Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Wilderking Trilogy, The Charlatan’s Boy, and The Terrible Speed of Mercy, among other books. He hosts The Habit Podcast, The Habit Membership, and The Habit Weekly, a letter for writers. He has contributed to the Rabbit Room since its beginning.
Writing is an incarnational art: in fiction and narrative nonfiction, we communicate ideas not through the abstract language of ideas, but through the concrete language of the material world. This is what I call "writing close to the earth." For the Christian, writing close to the earth is an act of faith. We believe that the earth is full of God's glory, that God communicated his Word to us not only through the Bible (which contains much more story and poetry than exposition), but also by taking on flesh and dwelling among us. He spoke the material world into existence just as surely as he spoke the Word into existence.
All of this is good news for the writer. We don't have to give meaning to our world. The meaning is there already. If you are a writer of fiction or creative nonfiction, your first job is to see the world that God actually put you in—not the world as you wish it were, or the world as you think it ought to be, but the world where you live. As you learn to see that world, and then to portray it faithfully, you can trust that meaning will find its way to your reader.
To write close to the earth is not to ignore or to be unconcerned with big ideas. Rather, writing close to the earth is about getting at the truth by way of the concrete, the material, the earthy. There are times and situations when exposition, even abstraction are exactly what the doctor ordered. Those situations, however, are not our concern in this course. We're going to hunker down and get muddy and leave abstractions to others.
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Wilderking Trilogy, The Charlatan’s Boy, and The Terrible Speed of Mercy, among other books. He hosts The Habit Podcast, The Habit Membership, and The Habit Weekly, a letter for writers. He has contributed to The Rabbit Room since its beginning.
Week 1: Concrete and Abstract Language—November 8
This week we will focus on the difference between abstract and concrete language and start nurturing the habit of concrete, sensory language.
Week 2: Vision—November 15
What does it mean to see like a writer?
[Break for Thanksgiving.]
Week 3: People and Places—November 29
How do places shape people and stories? How do people and places shape stories?
Week 4: Memory and Meaning—December 6
Memory is the raw material of most writing. When you commit your memories to writing, you preserve and reclaim them. More importantly, you begin to see meaning that may not have been apparent when the events were happening.
How to Sign Up for the Course
There are two ways to sign up for the course: