Tag s | Creativity

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.]

Leave a Comment

Oxymorons

Oxymorons can be fun. Two words that can have contradictory meaning are put together to create a new phrase. Or it can be expanded to mean two separate thoughts or ideas that are in direct conflict with each other but when combined create something new.

For example, if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle you can see the humor in the description “office space.”

Read More

Brainstorming: How and With Whom?

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

Read More

Same Message, Different Reader

When a published book is successful (sells well), the publisher and author begin pondering how to be successful again with the next book. Often times, the solution to the repeat-success puzzle in non-fiction is having a similar message but aimed at a different audience. You’ve seen it happen many times, …

Read More

A Writer’s Beatitudes

In the famous “Sermon on the Mount” passage in the Bible’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus presented a series of eight “beatitudes.” Each was a saying that turned conventional wisdom on its head, showing how in God’s eyes the oppressed are blessed and the despised are prized. No one can improve …

Read More

Create Magic with Words

Years ago, I took my five-year-old daughter to Toys R Us to meet “Barbie.” “Barbie” turned out to be a cute and charming teenager who, yes, looked like the classic blonde image of the doll. She wore a pretty pink gown. I expected a lot more fanfare around this event. …

Read More

Be Careful Little Hands What You Type

Just as those involved in Christian ministry are committed to serving God as “his hands and feet” on this earth, Christian writers are similarly motivated, giving a voice to God’s work and communicating his grace and love to a hurting world. But just as some ministries can veer off the …

Read More

Book Reading in a Social Media World

At some point every writer confronts the trend of readers who would rather consume 140 characters in social media than 140 pages of words. Social media and smart phones change everything in our world and their impact on book reading and writing is substantial. At the same time social media …

Read More

A Title Wave

Some writers find it hard to title their work; others have as much (or more) fun creating titles as they do writing articles, stories, or books. So, just for fun, I asked some of my colleagues and clients: “What title of a nonexistent, imaginary, unwritten, or unpublished work do you …

Read More