I’m a germaphobe.
The Urban Dictionary’s definition for a germaphobe is any person obsessed with cleanliness and defeating bacteria. Yup, that’s me.
I still hover over my kids at the bathroom sink when they come home from school to ensure hot water and the proper amount of soap and scrub-time is utilized. I sanitize the grocery cart, dig my own pen from my purse to sign the kids out from school, and feel the strong need to take a shower after I watch an episode of Dirty Jobs.
Yes, I’m strange. So you can see how I struggle with that passage in the Bible when Jesus eats with his disciples without asking them to wash their hands.
I can’t help my thoughts… Jesus—I really don’t want to be a Pharisee…I really am on your side, but please. Don’t make me cringe. Please Jesus, make them wash their hands!
Thankfully for me, Jesus isn’t really advocating for dirty hands. As usual, he’s making a point—likely to me. This, I think, is the gist of what he’s saying: Heidi, I don’t care how “good” you might look on the outside. I don’t even care how many rules you keep, how perfect your driving record is, how well you write, how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. Heidi, I’m after your heart.
Jesus didn’t come to create boundaries and rules. He came to break down boundaries and capture our rebel hearts.
We must remember this as we write. No matter our genre or publishing history, our job as writers is to break down boundaries, to connect to our readers. To touch the very thing Jesus was after—their hearts.
Here are a few things I try to do to connect to readers and grab their hearts. Because I’m still so far from an expert on writing, I would love for you to add to the list in the comments below.
Be honest as you write. I believe this is how we find our writing voice. Forget the rules—at least on that first draft—and just write.
Get uncomfortable with yourself. Francine Rivers says that every time she sits down to write a book, she has a question in her mind. A question she might struggle with in her own walk of faith. In A Voice in the Wind the question was how to share a faith no one around her wanted to hear about. That’s the kind of question that can make you squirm (kind of like those germs). But boy, did that question aid in the making of an amazing book.
Create believable characters your readers can relate to. Characters—like real people—need both good and bad qualities.
Paint that picture. In Stein on Writing, Sol Stein says to give your reader at least one visual feast on each page. And yes, I know you’re sick of hearing it, but show, don’t tell.
That’s it for me, I’m off to sanitize the door knobs and wipe down the vacuum cleaner. Happy writing!
Heidi Chiavaroli writes History Woven in Grace. She is a wife, mother, disciple, and grace-clinger. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has finaled in the Genesis contest and My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest.