Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

20 December 2006

A Christmas Present for the Writers on Your List

I just received the most encouraging email about my writing from a fellow writer--a current blogger seeking to publish--who is reading my book. He was interested in improving his writing and lamented that he didn't live near enough to the university where I teach to take my class on writing about one's faith. I took this wistful remark as an invitation to tell him the few things I have to say to the writers in my classes. It's so hard to pass up the opportunity to give advice!

In my next blog, I'm going to give you part of my response to him, which I thought might interest the writers among you. But before I do, first let me encourage you to do what this man did for me. His encouragement came at a time when I was feeling negative about my writing and frazzled about my upcoming deadline. (31 December: Pray.) Whether you are a reader or a writer, remember the other writers out there--published and especially unpublished--whose writing you encounter and admire, and follow this man's lead. Be a fan of others' writing.

This is as much advice to myself as to anyone else. As a teacher of writing, I have so many opportunities to encourage others in their writing, but I routinely fail, concentrating instead on what all went wrong rather than on what was working. Even though I know they need encouragement more than criticism. Even though I know I need it myself. Even though improving in this area is my semesterly prayer. You know that remark of Paul's about how he does everything he knows he shouldn't do and never does what he knows he should? That's me, in this matter, as in so many others. In any case, the best Christmas present you can give a writer is hearty praise of his or her writing.

Also, if you want to be opportunistic about it, getting in the habit of praising what you like about someone else's writing can help you as a writer, too. You learn what works by examining and articulating what works in others' writing and then putting it into practice in your own.

That's all for now. (And so preachy. Yuck! Oh well.)


ali said...

hi kirk. this whole thing is lovely! and look who ended up with a blog?! and not just any blog, but i really sharp looking one...

Spring said...

A blog! I'm so happy. I, too, am a blogger, but I'm not looking to be published just yet. I've got a ways to go. Such as first becoming an actual blogger and graduating from xanga.

I'm so, so excited for you, and I'm even more excited to read your book. And even more excited that I actually had the privilege of learning how to write from you.


Katy said...

Hi Mrs. Kirk. Can't wait to read the book. I'm happy. Excited. All of it. Yay!

The blog is pretty!

bokerfest said...

I always tell people that you were the one professor that I went from hating to liking, hating to liking, and hating to liking. It was not you that I hated but that blasted red pen that consumed my every paper that ended in your hands. At the end of that Fall of 2000 semester I could not hide from the fact that I hated that semester but also I could not hide the fact that you changed the way I write which in turn changed me. Six and half years later and 4 1/2 years of classes and many professors in between and you were the most influential and most encouraging professor of them all. It just happened that I was in the wrong major that I never had the chance to be in one of your desks again.


David said...

Mrs. Kirk with a blog!

I miss you.

-David C

Ann said...

Hi, Prof. Kirk!

I am so excited that you have a blog! As these friends have already noted, they are bloggers, and I am a blogger too...

I, too, cannot wait to read the book and to read your posts on the blog. It will be part of my 2007 resolution to read more good literature that will, in turn, inspire me to write more.

I miss you. Happy New Year!