get him down.”) Just like in real life (and the Army, of course), sometimes a little tough love is necessary to make a person “be all they can be.”
Ps. 66:10-12 (NIV)— 10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. 11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12 You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
6. Thou shalt be a ruthless killer of thy “darlings.”
My words are not sacred. I will cut them. Edit them. Scratch them. Toss them. Learn to tell the difference in gold and “fool’s gold.” I’ll keep the best, toss the rest…then put the “best” to the test and start the process all over again. Eventually, I will hold in my hand a shining nugget of pure literary gold. A true darling.
Pro. 25:4—Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
7. Thou shalt accept constructive criticism with grace, and willingly learn from the wisdom already gained by more experienced authors.
The Bible has a lot to say about the ability to receive instruction…and the woes that befall those who refuse to do so. Success comes from applying oneself to learning from others who have already “been there.” No one is born knowing everything he or she needs to know to be successful in life or in any chosen field.
It’s crucial that I develop a thick skin and absorb instruction and constructive criticism like the water of life…because, as far as my career is concerned, it is. I will ask for it. Accept it. Take it with a smile. Apply it. And I will become a better writer.
Proverbs 23:12—Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
8. Thou shalt not forget that someone helped you, nor fail to return the blessing by helping other writers traverse the path you’ve already walked.
The circle of writing life. One learns, and then passes on that acquired knowledge to less experienced writers…even as one continues to learn more. I will never stop learning and never stop passing on the blessing of knowledge. The circle never ends.
Genesis 12:2— And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy fellow author’s gift, nor compare thy gift with another’s.
Learning writing techniques and mechanics from more experienced authors is a good thing. Trying to duplicate their writing styles is not. I will learn from others, but I will apply my own skills and talents and experiences and uniqueness to develop a voice and writing style of my own. I will write like me. Mimicry and uncomplimentary comparison of myself to another writer is not beneficial.
2 Corinthians 10:12—…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
10. Thou shalt write with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and will all thy strength, and with all thy might.
I will write with joy. Nothing offered half-heartedly is ever good enough.
I will love what I’m doing for as long as I do it. If I stop loving it, I will stop doing it. I cannot write with passion if I don’t love to write. And if I can’t write with passion, I’m wasting my time and my readers’ time. I will love it or leave it.
However, I must remember that “the gift and calling of God are without repentance.” God has called me to write, and He’s not going to change His mind. But He wants me to be joyful in my journey. Based on Ps. 16:11 (see below), it would stand to reason that, if I lose joy in doing what God called me to do, then I must have somehow taken myself out of the presence of the Lord. If that happens, I must find Him again… absorb myself in His presence…and find my way back to a joyful writing journey.
Col. 3:23— Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Ps. 16:11— Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Delia Latham is a born-and-bred California gal, currently living in the beautiful mountain town of Tehachapi with her husband Johnny and a Pomeranian she calls Boo. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend—but above all, she treasures her role as child of the King and heir to the throne of God. She’s got a “thing” for Dr. Pepper and absolutely loves hearing from her readers.
Contact Delia at any of the following locations:
About Love in the WINGS:
(Release date pending: Easter season)
Church Secretary and Praise Team leader, Aria Robbins, finds it necessary to work with the new Youth Minister. She also has to grin and bear it when he moves into the cottage next to hers at Heart’s Haven…but she doesn’t have to like him. Truth is, she’d be much happier if Corbin Bishop took his charm and his big, fancy ideas right back to Austin, where he belongs. Then a spiritual attack on Angel Falls lands them both on the front lines of battle as part of a team of Prayer Warriors in God’s Service (WINGS). As Aria and her handsome neighbor fight for their town, their church, and their pastor, she sees him in a whole new light. But emotional scars from an unspeakable childhood have distorted Corbin’s acceptance of certain scriptural truths, and Aria won’t trust her heart into the hands of a man whose faith is unsure. Can she wrap her own prayer wings around him tightly enough to save his soul…and any chance they might have of a future together?