This past week, Mystic Wing quite unexpectedly awarded me the Shameless Lions Writing Circle’s “Roar for Powerful Words”.
I say “unexpectedly” because I hadn’t thought my writing was powerful, and so this award came as a surprise to me.
On the other hand, I trust Mystic’s judgment. In the first place, he is a publisher. In the second place, he is a publisher of non-fiction, which is what I write. And in the third place, he himself has an excellent style of writing. I would need to be more dense than I already am to conclude he might not know what he’s doing. So, I am deeply honored by this award.
Yet, I have another reason for being very appreciative of this award. In the remarks he made about this blog, Mystic specifically mentioned those of you who comment on the posts:
In addition to Paul’s own writing, which is mightly fine, you’ll meet quite a number of commentators who also meet the criteria for good writing.
I’ve known for some time that I’m very lucky when it comes to my commentators. Lucky because not every blog has so many commentators who combine human decency with high intelligence. Now, if you add to that your competence with words, then perhaps you can imagine why I bounce out of bed most mornings, eager to see what gifts you’ve left me.
At any rate, now you know why I’m so thrilled to accept this particular award from Mystic Wing.
The Shameless Lions blog describes the award’s purpose as:
[T]he chance to scream from the mountains the good news about the powerful posts that are produced every day in the blogosphere, despite what some mainstream columnists and journalists claim. This is also a good chance to examine exactly what it is that makes writing good and powerful.
Now the requirement upon accepting the award is that you write about three things that make writing “good and powerful”. So, here are the three things I wish to discuss:
- Playing to your strengths as a writer
Truthfulness. I find myself constantly asking, “Is this true”, of every point I make in my writing. That has a hidden benefit: I very often come up with new ideas by challenging the ideas I set out to write about. And those new ideas, I think, are sometimes more interesting than the originals. So, pursuing truth is for me an exercise that fuels creative thought.
Do creative ideas make for good and powerful writing? I think so. At least for me, it’s thrilling to read an essay that contains ideas I’ve never encountered before. And I know of no better way to come up with new ideas than to ask of any idea, “What makes this true?”
Playing to your strengths as a writer. I’m convinced one of the most important things we can do in life is play to our strengths rather than play to our weaknesses. That is as true of writing as anything else. A quick illustration: I’m a weak fiction writer, but an adequate non-fiction writer. So, I play to my strengths by writing non-fiction. Does that make for good and powerful writing? Well, it certainly makes for better writing than otherwise. Besides, playing to your strengths is less frustrating and a lot more fun.
Authenticity. I try not to be anything other than what I am. One of my goals in writing is to be true to myself. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Most days, it’s a challenge because words by their very nature seem to have a will of their own. Words so often want to take the comfortable path of repeating what you’ve heard or read elsewhere. They love the familiar expression — which is often only approximately what you mean to say. To really be true to yourself as a writer, to really express yourself, you sometimes need to wrestle with those critters, round them up, and force them to strike out on a new path.
Those, then, are three things that I think contribute to good and powerful non-fiction writing. According to the rules of this award, I have one more task to accomplish. I am to name five other people to receive the award.
I think that’s the best part of all. For one thing, I’m much more comfortable talking about what I like in other’s work than I am trying to figure out what I like in my own. My plan is to give each of the five people I name a separate post, rather than list them in this post.