“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”


The title is in deference to the 50th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz,” which for those of you who live anywhere near Southwestern will be shown this Saturday night at Wharton Auditorium.

But enough commercials. What I really want to talk about is the message behind the message. You know what I am talking about. Or maybe you don’t.

Stephen Lawhead writes that regardless of what your topic is, who you are as a writer spills out into your writing. This concept should be liberating to us as writers. We don’t have to feel heavy handed in our approach toward whatever message we have to share. In fact, our message is likely to be more successful if we aren’t. Sharing the Good News (or whatever it is you have to share) becomes a delight rather than a burden. It’s Who We Are, not What We Say, that counts.

And as I ponder this, I feel I should take this a step further. It’s not only Who We Are that is carried over, but also what we privately consider most important. What is important to me as a writer? Whatever is important to me as a human being. As a Christian, what’s important should be obvious. Or is it really? Too many writers–myself included–don’t take time to ponder what is significant in their lives. I think this is one of the major downfalls of the digital age. Because communication and access to information is so easy, we feel we need to be constantly bombarded by it. And when we are deluged by data, we don’t have the time to process it and give it varying levels of importance.

What I do see happening is that layers of significance appear unbidden in my writing as I continue to massage it toward its final goal of polished prose. They rise to the top like the rich flavor that comes in a special beef stew that has been simmering for hours. It’s only those hours of simmering that brings out the flavor. It’s only patience and continued massage that allows the Truth to come forth. It’s a long process, but so worth it. Because that special flavorful significance is what writing is all about.

The three-part series I have been working on for three years entitled the Champion is nearing its completion. And it’s only now that I realize what the story is really about. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s a prime example of the story leading the writer. And more than once I have been forced to go back and change, and rewrite and edit earlier chapters as the characters reveal to me secrets that they are only now comfortable sharing with me.

But this mystery is what makes writing worthwhile. As I mentioned to one of my students a few years ago, “It’s not enough to know how to write; you have to have something to say.” The amazing thing is discovering that you might have profound things to say, even when you didn’t realize it early on.

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One thought on ““Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  1. It’s always hard for me to see what exactly a story I’m writing “means” to me or about me, or what I find important. I know that it is there. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. But that meaning is only apparent when I eat the pudding. It doesn’t taste right if I take it out of the pudding.

    As such, I don’t try to analyse my works too closely for meaning. I am utterly facinated when others do it though. Especially to my own work. I’m just too close to the material to do it myself.

    Oh, and yes, this notion: “It’s Who We Are, not What We Say, that counts.”

    Is very, very comforting. 🙂

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