Saturday, September 3, 2022

Writing Tips from Mister Rogers


by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

Whether watching it as a child or with our grandchildren, many of us are familiar with the Mister Rogers Neighborhood show on PBS. Fred Rogers began the show in 1968 and it ran to 2001. It’s been shown in reruns ever since. Mr. Rogers, after changing into his comfy sweater and slippers, welcomed us into his home and his neighbor every morning. 

As a child, Fred Rogers was shy and overweight. Children often bullied about of his weight. He was often homebound because of a bout of asthma. While he was stuck in his bedroom, he found a refuge by creating his own imaginary worlds.

When he first saw a television as a teenager, he recognized its potential to reach children. In a CNN interview, he said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who watch and listen.”

Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and, rather than being a pastor of a church, his mission was to minister to children and their parents. (Maybe this will spark an idea the next time we grumble about a social media platform.)

Through his many years of teaching on his shows, Mr. Rogers gave us some tips we can use as writers.

Tips for Writers from Mister Rogers

1. Recognize your place in the writing community.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Writers spend much of our time alone facing a blank page or screen. But, as a writer, you are an integral part of a much larger network and community of other writers. Becoming a part of that community offers you more strength and knowledge than going it alone.

I like how Mr. Rogers puts it. There will be times when we can give and help someone else. There are going to be other times when we need to receive. And I find it often occurs at the same time. That is where critique groups and writing conferences can be so helpful.

Now, I know I’m writing to a lot of introverts who laugh at the idea of joining any group, even if it is a group of writers. But it may amaze you at how many other members of the group will feel the same as you. There is just something about gathering with people who like the same thing as you. It’s called finding your tribe, or your ‘peeps’. 

2. Appreciate each other’s uniqueness.

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has or ever will have, something inside that is unique to all time.”

This is so important as you get involved in the community of writers. It is easy to put other people on a pedestal. To wish you were like that person who seems to have all the awards and publishing contracts.

And maybe someday you will. Or maybe, your journey will lead you in a totally different direction. In John 21, Jesus tells Peter to follow Him, and tells him what Peter will face in the future. Peter, like what many of us would do, points out John and asks Jesus, “What about him?”

And Jesus basically tells Peter that what He has planned for John is none of his business.

We all have unique gifts, personalities, interests, and callings. And they will lead us in different directions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other, strengthen each other, and celebrate each other as we go on our different paths.

3. Reconsider your definition of success.

“It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: what we are ultimately determines what we do.”

I just got back from one of my favorite writers’ conferences. And Saturday night, I sat in a huge ballroom as they gave out their awards, one for which I was nominated. I expected to feel the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat.

And, honestly, I had been dreading that agony for weeks. I even let it rob me of much of my joy of going to the conference. Then, when they called the winner—yep, it wasn’t me.

But the agony wasn’t as great as I’d built it up to be. Instead, through other’s testimonies of what writing meant to them, the opportunities and struggles they’d gone through, I realized it wasn’t all about me, but it was about the community I was a part of. Even though I wanted my name called (badly), I could still celebrate the one who won. And I realized it didn’t diminish me or what I do.

4. Show grace to others and yourself.

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front—and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”

Expectations. We all have them. How we see the future developing for ourselves and others. And when our expectations aren’t met, our name isn’t called, we can be quick to blame ourselves, someone else, or God. Especially God, because He always has the last word, right?

But we should hold our expectations very loosely. We don’t know what God’s ultimate plan is. It may be better that you miss that important meeting so you can talk to a mechanic. Maybe that blouse you are wearing with the baby’s spit up is what someone else in your office needed to see. It’s not that you aren’t perfect (Although you aren’t, but you already know that.), but God has a bigger plan working than you realize.

What is the saying, do your best and accept the rest?

Mr. Rogers wanted to teach kids about their community. And I want you to recognize this community of writers of which you are a part. If you are already a member of a group, congratulations. You know what a blessing, a treasure, and a responsibility it can be.

If you haven’t found your place yet, please consider becoming involved. Two groups that may be a place for you are Word Weavers and ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). These have local chapters scattered throughout the country, as well as online groups for you. If you do devotions, Katy Kauffman at Lighthouse Bible Studies may be able to help.

And if you still don’t know what to do, stay right here. The Write Conversation is a community that wants to see you excel in writing and your journey with God. You can start by just leaving a comment.

Welcome to the community. I can’t wait to see all God has planned for us.

TWEETABLE

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at www.timingreenville.com and www.openingamystery.com.

9 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading.
      Tim Suddeth

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  2. Tim, thanks for some well-timed reminders about the bigger picture. :)

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  3. Yes, yes, yes! :-)

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  4. Thanks for your inspiring post, Mr. Suddeth. I still watch Mr. Rogers with my grandchildren. His lessons are timeless. Applying them to writing adds a special dimension to them. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. My son likes watching its offshoot, Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.

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  5. So helpful and encouraging, Tim, especially as we recall those times our name wasn't called! Thank you for reminding us we aren't alone--we're part of a very special community.

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