Yesterday, I did some gardening. Trimmed palms. Planted out some choy sum. Tied up and tidied up my tomato bushes. Pulled weeds. Swept paths. Spread around snail pellets. Put liquid organic fish emulsion in my watering can and watered everything.
And then I realised that I’d done the last two jobs in the wrong order.
I’m sure the pellets will still work, but they won’t be as powerful because the instructions say that they’re best put out after rain and, therefore, after watering.
I had the right tools and provisions to do the job perfectly but the order mattered to get the best benefit.
As a writer, the same thing happens.
Words are my tools, just like a hammer, chisel and nails are tools for a carpenter, or snail pellets and fertilizer are for a gardener. And if I find a word to use and put it next to another word, then I’m building a story. But what if I chose the wrong words or put them in the wrong order? Or what if I chose a word that’s just ok, and put it in a ‘just ok’ order? I guess the story will be just ok.
Some time ago, I read (and I wish I could remember where) about a published author who was asked by a writer on how to edit a book. The author’s advice? ‘Read the first word of the manuscript. If it’s right, read the next one. Keep going until you’ve finished the book. Get every word right.'
So now I start a sentence with two words. I try to make sure those two words are the best words I can find. Then I write the next word. And now I’m learning but I’m not getting it all right yet.
But it’s important because, whether words are in a book, a song, a sentence spoken by a friend, a movie, or even a thought, they have the potential for power. And they also have potential to flit away on the breeze and make no impact.
Well, now it’s nearly Christmas and what an amazing time! But it’s not always good for everyone. Three years ago, two days before Christmas, I lost my mum to a very quick dose of cancer. Our family had a terrible Christmas that year, waiting for the small country town near where my parents lived to wake up after the Christmas break so we could have the funeral. No one could even buy flowers. Christmas will never be the same. The pain morphs a little each year and casts a shadow over Christmas for my family and I.
But, what I love about this time of the year is that it makes it ok for songs of worship to be played everywhere for weeks on end. And people, even many who don’t believe, sing ‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’, ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ - and so they sing of Jesus.
I believe that when even non-believers sing these songs they’re speaking powerful words to themselves, and I pray that these amazing words will speak to each person’s spirit and break into their lives and, even after this season is over, that the power of the Word, our Christ, will bring salvation to each one.
Because... Jesus is called the Word. And it’s because of the amazing power of words that we can use words for His glory in the most subtle ways in our writing. We only need to get the right words in the right order. (For more information on the power of words see Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1.)
Jackie Randall is an English Aussie, raised in WA and living in NSW, and trying to find the right order for words in order to begin the change in readers' lives.