I enjoy burning grass and tree cuttings. The last one I set ablaze was slightly damp in the middle. The flame caught the dry and flared to life. Then it hit the damp pieces and began to smoulder without being extinguished. I raked it and left. During the night it smouldered and flared, smouldered and flared. Morning saw most of the pile transformed into ashes.
As I leaned on my rake I thought, this is similar to my writing experiences. I come to it with a bundle of word and idea clippings and seek to set them ablaze. The first page or two burns brightly and quickly. Then my mind hits some damp sections. I fan and rake, fan and rake, urging the smouldering words to blaze with a story or simply to make sense. One encouraging thing about the smouldering smoke, the fire still burns, words are still alight, there’s life still in the story.
Times arise when I’ve had to leave the incomplete concepts smouldering. Will it fizzle out? Will it remain a manuscript unfinished? I feel frustrated when the fire doesn’t rage. Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, the breeze of inspiration blows. Smouldering words catch alight. Another few pages are forged from the firing of the words.
In my literal fire, some things just don’t burn. So too with my trying to make words burn into a manuscript. There are some ideas, illustrations, great lines which don’t catch alight. Sadly I’ve learnt to leave them out in the cold.
The two fires are of course different. One leads to ashes, the other to a story. The ashes from the clippings become cold and disperse. A manuscript forged by words of fire becomes hot property. For Christian writers the fire in the words comes from personal sparks of experience fanned by a sense of Christ’s calling. When we hit the damp spots the Holy Spirit breathes on our efforts. He also brings others to us who encourage us to rake and fan the flames. Later, readers who pick up the finished manuscript will be warmed, warned or set alight with the words which blaze with faith, hope and love.
I’ve got a bundle of words which need setting alight.
Raymond N Hawkins (Tasmania) is a retired Churches of Christ (Australia) minister. He is married to Mary, a multi-published author. They are parents to three children and ‘spoilers’ of 5 grandchildren. Ray still preaches at a newly formed Baptist Church and as other opportunities arise. He helps at their son and daughter-in-law’s sea horse and fresh-water fish farm. He and Mary have experienced three short-term mission trips to African countries as well as ministered in the U.K.