Not Everything Is Canon

We’ve access to a lot of stuff.

You know?

Heaps of it.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by just how much stuff there is to process? How many point of views. How many opinions. How many ideas. How many methods, theories, the list goes on.

I don’t know about you but I find a lot of stuff overwhelming. When there are so many perspectives on things, and you can’t be entirely sure what’s right or true – as post modernism has led us to do…

Here’s the thing. I’m a Christian. I like to think I am a pretty normal one too.

I go to church on a Sunday, I try to read my bible, or the Word for Today on my phone most days, I pray, I believe in God, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I know bad stuff happens and I know there are things I can’t explain, but I am mostly okay with that.

But then I met weird Christians.

By this I mean, the kind of Christian who makes you shudder/roll your eyes/groan internally because you can’t-believe-they-just-said-that.

And this freaks me out, because I know I’m weird (watch Ancient Aliens, and Finding Big Foot, not that I believe in either) but I am not SUPER weird.

I don’t believe in new age spiritualism

I am not a heads down bums up doomsday prepper

I manage to go about my day to day without accosting anyone with my faith and am pretty okay about talking about my beliefs with people IF they ask me.

But I am terrified that I’m weird and therefore… discredited.

This is because I hear probably well meaning Christians exploiting our faith in someway.

Where they seek God’s word in such a way that it looks more like divinity than discipleship.

Where people so compromise the bible’s value systems to make room for today’s culture of how relationships should manifest (casual sex, living together etc)

Where people pose Christianity and Science so far from one another that they demand you pick one or the other rather than seeing one as a manifestation of God’s creativity.

I see it everywhere. Not just friend’s stating grand philosophical reflections on Facebook but in articles, in websites, books, blogs, it’s everywhere.

And there’s SO much of it.

And it really freaks me out.

Because the world can be confusing when you can’t see the wood from the trees.

After reflecting on this the last little while, I’ve realized something.

Today, we have access to way more stuff that we ever would way faster than we’ve ever seen. You want to know something, a quick google will give you the facts – and a lot of opinion.

Heck I google Taylor Swift nearly every second day and her life sways from being married to being single!

I realized what we are doing wrong, not just as Christians, but people when we understand things.

We treat ALL information the same.

There’s so much so it has no weight. In other words we treat everything as Canon.

Back when they put the bible together there were all these random books. Some were claimed to have been written by random biblical figures, others the church father’s had no idea the authorship of.

So when it came to making the official bible they collected a bunch of church people together and made a list.

They went through ALL of the books and bound together books which were:

– Historically significant (and proven to be so)

– Written by eye witnesses or credible sources (and proven to be so)

– Consistent with the over all theological belief

There was other stuff too but I can’t be bothered going through church history. Basically they assigned a weighting system to the books and they selected only the genuinely historical, accurate and authored books rather than the Gospel of That Random Guy which was made to sell money in the early church or to achieve so-and-so’s social ideals.

Now we have a bible which we can rely on, that makes sense, that you know was written by actual significant people (apart from Hebrews, because who knows!?)

As a result there is a big difference between the bible and an article written by the Relevant Magazine.

Issue is these days because we are so OVERWHELMED by stuff we treat it all the same.

But it’s not the same. Not everything is canon.

This is what people are good at: telling you what to do, or what they think is right. I have realized that in being engaged.

But in all areas of life we need to look at the sources of information and ask ourselves ‘what is canon?’

Some random horrible person tells you that you’re super pale and shouldn’t wear skirts (it’s happened to me) is it canon?

Some person tells you your writing is dry, is it canon?

Someone tells you that you’ll never make it/do it/be it? is it canon?

Just because someone says, thinks, or writes something, doesn’t mean it’s true.

I wanted to remind you of this today, because in today’s world especially, with so much out there, we have to decide inside ourselves what we know, TEST IT (this part is important) and then and only then treat it as canon.

After all, as Taylor Swift says, haters are gonna hate, but it doesn’t mean their horrible words are gospel truth.

ts

A Few of My Favorite Things: 25th Edition

Today is my birthday! (Or tomorrow… for those of you reading in other parts of the world)

As a result, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a few details of what 25 looks like thus far

Enjoy!

What Am I Listening to Right Now?: 22 – Taylor Swift, because I’m ironic.

Where Am I?: Work… but I live in Auckland, New Zealand.

Today Is: Thursday… and it’s super sunny, despite being the middle of winter. As a result… freezing cold!

What I Ate for Dinner Last Night: Fish and Chips (Fush and Chups if you have a particularly bad New Zealand Accent) because YOLO.

How Many Coffees So Far: Only 2… so I have a lot to catch up on seeing as it is already 9am!

What I Had For Breakfast: Lemon Meringue cake!

Current Favorite Song: I Found Love – Owl City, Mobile Orchestra

Current Favorite Album: Hours –  Falling Up (have fell in love with this again the last few days)

Current Favorite Book: False Prince – Jennifer Nielsen, of course. If you haven’t heard me gush about this, check out some earlier blogs!

Current Favorite Nail Polish: Colour 23 from Pretty Please Nail Polish Co. given I just bulk ordered 52 of them… but when I’m not wearing blue I’m wearing Muchi Muchi by Essie!

What Book Am I Reading: Editing the third of my books, called The Deceiver… such is life.

What Am I Working On: Final book in a series called the Tasks, High King… and it is STRESSING ME OUT!

Goals for This Next Year: Get married (which thankfully is happening) get back into teaching Gideon Classes, and actually push some of my manuscripts to go somewhere (this last one is hard…) See Boney M in Concert this October!

Best Thing That Happened When I Was Twenty Four: Getting engaged was a highlight, there were other great things, like Jurassic World, and so on.

Favorite Movie: Uh, duh, Jurassic World.

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up: An Author, because the best thing is getting to share your stories with people, and seeing them connect with it.

Anyway, so I am pretty excited about twenty five, here’s a super adorable picture of me as a baby.

babyjess

Beware ‘Fiddly’ Words.

I literally sighed before I began writing this.

Do you know why?

Because I am a common offender of over using ‘fiddly’ words.

What are fiddly words – I hear you ask?

Words that make the most normal sentence flowery.

Here are my examples:

– something like

– as if

– almost as if/ like

– seemed

– without/not quite

They are terms which literally add nothing to the text but word count.

As mentioned before, I am a huge offender at adding in ‘fiddly’ words. And why? Because often they feel as though they flourish the text, that they add to it, make it nicer to read.

This is true – when used appropriately. Other times it creates an enormous vagueness to the script which can get clunky and irritating.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes we need to just get to the damn point. As an author it is important to understand the balance of language techniques, sometimes dwelling other times just getting on with it.

Because I am obviously speaking to myself here, this is my solution:

Know the impact you want to have.

If you’re writing a piece that you want to be hard hitting, to smack the reader in the fact and go ‘HERE. IT. IS’ then get to the point.

If you’re writing a piece which is more sensitive, then be gentle about it, you can be vague but again this is all about balance, because occasionally in these more sensitive bits a good hard hitting line can really win an audience over.

If you’re anything like me this has served as a timely reminder to balance your script well.

Sometimes smack people in the face, other times, use the ‘fiddly’ words

As Captain Planet said: ‘The power is yours.’

Writing the Detail: Developing Depth as Well as Scope

I often say this to my students.

There are things you will know that no one else will.

Little details, odds and ends, tiny elements to characters or settings which as the Author, only you are aware of.

Problem is that sometimes, often inexperienced writers throw everything they have at a narrative, make it clunky and difficult to follow because they want to tell you which lip gloss colour  exactly the main character uses.

All of this got me thinking the other day about story development.

Thing is that you have to have a comprehensive world to communicate. It has to seem believable, which means exploring everything. How a location looks, the houses, the ways people speak to one another, the history of the world etc. The character’s back story, their favorite things, other stuff they hate, all that jazz.

The thing is most of this needs to act as foundation rather than being forced into the narrative.

This is about developing depth not just scope.

By depth I mean the details which add to your character or setting seeming super believable. That you move into this magic space where the character seems to write themselves and you barely need to think about their movements because they are so well established.

Many people discount this part of the process. Sitting down, getting a notebook or whatever and ‘spending time with your character.’ scribbling out what they look like, what makes them them, how do they respond in certain situations… etc. It takes time, granted, but it’s super important to setting up a firm character who will steer themselves rather than having to stop and think ‘okay, so what do they do next…?’ every time something happens in the storyline.

Scope, on the other hand is the stuff we see, the details that manifest themselves. If your character is over zealous, cocky, nervous, whatever… Scope says ‘this is how they are acting’ Depth says ‘this is why…’ Unless you have a properly founded Depth, their actions can seem wet and unjustified.

Just a little note about that today because I am super sick and can barely think straight but it is totally something worth thinking about. I know it’s not amazingly glamorous but do plan, don’t get so carried away by the excitement of a story that you fail to develop a solid plan.

Also remember that characters change and you will have to account for that and plan for this too.

A good technique that I use when I have no idea how to develop a character’s depth is that I write a first person script of them explaining something, giving an account. It allows me to develop their circumstances and specific voice. Try doing this if you’re totally stuck, but I’ll post some of my notebook pictures soon too!

PS guys, it’s totally my birthday tomorrow! Hopefully I get well for it :(

What I Read This Weekend: Go Set A Watchman

Never has a book so made me wish I was still at school.

This is why: after reading Go Set a Watchman I was wriggling and squirming with all desire to talk about it constantly. Issue is that I don’t know a single other person who has read this book or who really remembers To Kill A Mocking Bird so I have to just contemplate it internally, natter about it to my parents/fiancé and then blog about it.

If I were at school, of course, I would get to talk about it in my English Class and the teacher would tell us all kinds of profound things that I may have missed and we get to knot out other stuff.

So while I have finished Go Set A Watchman, I still feel somewhat exposed, I feel there is stuff that I haven’t quite understood or seen because I don’t have a million worksheets from a few decades worth of people studying the book to rely on.

But the imperative question in this blog post isn’t all the deep things that the book dragged up or the fact that it makes me want to go back to English Lessons back in High School.

The question is this: What did I think of it?

Can we just ignore for a moment the obvious things. I am perfectly aware that there is controversy around whether Harper Lee wanted it read, or the whole Atticus Finch, what the heck was going on there situation and can we just talk about whether I enjoyed it or not.

Cool? Cool.

So here are my thoughts.

Critics have absolutely ravaged Harper Lee’s writing style in GSAW. I know this because I brought the book Saturday but spent the days before googling reviews… ‘messy’ was a word I saw thrown around a lot, ‘unnecessary’ basically a lot of people thought it was a pretty average first draft compared to Mockingbird. It was for this reason that I went in expecting a clunky manuscript. Trust me, I have read some terrible things in my life, having to edit my students books… I know what sketchy writing is, I really do. What surprised me is that I actually enjoyed the literary style and narrative voice of GSAW considerably more than Mockingbird. GSAW was told in third person, objective, and I found it relaxed, easy to follow, and even exceptionally funny in parts (regarding Lee’s social descriptions). This book took me all of about twenty four hours to read and never once did I feel it dragged or was ‘messy’. It did feel new, and fresh, it felt like a raw draft, close to someone’s heart and not yet fully filed off. This means that there are elements which do feel rushed, but in my mind the book felt all the more personal and close to the author’s heart because of it.

Scout and her grown up manifestation of Jean Louise. Goodness gracious me, I both loved and hated Jean Louise, but she was perfect. Of course we expect that Scout would grow up a little wild. She is hilarious. The flashbacks to her earlier years and to her teenage years are really brilliant. As an adult at times she made me want to roll my eyes and groan, but I understood where she was coming from. With fresh eyes given her time in New York, her home town is both a place important to her heart but somewhere she doesn’t entirely understand anymore. I adored Hank as well, and while I am pretty sure she doesn’t, I want her to marry him, especially because in my own opinion I felt that so much of their lives were dictated by prejudice, not just black and white prejudice but the fact that Hank had this wrestle to get out of being ‘Trash.’

The Wider Scope was SO fascinating. To Kill A Mocking Bird was always and will always be looked at as a social commentary of a time, what I loved about GSAW was the wider scope of this. The problem isn’t just the discrimination between white and black, it is more than that. As mentioned above, Hank Clinton has to wrestle to get free of his ‘Trash’ back ground, and he never really will. This is a huge component of his participation in discriminatory activities. Scout – he says – can do what she likes because ‘that’s the Finch in her’ but he cannot. I was SO fascinated by the wider perspectives on this prickly social time, this ‘birthing’ of a new world – as Uncle Jack says. Calpurnia and her feelings towards the family, how she responds to Jean Louise now that she has retired and Jean Louise has grown up. Even the little random things of the town, Cunningham with Cu and Conningham with Co. I love it.

Can you tell I am gushing? I can. Look, I know there’s controversy, I know there’s things in this book people aren’t going to like, and that we look at and don’t understand given the times we are in now. All that aside, it is genuinely a better book than people give Lee credit for. You have to look at it for what it was. She was a young author, this was her original manuscript and for me, it was an excellent read.

PS if you have read it, PLEASE comment, I am really keen to hear your thoughts!

A Little More Music: The Cranberries

I’ve mentioned this before, but my Granddad taught me to sing.

He had never learnt an instrument himself or anything he was just one of those people naturally good at music. I’ve been told he could play song, on any instrument by ear, with the exception of a guitar.

Anyway, he passed away in 1999, but even today I still have very much the remnants of his singing to me when I was very little.

This is because somehow I end up singing with a natural Irish lilt.

At times this has been somewhat irritating for me, because of endless jokes about the Corrs or the Cranberries. ‘I’ll bet you can sing Zombie super good!’ someone once said. I’d never really tried…

Then in the car one time I did and nearly gave myself a fright. With a little encouragement to round off the natural lilt and a change in pronunciation I could channel some extreme Irish vibes.

I’m not an amazing singer or anything, but I do love to sing, so I’m sort of messing around with doing some Irish Folk music. This isn’t Irish folk, obviously, but I’ll share it anyway!

This is my iPad+Out of Tune Guitar cover of the first little bit of Zombie… because I am too embarrassed to sing it in public