Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting it Write

Getting It Write

I’m Kelly Eileen Hake, and though it may seem like an unorthodox way to start a guest blog post, I’m going to make a small confession: it would be a whole lot easier to walk The Road Less Traveled if I wasn’t always putting my foot in my mouth!
At least, that’s the sneaking suspicion I’ve never been able to put to the test. For all my good intentions and effort, it doesn’t take long before I flub things up. If saying precisely the wrong thing at exactly the wrong moment could be classified as a skill, I’d rank as a master.
Ah, but writing…now there’s a different story. Whatever story I want to tell, to be exact. Everything that comes out wrong when I’m speaking with people—that sounds harsh or startling or out of place face-to-face—can be finessed in fiction. When I write, I think more carefully than when I’m rushing to be heard over the din of a world that seems to disagree with me on just about everything. I figured out at an early age that words on a page actually reflected my good intentions and effort.
I never stopped to think about whether it was that need to be heard that made me want to write—if that was the seed of God’s calling for me. Nor did I wonder if it were common to most writers, until I picked up an intriguing book by Ralph Keyes entitled, The Courage To Write. Anyone who writes or who has tried to write will understand the appeal of the title, but what grabbed my attention most was a tiny subheading in Chapter Four: Lonely Kids, Lovely Writers.
He starts; “Successful writers rarely emerge from the ranks of the popular.” Once I got past a spurt of indignation to acknowledge that, while an extrovert, I’d never been what I’d honesty call popular, I read on. Keyes’ main point, and one I felt quite well thought out, is that popularity was a liability for an author as it “might be endangered by words…put on paper.” He cites movie director George Cukor as observing popularity as a “serious brake on artistic expression of any kind. If people like you—and you expect them to like you—the risk of doing anything controversial, or saying anything revealing, is profound.”
Keyes believes social awkwardness can be a benefit from a young age because loneliness fosters imagination in children and “puts them in a very strong artistic position.” As adults, he purports that lacking social grace makes it helpful to “summon the necessary courage” to write.
Maybe he’s on to something. Writing is universally acknowledged as a form of expression, and Inspirational authors are expressing so much more than just themselves. For my part, I like the thought that for every time I’ve said the wrong thing in my life, maybe I’ll write something worthwhile.
For now, though, I’ll ally myself with Henry David Thoreau, who once wrote; “You may rely on it you have the best of me in my books, and that I am not worth seeing personally, the stuttering, blundering, clodhopper that I am.”
Unless, of course, you are a fellow clodhopper or have a soft spot for those of us who are muddling along as best we can without a delete key to intervene in real life…If so, feel free to contact me at any time!


Tina M. Russo said...

This was quite profound. Today's writers are so fortunate to be able to connect to the world via internet. In the end writing is a lonely occupation. Our characters keep us company.

We have to really make an effort to go out into the world to sample it, in order to refresh our imagination wells.

Thanks for being with us today, Kelly.

Mary Connealy said...

Kelly, this is fascinating.

And the idea that writers are shy or clumsy or un-popular explains SO MUCH ABOUT THE SEEKERS.

Okay, c'mon, I had to say that. LOL

I actually say something very much like this as part of the agonizing speech I occasionally cannot get out of giving.

I am so much more comfortable behind a computer monitor having both sides of the conversation myself. Then, if I say something dorky, I can think about it for an hour, delete it, and try again.

Not like in the real world where I just have to LIVE with whatever stupid thing I say.

I love this:
I figured out at an early age that words on a page actually reflected my good intentions and effort.

It's so true. Every time I put my foot in my mouth I feel the need to start apologizing and explaining and trying to get my listener to understand I MEANT WELL.


Thanks, Kelly. I love this.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

This is excellent, Kelly. Great "seeing" you again.

I especially love what you said about hoping to have something worthwhile to write when we say something wrong. I really can relate. LOL!


lynnrush said...

OH my goodness. Can I relate! My sweet hubby often asks, "And you write?" Because I can't spit out a sentence to save my soul sometimes.

I fumble with the best of them.

Yes, thank goodness for the delete key when it comes to writing, huh?

Tina M. Russo said...

Mary, I resemble that remark.

Being socially inept is merely a cover for my genius.

Mary Connealy said...

Tina, darlin', you have a disguise worthy of BATMAN.

Excellent work.

Julie Lessman said...

KELLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is sooooooo great having you here today, sweetie!

And wonderful post! I for one totally relate to the title for chapter four in The Courage to Write: Lonely Kids, Lovely Writers.

OMIGOSH, so THAT explains why I glommed onto Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve and immediately began writing my own war novel at the same age (i.e. A Passion Most Pure)! Driven to romance by sheer loneliness and lack of love! Cool! I'm glad something came out of it! :)


Myra Johnson said...

Quite a sisterhood of self-confessed social ineptitude we have here! No surprise to those who know me, I could be the poster child. Interesting how our insecurities led each of us to writing. Or maybe that was God's way of showing us we were created to be writers all along?

Still, Tina is so right -- we do need to make ourselves get out into the real world occasionally, social faux pas or not, just so we'll have something relatable to write about.

Kim said...

Kelly, this is a terrific post! I loved The Bride Bargain!! It is always such a thrill to me to learn more about the faces behind the books that I enjoy! Thanks for taking time to share your heart.


EiWriteTales said...

Whew! I have to say I'm relieved by the responses here--I think one of the symptoms of "hoof IN mouth" disease, as my mom calls it, is a sneaking suspicion you're the only carrier...
But I want to point out that the entire book is about how much COURAGE it takes to pour your perspective onto the page and release it into the world. We are strong in Christ, ladies!

eiwritetales said...

Oh, I don't have a google identity, so I had to post using my AIM address. EiWriteTales is Kelly Eileen Hake. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Kelly, one thing I've learned as I get older is, all those awful, twisting horrible humiliating moments??? Mostly I'm only feeling them...

I mean I remember times I made a fool of myself but mostly other people don't remember times I made a fool of myself...they're too busy remembering the times THEY made a fool of THEMSELVES.

It helps keep you sane when you're remembering those Hoof in Mouth moments. :)

Cara Slaughter said...

Kelly, thanks for coming to Seekerville today. I can sure relate to your wonderful post. I'm quiet and introspective, but like Mary I enjoy talking to myself through my characters' dialogue. They're so much more animated and feisty than I am. And whenever they say the wrong thing, I can delete. Writing can be so much fun along with so much work!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kelly, this is so true and why the heck didn't the rest of us learn it by twenty-six?

We Seekers are slower than molasses in winter, darlin'.

Welcome aboard. I see no one's fed you. Gadzooks, what's a woman to do around here? Like it's THAT MUCH WORK to offer pretend food?


Anyway, Kel, here's the scoop: Try this new pumpkin ice cream pie recipe I've been playing with. Or the chocolate pecan pie (which tastes remarkably like Pennsylvania Dutch German Chocolate pie...)

And how about some coffee? Tea? Soda?

Help yourself, sweetums.

Now ladies, our social ineptitude and terminal foot-in-mouth disease is a gift from God that allows us to experience more awkward moments than your typical smart person, thereby ensuring our ability to write about said gaffes.

Here's an example:

My son (who shall go nameless) was riding in the elevator this week with the senior partner of his Wall Street law firm, a firm with strong ties to the market and the current subprime mortgage disaster.

If I'd been in that elevator????

I'd have babbled about better days coming, citing the 800 lb. gorilla in the elevator car, apologizing for being born, whatever it took to smooth the air, soften the moment.

Son was smart enough to just nod and shut up. His theory:

Don't give 'em a reason to fire you.

So there's the difference between smart and babbling, but aforementioned son will never be able to write about the outcome of his stupidity because he's, well..

Smart enough to shut up.

We know he didn't get this from me. The brains and good looks, yes.


Common sense to know when to listen for the silence?

A God-given lesson I need to work on.

Great job, Kel.


Audra Harders said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kelly! Thank you for that very profound post. And revealing post. You brought up things we don't like to recognize about ourselves.

I was painfully shy as a child, and since I was an only child, very lonely. I had more imaginary friends than you could count!

AND, I loved to read and write.

Actually, your post made me realize something about my kids. First, I have two of them, and for some reason, they are VERY extroverted, self-assured, and well-liked. AND, they don't like to read or write.

Hmmm, very insightful stuff, Kelly.

Thanks for visiting us!

vince said...

Hi Kelly;

You are very insightful. You make me want to know how your heroines will think and act. You also made me stop and really think this morning.

Would we have “Pride and Prejudice” if Jane Austen had been the ‘belle of the ball’ and married a Duke in her first season? (And would Jane Austen had rather been a Duchess?)

I think an author’s books can be like a lonely child’s imaginary friends. It is the outsider who has the perspective to see what insiders never even suspect. This may be the writer’s vision.

Writing is a lonely business but writers need not be lonely. Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Will Rogers, Scott Fitzgerald, and Charles Dickens, just to name a few, were immensely popular in their times. It is said we are our own worst critics because we can see inside ourselves where we keep a ready list of our own faults. Fortunately, others cannot see inside us and are probably more afraid of looking bad to us than we would ever imagine. It’s absolutely amazing what people don’t see. Just ask five witnesses to the same crime and see how little they saw. (Or ask a husband what his wife wore yesterday. LOL)

Whenever I have to give a speech to a group of strangers I always say a little prayer and then think how much I love the people I am about to address. I really try to feel the love. Soon all nervousness goes away and I am ready to share what I know to help people I love. When there is love in your heart, the right words just seem to come out naturally. I think Christianity has been around so long because it works.

You are young. With your insights, I can see you as a future mentor who will have no trouble saying the right things at the right times. I think it is true that we become a different person every ten years.



eiwritetales said...

Since you're all so open, here's something else I've wondered about: how often do we offend people because we do say the RIGHT thing? How often does God use our "awkwardness" to point out an unpleasant truth others skirt around or refuse to acknowledge whatsoever?
Which isn't to say I don't usually just mess up when I think I've messed up. I may make a million mistakes, but I am, at least, good about admitting to them and trying to make it right!--Kelly

Mary Connealy said...

Another great, inciteful question, Kelly.

You know this would be good stuff to explore in a novel.

And how often do we make our heroine's feisty and TOO frank and direct, Sooooooooo socially unacceptable.

Until the man comes along who finds he loves honesty in a woman.

My goodness, we are ALL writing ourselves in a way aren't we? :)

I absolutely know what you mean only I'm thinking of it from a different direction...the polite social lie.

How often to we THINK in opposition to what we say?

How much to we sacrifice in honesty, in exchange of popularity or even just peace?

Mary Connealy said...

this reminds me of a Meyers-Briggs test I took with my husband years ago.

We came out exactly matching except I came out as an extrovert and he came out as an introvert.

Well, to me, this was exactly the opposite. My husband can talk about anything to anyone forever.

I'm shy (and I was worse when I was younger). I am forever backing out of a room where I know no one.
And running. :)

But our pastor, who gave the test, said we were defining extrovert and introvert wrong.

He said TALKING a lot doesn't make you an extrovert. It's about REVEALING a lot.

So my husband could talk all day about motorcycles and ranching and sports and whatever, but he didn't reveal himself, his inner self, while he did it. It was superficial. (That's what the test said)

Where as I didn't talk that much but based on my answers, when I did talk, I let people know exactly how I felt and let them get to know me more deeply.

--I feel like I'm explaining this badly--

Anyway, it was an interesting take on personalities.

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Mary, a totally new way to think about introverts and extroverts. Very, very interesting.

Today's subject has also got me thinking how weird it is that the same gal who could count her close friends in high school on one finger can now have over 170 friends on Facebook AND actual followers on Twitter!!!

Arianna said...

I've never even connected lonely, unpopular, kids to a love of writing before. But reading these comments, it seems to be true. I'm still a teenager myself, so I'm still kind of a kid. =) But up until a few years ago, I was really, really, really shy!
Living on the mission field (my family and I are missionaries here in Europe) has made me much more talkative, crazy, and out there. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think partly it's because I make so many embarrassing mistakes in the language and culture here every day that I've learned to laugh at myself, and the lack of friends who speak English makes me more talkative out of loneliness?
And I find myself making stupid remarks that accidentally fly out of my mouth, and making a clumsy mess of things all the time! Oops. Whenever this happens, I find myself busily typing away on my computer, finding comfort in my characters who don't say anything to me =)
Thanks for sharing, Kelly! I'm glad I'm not the only person out there who is shy and klutzy at times. LOL.

Melanie Dickerson said...

So very true, Kelly. I'm very bold in my blog comments, but in person I'm usually too afraid to express an opinion. No one ever listens to me, anyway. :-) Writing evens the score for me.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kelly!
Thanks for the fascinating post. I was somewhat lonely as a kid so Ralph may have something there.

Ruthy, I can identify with nervous babbling. I also have a compulsion to fill silence. Scary.

Mary, I'd never heard of that definition of extrovert and introvert. It makes perfect sense.

Vince, feeling love for those we're speaking to would help ease the nervousness of public speaking. Debby taught me to walk around the room and meet attendees. I felt far less nervous afterward.


Erica Vetsch said...

Ah, Kelly, you could've been talking about me.

Isn't it amazing how God can use the things we think are useless in ourselves and turn them into something that glorifies Him?

Missy Tippens said...

Kelly, thanks so much for your wonderful post! I also agree.

You know, even in times where I was sort of in with the "in" crowd, I still felt like I didn't really belong. So for me, it was also an attitude thing. A self confidence (or lack thereof) thing.

Mary, the definition I've seen for extrovert and introvert is in regard to whether you're energized by others/groups or energized by time alone. I get drained in groups and get energized alone. And I did fall just barely into the introvert on the scale when I took the test. :)

Arianna, I can understand how you feel on a small scale. I went to Europe in a study abroad program before my freshman year of college, and I could feel myself being much more outgoing there. I gained a lot of confidence. I never could really understand it. But I think maybe you hit the nail on the head. :)

Again, thanks for coming to Seekerville, Kelly, and for starting such an interesting conversation.

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

Kelly, I could relate! Writers live in their characters world. When we are expected to "step away" from our comfort zone, and actually talk to real people---it can be frightening----thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
Blessings to you my friend