Books Are Signposts Along the Way

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 that 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 for entertainment, education, or inspiration, is a signpost. A stopping place with a set goal of direction. When driving you see signs: “Stop,” “Yield,” “Slow, children crossing,” “No parking,” and more. But 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 (emphasis added):

“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).

Think about the sign that your book is creating. Signs like “Hope,” “Love,” “Redemption,” “Joy,” “Lament,” “Restoration,” “Create,” or “Beauty.” Make your sign unique and one that makes a reader stop and sit a while.

[Unfortunately, while writing this, the 1971 hit song “Signs” by The Five Man Electrical Band kept playing in my mind. (https://bit.ly/3zXnIlO)]

Your Turn

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

[This is a revised version of a post from December 2012.]

25 Responses to Books Are Signposts Along the Way

  1. Deb DeArmond August 16, 2021 at 5:12 am #

    Adventure has no age limit.

  2. Pam Halter August 16, 2021 at 5:16 am #

    And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply … now you got ME singing it! hahaha!

    Good post – good thoughts. Thanks, Steve.

  3. Karen Ingle August 16, 2021 at 5:24 am #

    “No one lies beyond the power of redemption.”
    Thanks for inspiring me to verbalize the heart of my story from this perspective.

  4. DAMON J GRAY August 16, 2021 at 5:25 am #

    God’s forgiveness is my standard.

  5. Jeannie Delahunt August 16, 2021 at 5:51 am #

    How insightful, Steve. Gives the purpose for writing a depth to consider. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Darla Grieco August 16, 2021 at 6:06 am #

    Thanks, Steve. Brilliantly said. A reminder I needed today to encourage my heart to press on. My stories–both fiction or non-fiction–speak of redemption and hope, timeless truths we need to hear through every generation, every trial.

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 16, 2021 at 7:03 am #

    Today is the mirror of tomorrow.

    And, lucky you, you get to read the full work for which this is sign, below! (I could write a book about this, but have not the heart.)

    We rise now from our fine repast,
    bellies strained and full,
    while refugees fall from the last
    plane to leave Kabul.
    I’m not sure why they trusted us;
    we’ve cut and run before;
    a nation thrown beneath the bus
    in a forgotten Asian war.
    We came with teachers, guns and bling,
    and promise of protection;
    and now our newfound friends we fling
    to dungeons of an old oppression
    with seemingly no doubt nor care,
    and how long ’till we join them there?

  8. Elizabeth August 16, 2021 at 7:21 am #

    Thank you. This inspires me. Signposting is a great image for writing. The sign for my non-fiction book is “Be Encouraged!”

  9. G Chops August 16, 2021 at 7:27 am #

    Mine is ;REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE.

  10. Sherri Stewart August 16, 2021 at 7:44 am #

    resilience

  11. Cindy Fowell August 16, 2021 at 7:49 am #

    redeeming shame

    And thank you for this post.

  12. Sharon K Connell August 16, 2021 at 8:38 am #

    For my newly release novel, I’d say the signpost would read, “Trust God regardless of the situation.”

  13. Kristen Joy Wilks August 16, 2021 at 9:05 am #

    Sometimes home is only found after you step out of your safe place and truly live.

  14. Deb Gorman August 16, 2021 at 9:16 am #

    One today is worth two tomorrows. ~Ben Franklin

  15. Jay Payleitner August 16, 2021 at 10:02 am #

    “Find your sweet spot.” Proverbs 30:8

  16. Marsha Y. August 16, 2021 at 12:03 pm #

    My book, Tending People, would have a four word signpost. Interesting subject – encouraging stories.

  17. Susan Sage August 17, 2021 at 6:36 am #

    This is such an excellent post. I will flag it somehow and come back to it. The sign for my WIP (nonfiction-devotional) would be Hope before Healing. The second sign for the other WIP (fiction) would be Out of the dark. Thanks for asking the question. It’s a good premise to use to help sort down to the actual theme.

  18. Davalynn Spencer August 17, 2021 at 11:21 am #

    Forgiveness. Second Chance. Redemption.

  19. Norma Brumbaugh August 17, 2021 at 1:17 pm #

    It will take time, but you will get better.

  20. Wendy August 17, 2021 at 1:37 pm #

    I recently read a series of blog posts by Scott Myers (GoIntotheStory) called “The Theology of Cinema,” in which he examined theological themes through a secular lens, as they relate to stories. While I see each theme from a scriptural view, his insights provided an additional perspective for topics such as “Despair,” “Doubt,” “Evil,” “Forgiveness,” “Grace,” and so on. As I read the articles, various scenes from my story came to mind, but one topic permeated my overall journey. In “The Theology of Cinema: Faith,” Scott quotes theologian Frederick Buechner:

    “Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going but going anyway. A journey without maps.”

    My signpost says, “Faith.”

  21. Denise Holbrook August 17, 2021 at 1:52 pm #

    Shared struggles produce greater unity than shared strengths.

    • Susan Sage August 17, 2021 at 2:02 pm #

      That is a brilliant theme, Denise. Have you already published something with that theme? I would love to read it.

  22. Charlie Seraphin August 17, 2021 at 2:24 pm #

    My title is One Stupid Mistake–Smart Decision-Making in a Crazy World…had I read this post prior to publication it might have been:
    Everybody Makes Mistakes—Learn From Yours

    Thanks for another wonderful inspiration.

  23. Chris Whitlock August 17, 2021 at 3:21 pm #

    Of all the emails and blog posts wanting to encourage writers, this one is the one that is going to keep me writing and submitting. Steve, you pointed me iin the right direction – up, beyond the page.

  24. Karen Roberts August 23, 2021 at 5:37 pm #

    Wives ditching disappointment and finding joy

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