7 Things the Founding Fathers can Teach You about Writing
Happy Independence Day to all of my American readers!!! I hope you had a marvelous celebration and took honour our great nation’s rich heritage.
The Founding Fathers, were brilliant men with much to teach us. Yet writing isn’t usually one of the topics that spring to mind when we consider them. However, I’ve come up with seven lessons you can learn from them to make you a better writer!
Understand that What You Have Comes from God
This is a simple truth with powerful implications. If what you have been gifted with comes from God, then you must recognize that it comes with a certain responsibility. Our Founding Fathers understood this which is why they stated,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights… (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence)
Our ability to write comes directly from God which means that we have an obligation to Him above all else to produce literature of value to the world.
Respect the Rules, Break Them If You Must
Americawas not born in a murderous uprising likeHaiti’s slave revolution, nor was it born in the all-dangerous fashion of the French Revolution. We abided by the rules of our Lord and Master,England, until it restrained us. Only after exploring every other option, did we choose revolution.
We decided it was better to die free, than live as slaves.
Give me liberty or give me death! (Patrick Henry)
Your challenges in writing many not be a question of your dignity or freedom as it pertains to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” yet our freedom to write as our ability enables us can be restrained at times when we allow the rules of the craft to restrict us.
Understand the rules, yet break them when necessary.
Diversity Makes You Better
E pluribus unum: out of many, one.
Americais the greatest melting pot imaginable! What nation can boast of the diversity we do? English Puritans and German Moravians, explorers and criminals, “natives” and foreigners; whites, blacks, reds, and more composed this great nation and our diversity has only increased over time. Through this diversity, we have and continue to strive toward the goal of becoming one people. Our diversity makes us what we are.
In writing, it’s best not to be a one-trick pony. Mix it up! Play with different styles, explore various genres. You would be surprised at how they work together to make you a better writer.
Following the Crowd Gets You Nowhere
There were many American Colonists who, when confrontation arose, found themselves on the wrong side of the fence. The Tories (loyal the crown) chose what they’d always known; the easy, popular choice, and it didn’t work out too well for them.
I would not begin to explain the reasoning behind all Loyalists, yet one thing is certain—striving for independence was not the easy, popular choice to make. Breaking away from what you’ve always known is never easy, but it can be beneficial when done for the right reasons.
Writing is the same. If you write what’s popular, what’s already been done to death, you’ll find yourself drowning in a sea of commonality. Even if your work is exceptional, it is likely to remain unnoticed or be rejected if it is discovered.
We don’t need another vampire novel. Please don’t write a knock-off 50 Shades of Grey novel! Write something new! And if you must write an older concept, write it in a way that’s never been done before.
You’re Not Your Best without Freedom
What prisoner or slave do you know that’s ever produced Class-A work? None. Enslavement removes all incentive to create and achieve a thing. The Founding Fathers knewAmericacould never be her best without freedom. The British taxes and regulations were strangling her to death, sucking her dry. (I’m sure having an insane king had something to do with this…)
Independencewas to our Founding Fathers what creativity and entrepreneurship are to Modern America; it is our expression of freedom. Without it, we will never be our best.
Someone Will ALWAYS Try to Interpret Your Words
So many ill-informed (or intentionally destructive) individuals are running around trying to interpret what the Founding Fathers really meant in their writings and actions.
“The Founding Fathers were rich, white slave-owning men who hated black people!”
“The Founding Fathers weren’t really Christian! They were Masons and deists!”
These people would rather construct their opinions on the baseless, errant works instead of reading their words for themselves and learning from those who actually knew the men they so inaccurately describe. Such is history.
Writers are no different. Someone will always try to dissect your works. My recommendation is to be as clear as possible. Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay. Ensure that your work lines up with who you are as an individual and leave the rest to God.
Leave a Legacy
If the Founding Fathers accomplished anything, it was legacy. this was it. And although some seek to skew and diminish that legacy, it doesn’t make their contributions to our nation any less honourable.
As a writer, it’s important to leave a legacy. How will your work affect your overall craft and those who will read your works in years to come? Think of the the Bible, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and other ancient works that withstood the test of time. Think even of the great unknowns whose works somehow made it into the right hands to shape the next great American, European, African, etc. authors?
Even if only one person reads your work, make it so that it impacts that one person for the rest of their life.
The Founding Fathers taught us much. Many of them were great authors themselves and through their writings we can learn much from their intelligence, resilience, and unwavering convictions. Allow their lives to teach you even now.
See also "Founders Fridays: Revisionist History" [Video]