Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Writing like Dostovesky or Lucado
Writing has always been a struggle for me both at the level of production (amount) and quality (style). Once I was told by a professor in my doctoral program that my writing was Schlecht (which for you non-German readers means bad or poor!) and that I would need to ratchet it up several notches if I were to succeed in academia.
I appreciated that the professor thought that academic writing should have both excellent research and literary qualities. If you read dissertations you will realize quickly the lack of emphasis on the latter. His prescription to my writing foibles was to read 19th century novels to gain a sense of style required for excellent academic writing. So I took the first summer of my Ph.D. to read a couple of Dostoevsky novels: the Idiot and Brothers Karamasov. It was a great experience for an person who has read very little classic literature (I hated English in High School and avoided it in College as much as I could). While I would not claim that my thesis is of a high literary quality to say the least (please!), don't be surprise if you find traces of the style of the English translation of Dostoevsky.
Recently, I have been attempting to write for a wider audience (interested laity) and I have struggled to write in a way that avoids complex and pregnant sentences--the stuff of good German and 19th century literary style. One older and wiser mentor suggested to me recently that I need to read Max Lucado. Truth be told many years ago (probably a couple of decades ago) I read almost everything Lucado had written. However, when my friend recommend this to me--and his recommendation was perhaps tongue-in-cheek--I balked: Max Lucado are you kidding that is like one step above Joel Osteen. Still as I reflected on his recommendation, it made me realize that when I write for the church that is exactly the kind of voice I need to hear rolling around in my head as I am constructing thoughts in sentences. So, in the short term, I'll be putting down War and Peace and picking up Cast of Charaters.