The meaningful writing

What is our purpose? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life, or the meaning of life? These are important questions that people have been asking for a very long time. When it comes to writing, we, the authors are in control of the purpose of the book and its characters.

We decide what we are writing about and who we are writing to. That’s how we start and base the structure upon that. Who is the writing for? What do we want it to achieve? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves before we start planning or writing.

Last week, we saw that the Bible has a structure of a story, a setup, the main body of the story and the conclusion. The Bible is a story, yes. But it is also an instructional book. It tells us the story of God, but also how God works in us and how He moves in us (in ways that simply blow our minds). So there is a different structure to the Bible as well. And when we compare the Old Testament and the original Hebrew Bible of the Old Testament, they are again structured differently. So what do the compilers of the Christian Old Testament want us to know?

The Hebrew Bible is separated into three parts – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Christian Bible kept the Law as it is, the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy. We rearranged the rest into:

  • history books – Joshua to Esther
  • writings or poetry – Job to Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)
  • major prophets – Isaiah to Daniel
  • minor prophets – Hosea to Malachi
  • Gospels – Matthew to John
  • church history – Acts
  • Pauline Epistles – Romans to Philemon
  • other epistles – Hebrews to Jude
  • apocalyptic – Revelations

When we see the structure of the Bible, we can start to see where we can get a better understanding of its purpose.

So if you, like me, want to write a children’s story, we need to see what makes a good children’s story first. Do your homework, look at other children’s stories you like to read to your little ones. See the repetition and structure. That’s what you need to incorporate in your own writing. We the authors have to give our writing structure to help our readers get the message.

Hebrews 12:2 tell us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. So if you want to understand the purpose and meaning of your life, look at how God has structured and guided you.

God structures things, therefore, we need too as well.

Structuring your story

We love structure. I love when there is structure to my day. Others love architecture, looking at building structure. Structure gives us a way to form incredible things.

Our homes have a structure. Kitchen is over on one side, living area is over there. Bedroom, bathroom, toilet, laundry, etc each have their own spots. And even when they seem to mix, there is still a separation.

Structure gives form and purpose, and helps us to see said form and purpose. The Bible has the same thing. It has a story structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. It tells us of the story of God moving amongst mankind. And the structure helps us to understand the story.

There is an introduction or a setup – the “fall of man” when sin came into the world when Adam sinned. That introduces us to the problem that the Bible highlights and addresses throughout the rest of the book.

Next comes the problems and God’s intervention that arise from sin. The story of Noah, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), and the nation of Israel’s rise and fall all play a key role in the story of a Bible.

Jesus and his redemptive work is the ultimate solution in the Bible. And it goes on to build upon that in most of the New Testament letters. And the conclusion, the ultimate showdown and climax would be Revelations.

Stories requires the same thing. We need to provide an introduction – what’s started the whole thing off? What is the problem that the story seeks to address? What is the solution that fixes the problems? And finally what is the ultimate conclusion?

So when you write your story, remember the simple the three form structure – the setup, the problems and solutions that arise from the setup and the conclusion.

Ask for help

I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee… I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.

Steve Wozniak, Sole inventor of Apple I and II computers.

Having worked in a number of public service roles, I have found Steve Wozniak’s words to ring true.

Thankfully, I love working alone. That’s why I love writing. It allows me to sit with my thoughts and bring life to them through words. But that doesn’t mean I do not need help when writing. I’m not perfect. I’m flawed and will never be perfect. I know I need help whenever I write.

When writing for others, I need help from Subject matter experts (SME) to lead and guide me. This was painfully clear when I worked as a consultant. There is so much that I had no idea about and needed direction, advice and guidance.

Even after receiving their help and having planned the content, the need for help doesn’t end. I know I miss many issues in my first draft and cannot spot them without help. I am too familiar with the words and content. Here’s where spell-check and other similar word processing functions come into play.

I wear glasses, and staring at a screen for hours a day is tiring for me. And when we add writing as well, I get even more tired. But it is one of the most rewarding experiences when I know it is completed.

So seeking help with writing is important. We need SMEs, proofreaders, online writing tools (Hemingwayapp, grammarly, etc) to help us get the job done well. Similarly, when we go through life, we need help. We are not experts at everything we do. Some are great at maths, others, not so. We are seldom great at everything.

But all is not lost. God is able and willing to help us as we turn to him (Eph 3:20). So turn to Him, the one who can and wants to help us.

Take your time

The last place anyone would expect to hear the phrase “Take your time,” would be in the army. In times of war, time is of the essence. Everyone on the battlefield wants the war to be over and done with so they can go home to their loved ones. Soldier have to get to places in time in coordinated assaults. And the person who would survive the first volley of a battle are the ones doing the shooting.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was conscripted into the Singapore Army. The one phrase I remember hearing the most was, “Take your time”. The phrase was dripping with sarcasm, of course, but it was still surprising.

So it takes me great pleasure to present to you my advise in writing. Please take your time when you write, and no, there is with no sarcasm attached to this. Take your time to get it right.Take your time to do proper research on your topic. Take your time to find a proper illustrator (if you are working on a children’s story). Take your time to form the sentences. Take your time to tell your story. Time gives us a chance to reset our minds, gives us a better chance to catch mistakes we had made earlier when writing.

When man sinned, God already knew the solution and knew what needed to be done. God could have fixed it up straight away, but He knew it had to be done right. God had to prepare the hearts of men, prepare the bloodline of Jesus, prepare people to receive the forgiving grace of God, prepare the technology needed for the final events described in the book of Revelations. Even after over six-thousand years (give or take), we are not ready for the final events yet. And we know God isn’t slack (2 Pet 3:9), so He has been at work, getting things ready. So why are we not there yet? Because all these preparation requires time to get them right.

And our writing, as good as we are at our craft, require the same thing. We need the time to get it all right. God takes millenniums to get His preparation right, so what is wrong with taking a few extra weeks to get it right? Not a lot. So remember to “take your time”. It doesn’t cost a lot, but it will bring a lot of returns.