Aug 20, 2007

Writing Heaven

by Joyce DiPastena

A little over two weeks ago, I was sitting with my sister in a four-day Choral Academy at BYU. Enrolled at the “amateur” level, my goal was to learn some new techniques to improve my ability to lead the ward choir. (As we were repeatedly reminded, it’s not “my ward choir”, it’s “the ward choir”…after all, I’m not the owner of the choir!)

As I said, I was there to learn, and boy did I! More than I can possibly remember, in spite of a notebook full of excellent handouts and my own conscientiously scribbled notes. One of the goals of the professors leading the course was to teach us to lead music “the BYU way.” These professors have analyzed conducting patterns in a whole new way from the patterns most of us are familiar with from the back of our hymnbooks. Although at first their method felt overly analytical and extreme, I soon came to recognize much merit in their techniques. (If only I could remember half of what they were. Fortunately, BYU is coming out with a conducting DVD—“soon”, the professors promise—so I’ll bide my time until I have access to the “refresher course”.)

These professors were quite stalwart in their conviction that “the BYU way” is the best and most efficient method for leading choirs and choruses. Dr. Ron Staheli, who headed the course, did concede that their method was only one of many methods of leading music, and although he thought BYU’s was the best, he admitted that he’d had many lively discussions on the matter with Conductor Craig Jessop, conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In the end, Dr. Staheli said he and Brother Jessop simply “agreed to disagree”, and then he repeated the following statement with which Brother Jessop frequently ended their discussions:

“There are many roads to choral heaven.”

I have reflected on that statement again and again, particularly as I’ve pondered what to write about for today.

If there are many roads to choral heaven, is it not likely that there are many roads to writing heaven, as well?

I remember when I was much younger, the horrible guilt I felt because I simply was not interested in writing LDS-themed novels. I had a testimony. I loved the gospel. I was active in the Church, and was thankful for my pioneer heritage…but the last thing I wanted to write was a novel based in pioneer times. I actually became so distressed, that I once mentioned my conflict to my bishop. To my surprise and relief, he said to me, “Joyce, there are probably many people in the Church who can write about the pioneers. Maybe what you have to offer simply lies in the Middle Ages.” (The time period I’d confessed I WAS interested in writing about.)

Since then, I have still struggled with my “writing road to heaven”, but with some degree of greater peace in my subject matter.

If each of us are like snowflakes (as I’ve sometimes heard it said), no two of us alike, then why should any two of us walk exactly the same writing road? Some of us write beautiful poetry. I can’t make a rhyme to save my life. Some write lyrical melodies. I can “reproduce”, via the piano, what someone else puts on a page, but my personal gift does not include the musical creative process. Some write skits and roadshows. Again, not something within my range of talents! Some are gifted in fantasy, in children’s books, in biographies, in journaling. I haven’t seriously journaled since college, and even then it was more out of duty than love. And yes, some can write beautiful, inspiring stories about the pioneers, or other LDS experiences, that both entertain and uplift the weary soul.

But that does not seem to be my road to walk. Yet if Heavenly Father not only knows me, but knows both my talents and my interests—and if our talents likely emerged in the Pre-Mortal life—might our interests in particular historical eras somehow stretch back that far, as well? Then surely he understands, and even supports me, as I walk my own, unique road to writing heaven.

As much as we, as ANWA Sisters, walk together in our writing, each of us, in the end, must also walk our own road to some degree alone, with only the Spirit at our side.

Which road are you taking to writing heaven?


  1. Great post, Joyce! Thank you for the well-written thoughts and insights. I have learned that I am very grateful for those who share their individual gifts to bring us that beautiful music and poetry and romance and history. I hope one day to add my gifts to that. I want to write things that will help families heal.

  2. Joyce, I loved hearing of the conducting course, and would love to know more. Prod me when the DVD comes out, please.

    Isn't it wonderful that we have different interests and talents? Wouldn't it be dull if everybody wrote the same? Or talked the same? Or thought the same aout everything? I'm glad you like the Middle Ages.

    I'm still trying to find what I want to do, besides knitting, crocheting, reading, and commenting on blogs.

  3. Thank goodness we all like different stuff. I'd be lost without my mysteries and fantasies, but I also adore biographies and social science books. I don't really know what is my genre in writing, except at work it's technical, and I can even live with that!

  4. Like the sentiment in one of my favorite songs -- 'Many Different Roads Lead to Glory.' Thanks for the great thoughts.


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