Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 2

To continue from yesterday, on finding time to write in our busy, busy lives… well, I find that really everyone is pretty busy—I don’t meet many who say they are bored—and the best way I’ve found to make time is twofold:

1. Scheduling

Every other week, I choose a day that is typically slower with grading, and put “write” on my to-do list. It isn’t the only thing on my list, not by far (I will not show you my list—it is overcrowded and it makes me look crazy)—but having it on my list reminds me that when I do have some alone time in the evening, that I must dedicate the first thirty minutes of it to writing.

Sometimes I run over that thirty minutes, writing poetry in a mad-dash, sometimes I just read poetry and take notes. Either way, I find this fairly productive, and it’s much easier to accomplish then doing a for-real “artist date”, where I must leave the house and everything. I consider this the “work-out video” equivalent of writing time—maybe not quite as awesome as a five-mile run (equivalent to the writing residency?) but a workout nonetheless.

2. Gap Times

If you really pay attention to it, most of you, no matter how busy, will find that you have tiny three and five minute gaps in your day where you could possibly fit writing in, if only to jo down an idea, image, phrase.

Some of the best gap times for me are while the girls are eating breakfast, absorbed in playing with each other but also not hitting or fighting with each other (three minute segments, here and there), while I’m cooking dinner, and while I’m driving to work (just kidding on the last one, ha). I try to keep a notebook and pen handy at all times—I’ve been doing that since my first creative writing class, and it’s a habit I plan on keeping my entire life.

Also, pay attention to where you are wasting time. I rarely watch TV or spend time on the internet, aside from work, so that frees up a lot of time for me. I also don’t fold clothes very efficiently, iron EVER, pre-rinse the dishes as well as my husband does, or make my own bread from scratch—I’m ok with that.

Figure out what you are OK with cutting from or cutting back on in your schedule—you may have time for writing that you didn’t realize you had, if you make writing more of a priority.

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So that’s my secret, how I make time for writing. Using those methods, I typically write two to three poems a month, though my “goal”, if I have one at all, is only 1 poem every two months. I write less and have less time for it, but I use my writing time much more efficiently—when I sit down to write, I WRITE!

I hope that some of these tips will give you ideas so that you can do the same!

31  Days

What are your time limitations? What are some activities you could cut back on to make room for writing?

The Marriage of Text and Tune

Today is going to be a little different.  After a brief “how to worship God with our writing” exercise (song lyrics), I will be mainly exploring a way to take that writing a step further (setting it to pre-existing music).

In the last three posts, I introduced three different ideas to explore for possible song lyrics.  Today, I challenge you to implement one of these and write a song, but first it would be a good idea to brush up on meter.

For those of you who have never written lyrics before (and especially for those of you who don’t know anything about music theory), I would suggest sticking to an 8.6.8.6. iambic (common meter), 8.8.8.8. iambic (long meter), or 6.6.6.6. iambic (short meter).

Once you are satisfied with your lyrics, choose a tune from a hymnal you have lying around for the tune.  You don’t have a hymnal?  Go ask your pastor or music minister, chances are you will walk away with 3 or 4 different hymnals from the boxes and boxes of them your church has in storage.

In the back of the hymnal are several indexes listed the hymns by author, title, tune title, and tune meter (plus or minus one or two other criteria depending on the hymnal).  When you finish your lyrics, start looking through the tune meter index to find all of the tunes listed with the meter you chose.  Try singing your song to a few familiar and a few unfamiliar tunes (if you can’t read music, type in the hymn name into www.nethymnal.org to listen to a midi version).

It is very important to find a tune that matches the lyrics well.  You have a specific feel in mind when writing the lyrics, so you should find a tune that best gets that feel across.  One example I like use a lot is Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.  This link takes you to see the lyrics and hear my favorite tune for it: EBENEZER.  In 1991, however, the Baptist hymnal decided to change the tune from EBENEZER to HARRIS.  In 2008, the Baptist hymnal kept the HARRIS tune.

In my opinion, switching from EBENEZER to HARRIS was a huge travesty.  First of all, the lyrics to the song are filled with water imagery, and the rhythm of the tune EBENEZER feels like waves crashing on the shore.  The HARRIS tune, however, feels like a pub song.  It seems to me that the editors of the 1991 Baptist hymnal wanted to shy away from tunes in minor keys, so this song was given a tune that made it feel more upbeat and “happy”.  What it loses, though, with this is change is a proper marriage of tune and text.

When you are selecting your tune, do not think about which tune makes you feel happiest.  Think about which tune carries the same message that your lyrics carry.  Only then will a song truly work to speak the message it was meant to speak.

31  Days

Scripture Paraphrase

by Bryan Emerson

Scripture paraphrase is a longstanding church tradition, especially considering the Psalms.  The Jewish church sang the Psalter regularly in their worship practices, so it was only natural for the Christian church to desire to carry on the tradition.

During the Reformation, John Calvin had a nearly completed Psalter translated and paraphrased into meter.  It was immensely important to Calvin to sing only Scripture during worship, but he considered a good paraphrase to be quite edifying.

There are a few things to take into account when paraphrasing Scripture, though:

  1. A paraphrase is not authoritative.  Only the original manuscripts are without error, and while we trust that God has kept His word safe through the translation processes, all paraphrases are skewed toward the beliefs of the paraphraser, no matter how sound those beliefs may be
  1. A good paraphrase will always focus on the main idea of the passage.  Each Biblical passage has a primary message, and many will often have secondary and tertiary messages as well.  These secondary and tertiary messages may sometimes be used to help back up theological ideas, but they should never be used to base a theological argument.  In the same way, a paraphrase should never be built on the secondary or tertiary messages of a passage.
  1. Paraphrases may be strict or loose, so long as they do not stretch into heresy.  When trying to put Scripture into meter, you may go line by line and try to keep as much of the original text as you can; but you may also take the main ideas and details from the passage and make it more personal or poetic as you wish, as long as the main ideas are kept intact and still reflect good theology.

These are not the only things to take into account when paraphrasing, but these three will take you a long way.  Here are some of my favorite examples of Scripture paraphrases, in songwriting:

Jon Foreman – Equally SkilledMicah 7

Matt Redman – 10000 ReasonsPsalm 103

Martin Luther – A Mighty FortressPsalm 46

31  DaysFive Minute Free-Write: Have you ever paraphrased scripture in song-writing? What are the difficulties you found, when attempting to paraphrase?