During World War II, one of the highest profile journalists who wrote about the war for Americans back at the home front was Ernie Pyle.
Ernie was one of the first “embedded” journalists in wartime and he lived and wrote while among the soldiers. He focused his stories on individual soldiers and their daily struggles. The troops loved him because he “got it.” The generals and politicians weren’t always happy, but Ernie was so popular with the troops, if they ever thought about preventing him from writing, they knew there would be substantial backlash.
Pyle even lobbied for pay raises for combat troops and Congress passed it. They named the spending bill after him.
Ernie was in his early 40’s when World War II broke out and he spent several years going back and forth from the US to Africa and Europe with the troops before leaving for the Pacific theater of war.
He was eventually killed while accompanying an amphibious assault on an island off the coast of Okinawa in April 1945. His wife died later in 1945 as her health declined after his death. Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least and she struggled with alcohol their entire marriage.
Ernie won a Pulitzer Prize and the school of journalism at Indiana University bears his name. He wrote several books along the way as well.
Ernie led a rather tragic life, but he provided an example to writers for the last seven-plus decades.
Whenever any agent or publisher reviews a proposal from an author, it is pretty easy to discern whether an author is writing from “within” the content of the book or whether they are writing “about” something.
Lots of people can write about something. Fewer write from within a topic.
The best journalists “embed” themselves in a story before they write about it. Television and radio field reporters are different than news readers. One reports from within. The other simply reads it.
This “inside” requirement is not only for writers.
Most people are probably not aware that rehab clinics rarely employ people who have not themselves gone through rehab. Many of the most successful social service organizations were started and run by people who needed the help themselves at some point in their lives, which they now deliver to others.
It’s the same with books. Those which are simply about a topic are not nearly as interesting as those which come from the author who wrote from within a subject.
Many can write about God and live a fairly righteous life by all appearances. Fewer can write from within an experience, portraying lessons learned from the battlefields of life as they worked out their faith in relationships and service to the Creator.
For example, any intelligent person can scan scripture and write a book containing positions and principles on how to be a better parent. You don’t even need to be a parent yourself to do it.
Fewer can give a true biblical perspective on parenting, showing how principles found in scripture actually play out in life.
Fewer still have the courage to write about failures, times when biblical principles didn’t seem to work at the moment and be humble enough to portray life the way it actually happens as we battle our way through a sin-corrupted, imperfect world.
So, next time you open up a Word document and start to write about something, ask yourself how deep you are embedded in the topic, whether you are writing from deep within it…or whether this is just a surface connection.
I guarantee others will see a difference in the depth of writing as they sense you have intimate knowledge of the subject, which makes your work worth reading.