Monday, May 23, 2005

scales and hanons for writers

(This is a devotional I gave a week ago at a writer’s group I attend. Bloggers are certainly writers, so be encouraged and challenged!)

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Leon Leontaridis, one of the Canadian Three Tenors, several times in the last couple of weeks. I was struck by his obvious natural talent. I was also struck by the way his natural talent has been enhanced by training so that he can sustain notes for incredible lengths, sing quietly with intensity, control volume, maintain a beautiful tone, and communicate deep emotion.

Now I know that training didn’t come without effort. I imagine he spent hours doing the drills. No doubt he worked in out-of-the-way studios and back rooms at things that probably didn’t seem very spiritual at the time -- doing warmups, scales, exercises, and working on breath control. He did this to become the best he could be. Now many doors open to him – not only in churches and religious organizations, but in the secular musical world. And when he speaks of his faith in secular concerts, people listen.

Which reminds me of a couple of things.

1. God appreciates and demands excellence:

When He instituted the Passover he gave instructions to Moses:

"The animals you choose must be...without defect (Exodus 11:5)

When He laid out rules for the sacrifices, over and over one reads in early Leviticus:

"...offer a male without defect..."(Leviticus 1:3)

" animal without defect..." (3:1)

"...he is to offer a male or female without defect..." (3:6)

"...a young bull without defect..." (4:4)

2. As writers, we too strive to say things in the perfect way. Like musicians do voice warmups, Hanons and scales, there are also hidden, technical-type things we writers can do to improve our skill – things like:

- Practicing a variety of types of writing: describing things, explaining things, journaling events from our lives, retelling stories others have told, writing emails and letters, blogging.

- Writing regularly.

- Editing our work, alone or with the help of others.

- Reading extensively, especially in the genre in which we write, and pitting ourselves against the best writing that is out there.

When David approached Araunah about buying his threshing floor as an altar site, Araunah offered to give it to him. But David replied:

"No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24)

In the same way, let’s strive to write with excellence, clarity, beauty and passion, even though it costs us extra effort and time. Surely the Gospel is worth it. And who knows, the skills which we acquire may eventually attract to our writing, people who would not readily read anything by a Christian writer. Though they may read to experience the beauty of the craftsmanship, may they be captured by the beauty of the message.


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