Books are Signposts Along the Way

By Steve Laube

The novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a series of stories linked together in the small town of Macondo in South America. It is surrounded by a swamp and thus is known for its isolation.

One day the town was infected by a plague which causes insomnia. The people of the town were not unhappy at first because it meant there was more time to get things done. But there was more to this plague. In addition to insomnia they began to lose their memory. Marquez called it the loss of “the name and notion of things.”

They countered these symptoms by writing names on things or pinning signs to them. You would walk around the town and see the words “clock,” “chair,” “dog,” “wall,” and so on. But they were afraid they would forget the purpose of the items. So they would write longer and more elaborate signs with instructions. For example this is what was looped around the neck of the cow, “This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.”

This literary exploration of collective amnesia made me think of the purpose of writing books and publishing in general. Writing is a thankless task during the process. But the finished work is a “signpost,” a place of memory or experience. A place where a traveler can go, sit for a while, and later move to another signpost having been affected by their previous reading. Without these books our society would forget where we came from and where we should be going.

In a small way each book being written, whether written for entertainment, education, or inspiration is a signpost. A stopping place with a set goal of direction. Even something as simple as the roadside mile marker tells us that we are one step closer to our destination.

Bear with me for a moment and think of the “signs” we find in Scripture. Ones that point to greater things to come:

“I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Genesis 9:12-14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:13-15

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11-13

As we move rapidly into the Christmas season may you think about the sign that your book is creating. Signs like “Hope,” “Love,” “Redemption,” “Lament,” “Create,” or “Beauty.” Make your sign unique and one that makes a reader stop and sit a while.

Your Turn

What is written on the “Sign” for your book? (fiction or non-fiction) It can be a single word or two, or a phrase up to six words (short enough to remember).

24 Responses to Books are Signposts Along the Way

  1. Avatar
    Diana Harkness December 10, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Signs were/are objects, situations. And they are everywhere. Take one. The tallit (Hebrew prayer shawl). The tallit itself was a sign of God’s power and provision. (Ps.104:1,2) (And rightly so, for when is a garment not a sign of provision?) The fringes and knots were also signs. The Bible is replete with signs. My novel contains many Biblical signs. If the novel itself were viewed as a sign. . . I don’t think I can do that. However the overriding theme would be (in a 4-word phrase) God in the dark.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube December 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      Sounds like the old song “Sign” by The Five Man Electrical Band (sample here:
      “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

  2. Avatar
    Connie Almony December 10, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    Finding Godly purpose in one’s gifts.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanne December 10, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Interesting thoughts today. I hadn’t really thought about all the signs in Scripture. Thanks for bringing light to those. 🙂 I guess for mine I’d say “Healing through forgiveness.”

  4. Avatar
    Lisa December 10, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Beautiful post, thank you. Books have been signposts to me.

    My work-in-progress: redemption.

  5. Avatar
    Micky Wolf December 10, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Ditto, beautiful post…a lovely thought to ponder this day. 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Jennifer Major @Jjumping December 10, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Ohhh. Great post, Steve!
    God used so many signs for his people. I remember, or uh, maybe I read in the history books, Larry Norman used to use the phrase “One way” all the time. Anyone who listened to his music or saw a picture of him, knew exactly what it meant.

    A sign on my book? Hmmmm.

    Darkness holds secrets, night holds stars.

  7. Avatar
    Rick Barry December 10, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Interesting timing of this post. The YA story I’m currently growing hinges on a sign the protagonist must accept and then learn to use–without an owner’s manual. As with the verses you highlight, signs are worth pondering.

    The underlying words: Trust and follow Him.

  8. Avatar
    Ronie December 10, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Great post, Steve. Another reminder to me, another “sign” that God is telling me to write for Him. Not for the praise of men, or to hit the bestsller list or win awards. But to write so that I remember how much I love writing. Might seem easy, but with deadlines, editorial feedback, and fear. . .it can be very challenging to write “free” (as Jim Rubart and Allen Arnold say).

  9. Avatar
    Peter James December 10, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Sex-addiction recovery through worshiping God.

    It seems all books on pornography and lust say THAT God is more satisfying than lust, but I have yet to find a book that really SHOWS how he is. I am attempting to do this in my book.

  10. Avatar
    Leah E. Good December 10, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Thought-provoking post. Thank you. I think the signpost for my WIP would be, “radical faith despite persecution.”

  11. Avatar
    Patrick Craig December 10, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    A Quilt For Jenna – Redemption
    The Road Home – Foundations
    The Amish Heiress – Faithfulness

  12. Avatar
    Connie Almony December 10, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Shortly after I posted a comment today on this site, I began to clean out the VHS tapes on my entertainment center. I noticed the handwritten labels attached. I have hours of news coverage on the days following 9/11. My husband has stacks of baseball and college football tapes (I wonder if he’ll ever look at again). I have movies I loved before I devoted my life to Christ … as well as those after. I chuckled as I thought about this blog. Signposts from the seasons of my life.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube December 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      I love it when an idea follows me throughout the day. Much like this post did for a week before I wrote it!

  13. Avatar
    Robin Patchen December 10, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Thought-provoking post. For my WIP, I was going to say, “redemption.” But I think it’s more about rebirth. My heroine is certain she is somehow “less than” because of her past, but begins to believe she can be new again in Christ.

  14. Avatar
    Sally Bradley December 10, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    Our sin will never overpower God’s forgiveness.

  15. Avatar
    Thomas Allbaugh December 10, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    The summary of Marquez really affirms for me this morning that real literature is needed, clarifying. Thank you. We do suffer from loss of cultural memory. I hope the signpost for my current writing will be “faith.”

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube December 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      Literature can be a sort of silent music for the soul. Only you can hear the melody. And that melody is uniquely yours. Almost impossible to share fully.

  16. Avatar
    Jillian Kent December 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Understanding provides hope, encouragement, and healing.

  17. Avatar
    Emily December 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Only God can set us free.

  18. Avatar
    April W Gardner December 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Brings to mind the Spanish word signs I tape around the house to teach my kids Spanish. “El horno” “El espejo” “La cama”. A constant visual to help them remember, to learn.
    You’ve now got me thinking of what personal signs God might have placed in my life to help me remember and LEARN. Am I missing something He’s intended for me… ?
    My book’s sign might say “Reality check!”

  19. Avatar
    Melissa Finnegan December 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    God keeps His promises.

  20. Avatar
    Jenni Brummett December 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    The words ‘not forsaken’ come to mind when I think about my WIP. My main character is on a journey to relinquish her rights, to jettison them overboard, so that she can return to the Lord.

  21. Avatar
    Mary Young December 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    For my trilogy-in-progress….

    book 1 – seeing God’s heart
    book 2 – receiving God’s promise
    book 3- holding God’s hand

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