They say editing is an art, and, whether you’re editing yourself or someone else, I believe it. Saying too much can come so easily, written or spoken, that it affects just about every genre! Though writing dialogue can be hard, I guess the dialogue between writer and audience bears some of the same challenges.
For instance, I was playing around a with theme for a hymn. I found a nice pattern and jotted down a few ideas. Ah, but here’s the rub: I’d love to write a perfect piece incorporating every bit of beautifulness. Admittedly, the Triune God took 66 books to reveal Himself and His Son, but somehow I feel like I can summarize, with artistic flair, in, hmmmm, maybe 16 four-line verses?
Really, I’m off-track and biting off more than I can chew.
But let’s look at the contest‘s guidelines:
We are seeking original hymn texts that are
- theologically strong (grounded in Scripture and Christological),
- poetically sound,
- filled with fresh imagery,
- fitting for liturgical use and congregational signing, and
- centered on themes of the Lutheran Reformation
Examples of Lutheran Reformation themes may include, but are not limited to,
- the proclamation of Christ and His saving work,
- the primacy of Scripture,
- justification by grace alone,
- salvation through faith alone,
- the Gospel,
- the Sacraments, and
- new life in Christ.
But, how do you proclaim Christ and His saving work without the Gospel? Without the means of grace, the power of the Word and the Sacraments? I want to write about it all! With neat biblical illusions, very readable language, winsome style, and, oh wait, also fresh imagery?
I want to bite and chew that all! Read, mark, and inwardly digest! But sharing something with others has to be . . . well, less chewing and more shared.
You’re going to have to help me out. This contest needs a winner, you know, and maybe that winner will be you!
The truth is that saying too much can mess up the dialogue. For the writer, it takes a stream of consciousness and dwindles it down with too many rivulets. It may frolic in the author’s passionate or conquest, but, for the audience, it can overwhelm, perhaps both the brain and the eye. Saying too much can be insensitive, presumptuous about the audience, and less sharing/more speaking over.
Even excitement can need a bit of self-imposed editing for the sake of clarity and sharing it with others. An author is more than his or her grand opus. It takes more than one conversation and, frankly, more than one book to really say your piece. It takes more than one hymn to make a hymnal, and more than our enthusiastic intentions to educate/influence/inspire, etc.
So, I asked my husband, a man of fewer words. He said I should aim for four and offered me an entirely different direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, the contest allows for multiple entries! Why not, as a writing exercise, try to write a 3-5 stanza hymn?
One Response to Saying Too Much
I am great at this mistake.
I think saying too much often comes from wanting to answer questions or criticisms we imagine arising in the reader’s mind. I can see a hole or a potential hole, so I want to fill it in before someone rips into it and tears the whole thing to pieces.
I try to remember two things: first, a writer has a duty to be clear, but a reader also has a duty to ask questions in an honest way; ie recognizing that ripping for the joy of it is not criticism (which is only worth anything if it is undertaken with intellectual integrity) but destruction. Second, that readers see different holes than writers. The writer just can’t imagine and deal with them all and, as you point out, will make trouble for everyone by not recognizing this.
Also that “Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior” is nothing like the Summa Theologica. 😀