Why You Should Write Your Story

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During lunch the other day a friend asked me about the process of journaling and the benefits of writing. Today, I was thinking about our conversation and how it reminded me about the “why” of putting your life stories on paper (or a weblog).

I enjoy journaling and have been doing it since 1994. It’s not for everyone because God did not wire everybody that way. It’s “a” way of maturing you in your sanctification but it’s not “the” way, and therein lies the distinction: what works for me may not work for you.

Be free, my friend, to explore these secondary matters that mature you in Christ. Whatever those ways are, after you find them, they will change your life.

Writing’s Reward

The reward of writing is restorative to my soul (Psalm 23:3). The process of taking “wild words” and thoughts that swirl around my brain and bringing them through the arm, into the hand, out the pen, and onto the paper is not a natural discipline.

But with practice, the words you put on paper are no longer “wild words” but sentences refined by the Spirit’s illumination. This refining process streamlines your thoughts while casting off the excess. You have succinct words and phrases from the “muse chamber” that communicates with clarity what you want to say.

This sharpening process not only stimulates the mind but it trains your brain to think in “brief and amazing” ways, as long as you continue the mental subjugation to the Spirit’s tinkering of the noodle.

Writing’s Reason

I was sitting in a family reunion in 1994 with Lucia. The patriarch for one of the family lines was reading a journal excerpt from a Civil War relative. He was either a prisoner of war or a guard. Knowing my family, I’m sure he was in jail, but that’s another story.

As I listened to that old patriarch read that short journal entry, I thought how satisfying it would be to have a journal from my daddy. All I remember from him were the beatings, verbal abuse, forced back rubs, smelly beer breath, and slumped over TV watching.

To know another side of him would be something special, as I reflect back on his life from my old age. And it was there, in that reunion, when I made a promise to start writing so my children would have my life stories.

There are stacks upon stacks of journals in our attic for my children. I told them that they couldn’t read them while I’m alive. There may or may not be a few curse words in them.

Writing In the Raw

I write raw. I want my kids to know the real me, not my representative; that person we trot out in the public domain, hoping others will find him more appealing to the real thing. After I’m dead, I won’t care that they get the inside scoop on my most internal thoughts.

Raw writing is what I like the most about the Bible. God does not hold back. There is too much at stake. And it’s encouraging to know David was not a perfect man, as well as all the other folks who stumbled through the Bible.

God gives us His characters in His story just as they were, and that is how I want to live my life. I’m not asking you to like me or even accept me, but at least you will know me, not my representative who wraps himself in fig leaves (Genesis 3:7).

It’s For the Children

Most folks don’t know why I started writing, first in journals and later in cyberspace, but this weblog and my ministry website are for my children first of all. On this site, I collect stories about our family and other things, so they will know “what daddy thinks about this and that.” On our ministry website, I gather other thoughts that deal specifically with personal and relational sanctification.

I want our children to know what daddy thinks about “life and godliness.” Now you know why I write. Not knowing when the Lord may decide to bring me home, I want my children to know me, the good and the not so good.

What I did not know in 1994 is that I would be journaling for 2.5 decades (and counting) and that it would turn into a vocation.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9


Passive Voice Lacks Clarity and Direction

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The following, though not all, has some paraphrasing from Stephen King’s book on writing. You don’t want to read this book. It’s vulgar, explicit, and mostly unedifying. But he makes some good points on writing well.

(If you want a book on writing, read Strunk and White or Willam Zinsser. They will help you.)

A lot of writers write in the passive voice. In most cases, it’s a poor writing style, and I’m not sure how we come to write that way. It’s almost always better to write in the active voice.

Active voice writing has the action moving from the subject to the object. “The boy hit the ball.” The flow of the action advances from left to right, which releases the reader to keep moving along with your prose.

Passive voice halts and hiccups along the way, which is taxing to the reader. “The ball was hit by the boy.” It lacks confidence and direction. While there can be a false sense of humility attached to the passive voice writer, it’s a clunky and cumbersome style of communication, especially when over-done.

A single dandelion is interesting, and you may even be compelled to pick and blow on it. A yard full of dandelions is a nuance. The timid writer likes passive voice the way some spouses like passive partners. Passive voice is safe to them; there is no troublesome action to contend with in the sentence.

The timid writer will say, “The meeting will be held at seven-o’clock.” Don’t do that; don’t write that way. Stop it. Change your style. Throw out your chest, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge. Here you go, “The meeting is at seven.”


Don’t you feel better?

It’s not that there is no place for the passive tense. Suppose a fellow dies in the kitchen, but his body ends up somewhere else. You might say, “The body was carried from the kitchen but was placed on the sofa.”

You can accept this, but you don’t have to like it.

The active voice sounds so much better: “Biff and Mable carried the body out of the kitchen and placed it on the sofa.”

Passive voice is weak, it’s circuitous, and it’s frequently torturous as well. Here is an example: “My first kiss will always be recalled by me as for how my romance with Mable was begun.”

Oh, my. Who threw up?

It’s better to say, “My romance with Mable began with our first kiss; I’ll never forget it.” Having two “with” words is too much so close together, but the active voice is more precise, directive, and natural on the eyes and easy on the mind. Notice how straightforward the thought is to understand.

Your reader should always be your first concern. If your reader is not of primary importance, your writing will bounce around in the private echo chamber of your imagination.

Translated: People will stop reading you.