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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)

TITLE: Sojourning Beneath God’s Tooth
By TJ Nickel
01/21/08


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Nearly one year ago, I entered my first article into the weekly Writing Challenge here at Faithwriters.com. I did it as a test. What did I have to say, and how would it be received? Led to the site through a creative writing course at a Christian university, I saw the topic of ‘Reading’ and I couldn’t resist. I knew a lot about reading, but could I write about it? I put my fingers on home and began to write. I wrote about one book in particular, and I wrote about one person in particular. The book was Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. The person was my sister, whom I affectionately called both a sophist and my Socrates.

After reviewing the guidelines and checking out some of the competition, I asked my Socrates whether I should place the article in Advanced – where I thought I probably ought to place it – or in Beginners. She told me I should enter in Beginners and really work my way up the ladder. Making it to Masters would then be quite the achievement, and I’d be sure that a few lucky entries didn’t build me up as a writer without merit. So, I listened and hoped I’d win in Beginners with my first entry. That entry placed in the Top 15 of Beginners. Top 15 in Beginners isn’t bad, but no Top 40 Overall as I’d hoped.

A few of my following entries also placed in the Top 15 of Beginners, but they never made the Top 40 Overall. I couldn’t even break the Top 10 of Beginners. I was writing under my actual name at that time. I was frustrated. I thought the writing life might be harder than I could bear. Then, a few kind words came my way and I was urged to strongly consider jumping to Advanced. I did it. Of course, I did not consult my previously mentioned midwife. Socrates and the sophist were out; I’d found Isocrates.

I began my second quarter in The Challenge with my own challenge in mind. I’d make it into Masters and become a well known writer in the Faithwriters community. I’d be published regularly through my winning articles. Putting my work in Advanced was necessary to give my writing the presupposed authority that may seem questionable in my method by it being in Beginners. My style was a bit quirky, but it worked. They’d see. I even changed my name in the process, finding a pen name I’d use for all my writing going forward.

It has been nearly a year. I have still never placed in the Top 40. I have never placed in the Top 15 of Advanced. I have seen both success and a loss of success drive very good writers into the consideration of discontinuing their entries into this contest. What is it that makes for good writing? What is this writing life really supposed to look like? Isocrates had given her answer. I called Socrates to confirm its truth.

“You still haven’t read the book, have you?”

“Still on page 40, and a chapter on time.”

“I can’t tell you then.”

“But, I’ve read The Writing Life, Holy the Firm, and Teaching a Stone to Talk. Surely that’s enough to make sense of it.”

“Don’t write again until you’ve read it.”

My sophist turned Socrates was there in the beginning story for my Challenge Life, Part I. I suppose it is only fitting for her to be there as that chapter ends. I have a book to go read. I’ve made it through 40 pages and a chapter on time since she gave it to me just over ten years ago. This isn’t a 66 page book about some holy moth, either. I have a feeling it’s a book from which I may never return. But sojourn I must, fully knowing that my writing life now stands defenseless beneath God’s tooth. So. Thank you, Isocrates. Here I come, Tinker Creek.


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This article has been read 735 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 01/24/08
This is a very, very interesting piece. You actually caught me by surprise and kept my attention throughout this very interesting and transparent read. I like how your honesty comes through the words and how you kept this interesting. ^_^
Emily Gibson01/26/08
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of my favorite books and well worth the read.

Hang in there! You are learning your craft essay by essay!
Debbie Wistrom01/28/08
On topic to the tee. Thanks for the truth of your entry, keep up the good words.
Jan Ackerson 01/28/08
God's Tooth! What an awesome metaphor! Your writing just astounds me, regardless of where it does or doesn't place. *in a singsong voice* "I know who you're writing about..." This is one of my favorites of yours.
Lynda Schultz 01/28/08
You've made it absolutely impossible for me to move on with my life until I've gotten ahold of that book, and read it! Tons of insight here and a fascinating read.
LauraLee Shaw01/28/08
I really enjoyed this piece. And oh, how many will connect and be ministered to. Your title is fab!!!!
Catrina Bradley 01/28/08
After reading this, I went back to read your first challenge entry then reread this one. Your talent, your gift, is so amazing. I also had to look up "Pilgrimage at Tinker Creek" not being familiar with it. It's going on my Amazon wish list :) Anyway, as always, you blew me away. Why you haven't placed yet is beyond me. We'd better see you back here when you finish the book! Love, Cat.
Dee Yoder 01/30/08
I can always count on you to come up with a unique writing idea! This is a great essay and account of a writer in the Challenge. On topic and full of things to think about. Love the title, too.
Beth LaBuff 01/30/08
Over the weeks/months I've read many of your entries and am always amazed at the depth of your writing. I have no answers as to why you haven't placed that are different than those you've heard already. But you ARE a writer with a unique story to tell.