I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Writing Advice from Thomas Edison


From elementary school on, we frequently studied American inventor-hero, Thomas Edison. He constantly experimented with materials and procedures until, from his scientific imagination, he birthed into existence an amazing number of products. When outcomes failed, Edison refused to be deterred, saying, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

Edison tested over 400 possible filament materials for electric light bulbs alone before finding one that worked. His patience was tested further in experiments for a later invention. His response? "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

He ultimately registered over 1,000 patents. After achieving success, when asked the secret of his triumphs, he listed good, old fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves American ingenuity and elbow grease. Edison defined genius as "one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Edison's life is a great analogy for those of us on the writers' path. There is no one single way to begin or end any book. I require writing students to strategize at least five possible beginnings and five endings, and then choose the best. (I try to follow my own advice.) Edison's advice fits while developing varying plot twists and turns, foreshadowings, layered character development and theme revelations, black moments and epiphanies. Keep at it. Try one angle, evaluate it, and then try another and judge which is best.

Don't judge your writing so closely that you can no longer see it clearly. Share it with mentors and critique friends. Absorb their feedback, asking God to show you which is meaningful and important to incorporate now. Also ask Him which feedback does not fit who you are and your message. Keep on keeping on, knowing you are gaining skill and steady progress. Refuse discouragement. Sooner or later, through trial and error, by failure and renewal and sheer effort, the right pieces will connect, the filament will ignite and the light bulb will turn on.

When Edison invented the phonograph, his first sound recording repeated the initial electronic long-distance telegraph message Samuel Morse sent 33 years earlier, "What God hath wrought." May those be our words, too, as God helps us improve and complete our writings, while declaring and glorifying Him.

~Delores Topliff

12 comments:

  1. I have shared much of this information with students over the years. Edison was an amazing man! I believe the point is where we chose to place our focus. If we focus on all that is negative, we have a negative reaction to everything. If we chose to learn from all that happens, we benefit and grow.

    Thanks for the reminder today!

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  2. Oh, how well I identify with the 10,000 attempts. I'm probably at 10,001 with my WIP. *sigh* But I want to give God my best and if it takes 10,500, that's what I'll do. Thanks Dee for an informative and inspirational post!

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  3. I love Thomas Edison's story. What wonderful encouragement for all of us, in whatever our endeavors are.

    Thanks, Delores, for this inspiring post.

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  4. Thank you for this story Dee. I'll have to remember Edison when I'm at the 9,999th way I find that my writing does not work! lol

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  5. Awesome post, Dee!! Encouraging!! Yay!!

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  6. Dee, you always know the right thing to say to encourage me. Thomas Edison is a terrific role model for anyone struggling with their heart's desire. Thanks for this great reminder!

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  7. Love this post. I know some writers who are so critical they cant finish anything. By the time you show it to a few people to critique and go over it a few times, it's time to give it a rest and trust your gift and talents.

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  8. Dee, you are a natural encourager and I love how you share a story with a practical application! This post comes at the end of DT--a perfect way to put an exclamation point to all we've learned!

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  9. Little did I know when I wrote this blog how timely it would be in terms of Deep Thinkers. God has helped and encouraged all of attending during these five days.

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  10. Dee! I only just read this post, and how I am wishing I had read it Monday, on my "dark day." YOU truly are an encourager, and I thank God for putting you in my life! Miss you already, my friend!

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  11. Wonderful post. Thanks for the encouraging role models--you and Edison!

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  12. Wow, thankful for and sending blessings to each one of you!

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