Writing tip No. 57

Faith & Inspiration

On reruns of NPR’s hit call-in show Car Talk I heard a caller say he was a ghostwriter for some famous author and was interested in blowing up an Aston Martin DB Mark III in an upcoming novel. The show’s hosts, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” cheerfully obliged with a few suggestions, and the caller went on his way, not the least bit embarrassed for soliciting help.

Many people aspire to write but feel intimidated by the polished writing of published authors. These people should remember that all writers need help, and that if they did not get it, they could not write. All writers have giant gaps in their knowledge that they must seek other people’s assistance with.

Many-times-published author Anne Lamott divulges:

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“There are an enormous number of people out there with invaluable information to share with you, and all you have to do is pick up the phone. They love it when you do, just as you love it when people ask if they can pick your brain about something you happen to know a great deal about—or, as in my case, have a number of impassioned opinions on. Say you happen to know a lot about knots, or penguins, or cheeses, and the right person asks you to tell him or her everything you know. What a wonderful and rare experience.”

If I ever want to write a story about growing up in Woonsocket, R.I., for instance, I would call my 86-year-old aunt who has lived there all her life and hope she has a decent memory and has had long conversations with her parents that she can pass on. I will also finally read that French language book on Woonsocket’s origins that is presently just useful as a coffee-table ornament.

There have already been times in the course of my little job at WORLD that I have desperately needed to know how suspension bridges work, and EPA regulations on cleaning up after asbestos removal. I find that everyone knows someone who knows, or at least someone who knows someone who knows.

The spiritual principle here is easy to see:

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7, ESV).

Or more precisely:

“For as in one body, we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function. … Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them …” (Romans 12:4–6, ESV).

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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