Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Building with Boards . . . or Words

When we moved to Chattanooga in 1981, one of my career goals was to write a book. Over the years since, that dream has been realized and surpassed. It’s been my privilege to engage in writing and co-authoring about a dozen books.

Nearing completion of one book for a local company, I’m about to begin another about a family-owned company in the Midwest. I’ve learned much as a book author these three decades, but perhaps most striking is that book writing is a lot like building a house.

When people sometimes tell me they admire people who can write, I respond that I admire people with mechanical gifts. My father and grandfather were handymen; somehow the mechanic gene skipped right over me. Whenever something in our home needs to be fixed, fear fills my heart. Yet I see a correlation between working on a dwelling and dwelling on words.

Imagine all of the components of a house piled on the tract where it’s to be built. Boards and bricks, cement and steel, pipes and wires, nails, screws and plastic – all in a heap. “What a mess!” That’s until the craftsmen – the carpenters, masons, electricians, painters and plumbers – start making sense of the tangle.

Slowly, their skilled hands start forming the house: Foundation first, then frame, flooring, walls, ceilings, roof, fixtures and paint. Order built out of confusion.

Writing a book, the experience is similar. Interviews and research, “blueprints” of outlines and notes. From these emerge words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. All accumulated raw material eventually morphing into a book. It’s a daunting, sometimes intimidating process – but so fulfilling when it’s done.

So I embrace Psalm 45:1: “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

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