My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
Unseat Adverbs and Adjectives with Similes, Metaphors and Leitmotifs, and Unearth Writing Treasures from the Bible
"Pulling your hair again?" My angel said.
I looked at him in despair.
"You'd be bald by the time you finish writing the book."
"I know. " I sighed. "There are too many rules on writing that I am not even sure why the Lord chose me as His messenger: I, who am not well adept at grammar and syntax."
"The Lord chooses the weak to shame the strong," my angel said. "So what is your problem?"
"Editors hate adverbs and loath imprecise and non-specific adjectives. They say the use of such weakens writing."
He nodded and said, "We wouldn't want lame writing, do we? Excise the unwanted fat and tighten the sagging skin."
He was right. Lean and trim writing, armed with muscles and 6-pack abs that punch the readers and cajole them back-- that was my dream form.
"Have you studied the Bible?"
I stared at him. He knew the answer to that question, but…. maybe I didn't.
"Not read, meditate or contemplate," he said like I was slow of hearing or understanding, "but have you looked at its structure and style? What makes it easy to read for both young and old alike, easy to translate in more languages you could imagine, and yet, interpreted and discerned in more ways than millions, making each word living and kicking?"
My eyes widened. The pages ran through my mind. Similes, metaphors, symbolism, personification, foreshadowing--
"Leitmotiv," he said.
"I could sense his disbelief that I hadn't heard of the word. As though something dawned on him, he said, "Leitmotif, perhaps?" like I would understand it with just a change in one letter. Really.
Coming to a realization and acceptance that he had a rough diamond to work with, my angel sighed and sat beside me. "Look it up," he said.
I already did, just before he spoke. "Google says leitmotiv is a recurrent theme in a literary composition," I said. "This German word became leitmotif in the late 19th century."
He nodded and said, "Weave all these styles and forms into your writing and you'd have less need of adverbs and adjectives."
"Just like that?"
"Come, I'll show you something." He brought me to the Garden of Eden again. He must had sensed my thoughts because he said, "Why do I keep on bringing you here?"
I lowered my gaze and dared not speak.
"Because this is where it all began," he said. "And unless you understand you will never understand."
He smiled and shook his head at the look on my face. "I'm not speaking in tongues," he said, "yet you fail to grasp my language. Perhaps I should speak in yours."
He pointed at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and said, "The devil is like a virus that infected that tree. When Eve and Adam ate of the fruit, they got the disease and passed it on to their children, including you. The primary manifestation of this viral malady is amnesia of your true identity. Babies are conceived with memories wiped slate clean, ready for the imprint of truth or lie. Good or evil is known and written in memory from womb to tomb.
I shook at the analogy. The scientific part of my brain whirred as I thought about the property and characteristic of a virus.
"If the devil is a virus then it cannot live without a host." I gasped when reality struck me. "The devil was created as an extension of God, just like you."
"And he thought he was God and could live apart from Him. But when he removed himself from God, he realized his impending doom. He had become like a virus separated from his life source, his host, so he must have possessed the tree, a living organism," I said.
"And was trapped in the tree that became the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
"Because he mutated from good to evil with his severance from God. Then he must have possessed the serpent that went near the tree and enticed Eve to eat of its fruit, thereby multiplying himself in his new hosts, mankind."
It made a lot of sense now: why Legion begged Jesus to allow them to possess the pigs after being cast out of the demoniac. They needed a host.
"There is some truth to what you said, but your knowledge is not perfect. Seek not to discover beyond your capability. That was the devil's downfall. Your next task," my angel's voice broke into my epiphany, "is to search for the leitmotifs in the Bible. It shall lead you to your anti-virals, some more potent than the others. These antidotes will help you regain your divine identity. Your memory will come back. Until then, one question will hound you for the rest of your life -- 'Who Am I?' But once you arrive at the answer, you shall cease to struggle with your writing."
Leitmotif will provide the clue to the anti-viral... the cure, I thought. What recurrent theme or symbol appears in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation?
He looked at me and his eyes softened. "Don't pull your hair with this task. You only need to call on me, you know. I don't understand why you always like to do it the hard way-- relying on your own understanding."
He shook his head and added, "Another symptom of the virus."
I gripped my pen instead of my hair. My angel gripped my hand in return, reminding me of his presence, of who he was.
I smiled and hope welled within me.
One day my angel found me slumped on my desk. He asked me why.
"Show don't tell. Show don't tell. I'm sick and tired of this rule, yet I can't seem to master it," I said.
He looked at me and sighed.
I looked back and begged him, "Please help me. Tell me what to do."
"I will not tell you. "
Tears welled in my eyes. Despair crept in my soul.
"I will show you," my angel said.
He led me to the Garden of Eden and showed me the Fall of Mankind.
"You know the story. It's been told millions of times. I want you to show me what happened. I want to see it in your eyes, in your own words," my angel said.
"Show don't tell?" I said.
He nodded. “Eve took the fruit, bit into it, and gave it to Adam,” my angel prompted.
I took a deep breath.
"Why did you do it?" Adam said. His eyes had widened. "God said not to eat of that fruit."
"Look," Eve said, "I did not die. You must have heard Him wrong. He told you you'd die as soon as you eat of it and you told me I'd die, too. But the serpent said I won’t. And now," she said spreading her arms, "I'm still alive!"
Adam squinted, his mouth pinched. Eve shrugged her shoulders then offered the half-eaten fruit. He hesitated then took it. As soon as he bit into the flesh, the tree of life burst into flames. The fire drew and sucked the light out of their bodies. When the light of life had left them, they were skinned with the mortal bodies, encased in a shell of imperfection.
Adam saw Eve with new eyes. “You are naked.”
“So are you.”
Everything around them darkened.
"What have we done?" Adam cried. He turned at Eve. "You did this. We should not have eaten of the fruit--"
"I'm sorry. I did not know."
"I told you but you did not believe me."
Eve shuddered and hugged herself, shaking.
“And God cursed them and sent one of the angels to banish them away from Eden,” my angel said. “Go on.”
Each day as Adam toiled the soil, his blood boiled. He'd scorn Eve. "If you did not trick me, we'd still be in paradise, and I didn't have to work."
"Look, the serpent tricked me. He told me we won't die. How was I to know that we'd die a slow death."
Adam sneered. "Of course, you fell for it. And you'd have to drag me along with you."
"You don't have to be so bitter. I'm the one who needs to take care of these little ones," Eve cried, drawing the baby in her arms as the other child gripped her elbow.
"Well, it's your fault. Damn this soil, and damn you." He pounded the wood, threw it on the ground and walked away, leaving Eve in tears with two bawling children.
What had she done? He was right. This was all her fault. If only she had listened. Then a voice called out to her.
"Yes, Lord," she said with bowed head.
"You know this would happen. I told Adam, but you did not believe him." The gentle voice pierced her heart.
"Yes, Lord." Eve wept.
"But you heard when I said, someday a woman just like you will undo this curse," God said.
Eve looked up at the bright light.
"Yes, her obedience will undo your disobedience."
Tears streamed down her face at His words.
"Her offspring shall crush the head of the serpent who tricked you. But until then, you and your offspring will endure the punishment of your action."
The words tore her heart apart. She winced and covered her face.
"Embrace the consequences of your deeds. Bear it with resignation, but you shall be gifted with tenacity and endurance like no other man, able to withstand the pain that goes beyond child-bearing. But the day will come when you will raise your head and look up to her who will do the right thing— who will listen to the new Adam, her offspring, who will undo everything and bring the light back to your soul. When this is all fulfilled, you will regain your dignity, your inner light, and eternal life."
She raised her eyes, hope shimmering.
It sounded so real in my ears, it's surreal. I felt like I was eavesdropping in someone else’s kitchen.
But my angel only said, “It can be better, but you’re learning. It will take time to build the muscle memory for this writing rule. Show, don't tell. Because people don't like to be told. People learn better by showing them what to do, not telling them. Even children will mimic what you show them and disobey what you tell them.”
“And God, Himself, knew it was better to show than tell,” my angel added.
“What do you mean?”
“Come, I’ll show you something,” he said.
He took me on top of the mountain. There I saw Moses holding the stone tablets.
"The Ten Commandments,” I said.
“God told the people how to love. He told them to obey what’s written on the tablets. But the people did not understand the law. They misinterpreted it. God had to show them instead,” my angel said.
“How?” I asked.
He took me to another mountain. And there I saw Jesus crucified and dead. Blood covered his mangled face and body. I trembled at the sight.
“He showed them love, humility, obedience…” my angel said. “And it worked. The blood of the martyrs could attest to this. You want a book that shows and does not tell? Read the Bible. Learn from it. That is why it is the Living Word. By showing, it allows man to listen and the Spirit to speak.”
Show don’t tell. Then they will understand.
Remember, a teacher is more effective than a preacher, because a teacher shows while a preacher tells.
Someday, I will master it, I vowed to myself. Someday. And until then, I will not grow tired of trying because Jesus showed me how.
Show don’t tell.
I sought the Lord to give me clarity and direction, for my efforts in the past, had been obscure, mediocre, haphazard and without focus.
I had taken my pen, like a sword and had aimed it in all directions, failing to strike at the foe, even wounding myself in the process. I realized, to be called is not enough. One needs to embrace the call and then carry it out as directed.
In the pages of His book, He spoke His living word, and I embraced it:
The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear. (Isaiah 50:4)
But a veil had descended upon me and I cannot hear my Lord. He hid Himself in a tall mountain hard to climb. Then I realized I had my guardian angel. Although God could hide Himself from me, my angel could not, for he was bound to me. He had been appointed to be God's emissary and to stay at my side at all times. Thus I called my angel to help me.
"Are you a messenger of the Word?" I asked.
I heard the voice, faint and soft. "I am," my angel said.
"Help me," I said, "to become one -- a messenger of the Word, because I struggle with words. I have bought all the tools of the trade I could find to help me bring His message out, but I know there is only one tool I need that I have yet to find -- my voice. It is buried by the many voices around me, suppressed for so long, afraid to be ridiculed or cast out for it had suffered the harshness of men's words. So it learned to hide and cover behind a façade that is acceptable to everyone."
My angel led me into to the desert and showed me where I erred. I had not followed the three disciplines necessary to become a messenger of the Word: the disciplines of the body through exercise, mind through reading and spirit through prayer.
So I beat my body, mind, and spirit to submission and rigorous training. When I satisfied my angel, he said, "God has the answer. But are you asking Him the right questions?"
I realized I had not. And there were three that needed answering.
"WHY do I write?"
He led me to the marshland of my motives. I saw my vanity and presumption -- the mark of an untrained soul. I pursued a call with earthly gains in mind.
The angel told me, "It does not matter how much you earn, but what you become in the process. Realize that your decisions today affect people's lives tomorrow. Your 'yes' today brings you closer to your purpose. And that is why you write."
He was right and he set me straight. I vowed to succeed, not for what it could do to me, but what it could do to others. We are connected by soul and spirit. We do not travel in this world alone. There is God's kingdom to build, and writing is my means and end. This is writing with a greater purpose. And I felt satisfied with this answer.
But my angel was not.
"Writing is not your purpose," the angel said. "Your purpose is to love God and make men love God. Writing is just a means to your purpose.
I sat astounded. He was right again. Writing is just a means to my purpose. And there are other means -- praying, running, cooking, singing, composing, drawing, painting…
"But writing is my primary means?"
"Among others," he said. And he led me to the valley.
"And there are growing pains, labor pains, and birth pains that you need to endure. You cannot avoid it. Must not avoid it. It is necessary and crucial for your growth. For from the pain, life springs forth."
I told him I struggled in the past. HOW should I do the work He had set out for me to do?
"Without the touch of the Divine, all your works will not touch the hearts of men. It is His fingers that impart life into your words and speak to the hearts of men. Connection of spirits only happen with His blessing," the angel said. "When pursuing the will of God, you need to ask for guidance but in the end, have to make the decision. The Lord does not want people passively going with the flow without an active will."
"So should I endeavor to write and work hard at it?" I asked.
"Writing is more passive than you think. It's listening more and doing less. Then you’ll love what you do and find joy in it. Without love and joy, your work stays with you and does not accomplish its purpose."
And so I realized that loving every moment of every day is what we are all called to do yet so many go through life without being aware of their surroundings much more feel and live this love in their hearts.
I do not want to write that way. That is not the kind of writer's life I want to live.
He led me to the mountain and said, "Ask the one important question you have not yet asked the Lord."
"WHO am I?" I said. He knew I was looking for my writer's voice.
"If you want to know who you are, know who God is. You are His mirror image."
"But where is He?"
"In the voice of the child. If you want to know the truth, ask a child --the younger, the better. They will not withhold it from you, but when they speak, it is without malice or intent to harm. You will hear the naked truth, without confetti or sugar-coating. Just plain, old truth."
"I can do that? Be the voice of a child?"
"Only you can do what God has set out for you. The more you move far away from your purpose, the more lost and unhappy you become because your happiness resides in doing His will and purpose."
I sat on the mountain and waited. My angel grew still and silent. Out of the silence, the clouds parted. I saw my voice, peering. I beckoned her and she spoke.
My voice, I learned, was strong yet gentle. It was kind to those who seek refuge from the heat of the sun. It offered comfort to those who struggle against the odds of life. My voice whimpered in the night because the wind had lashed it a couple of times. Only my angel was able to bring the voice out into the open.
And it was a beautiful voice I realized. I cried for the many years that it had stayed in the dark not seeing the sun and even the moon. It hid like my God, ashamed that even its owner had rejected it. My voice had the melody of music and notes that no one could reach. Only I could, because God made it so. It had an ancient sound yet modern men understood it.
I beckoned it to come out and it whispered. But then again withdrew. It was still wounded and healing. It needed convincing that this time I would not hurt it by my neglect and rejection. What a fool I had been to think I could run away from my voice. It had been following me, muted all day, like my angel. Because even though I cast it aside, it was and would always be mine. My voice.
So I vowed, everyday I shall beckon it to speak. And it would-- softly at first until it became confident of me. Then it shall assume me and become me and speak through me. Only then will I find my voice and my voice will find me.
And thus, in the next 40 days until the Ascension , I shall train my voice to speak 'in the rhythm of the lessons I learned' (as how a famous song would say) from these last 40 days. Perhaps, God in His kindness and mercy will touch my tongue with the fire of the Divine and become worthy of the call to be a messenger of His Word.
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