Jan 29, 2010
By Christine Thackeray
(Warning: What you are about to read is highly judgemental. You may want to cover your eyebrows so they don't get singed when I'm struck down from heaven.)
Last Sunday a perfectly coiffed woman stood in Sacrament Meeting to speak on the way to raise a family in righteousness. She explained how important it was to lower the dishes to the bottom cupboards so the children could put the dishes away in the dishwasher themselves and how putting up hooks in their rooms at their level gave them the opportunity to hang up their own backpacks. She shared with us how difficult it was to allow her children to be able to make their own beds because they weren't perfectly straight, but that in time they had learned to do almost as good a job as she had. She said how essential it was that we kept our homes in perfect order so that the spirit could be there. Each word out of this woman's mouth seemed to grate on me more and more until her voice produced the same effect as the sound of long cat-like fingernails being raked across a chalkboard.
As I left, I wondered why I was so bothered by her advice. More than the fact there was NOTHING scriptural that came out of her mouth was the sense that although these trite axioms may work for some, other woman would find them to be disastrous. My second son loved breaking things. He smashed every toy we put in front of him, and if I had lowered the dishes to be in his reach, I wouldn't have had any dishes left. The hook idea was one I tried but those little hooks rarely can hold the weight of a toddler looping a belt buckle across it and trying to go repelling against the wall or swinging like Tarzan. And beds that are regularly jumped on have very little hope of staying neat.
It wasn't until three days later that the real reason her words bothered me finally surfaced. She was teaching APPLICATION, not PRINCIPLE. The reality is that the principle of adjusting your expectations and life to meet the physical and spiritual needs of your children is entirely accurate, but how you do that depends on the dynamics of your own family unit. For some that may mean the ideas she mentioned like having the dishes within reach and for others it may mean just the opposite. That is where the gift of individual revelation comes in.
Tonight I joined a new critique group that I'm really excited about. As we went around the table discussing our upcoming projects and our personal ways of organizing our thoughts, I was surprised that each of us had a slightly different way of doing it. One wrote major plot points, did a character overview and then a chapter by chapter synopsis before she ever began her first draft. Another just began with a strong idea, hoping the end would become more clear as she went forward. One wrote random chapters out of order that she is piecing together later. I like to write a brief synopsis, do some character work and then throw it all away and work with those things in mind but be willing to deviate depending on the dynamics of the scene.
I guess the thing I learned was even with our differences, we can all be correct. The principle is that you have to have a plan but how you develop that plan and follow it can be completely different for each writer. Like Sinatra sang, "I'm doing it my way!" (Okay, so maybe those weren't the exact words but I believe in literary license.) There was a reason Joseph Smith said "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." So I guess I received great benefit from that talk last Sunday after all. Hmm.