You’ve heard the one about the perfectionist who walked into the bar…?
Apparently the bar wasn’t set high enough.
Lots of writers are perfectionists. Lots of perfectionists are writers. Funny how that happens. And of course, all of us perfectionist writers (Go on, raise your hand! We both know we’re talking about you!), strive for the perfect content, perfectly executed, so that we can live happily ever after until the next deadline.
This week, I’m tackling the last, and perhaps, biggest “R”: delivering up content that is totally, supremely RELEVANT. There’s nothing that will stab the frail, scattered wisps of your reader’s attention and literally staple them to your piece, like a topic that speaks directly to their heart, soul, and/or mind; preferably all three!
But being relevant comes with its occupational hazards, especially when writing for a frum audience. Frum literature is beautifully encircled by boundaries—some are crystal clear, while others are sort of fuzzy. All must be respected. At the same time, the frum reader is hungry to explore the stuff that keeps him or her up at night.
If you’ve read my books, you know that my mission is to explore hot-button issues in frum society through the non-threatening, entertaining lens of fiction. You may also know that my work is often on the edge, what I call “fashionably controversial”, which means I push the envelope without getting excommunicated.
What you may not know, however, is how I walk the tightrope without falling off.
I’m aiming to deliver up INSIGHT, not to INCITE.
My axes to grind stay behind at the forge.
Chip on my shoulder? Pass the popcorn.
And don’t even get me started on settling scores…
When I begin from a place of genuine curiosity, empathy, and respect, I can try to teach and inspire. But if I’m just trying to make lots of noise and kick up dust—or even worse, take sweet revenge, gloat, or work through a personal vendetta, I’ll probably just get myself put in time-out.
How do you stay relevant while coloring inside the lines?
Love how you write, Riva. You had me hooked from the start! What’s interesting is that the three Rs apply to teaching as well…so I definitely am listening up!
As to how I try to stay relevant…Miriam Adahan coined a term ‘Spiritual Alchemy’- essentially means creating light out of darkness, or trying to find the spark of light in a dark situation. I usually start with something hard I’m going through, and I realize even though the circumstances might be different, all people have the same challenges in different forms. For example, the article I just posted about mistakes…we all make mistakes and we all have made mistakes that keep us up at night. If I can shed some light in that darkness, I’m sure people will want to pull up a chair and listen.
So many themes in writing are universal, and there aren’t so many of them- love, acceptance, forgiveness, believing in yourself, trust, faith…when you pick a universal theme and give it an interesting package, people will want to listen because they have those themes in their life as well…I feel our job as Frum writers is to figure out a way to tie up that theme to our relationship with Hashem