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Larry Woiwode


The Word Made Flesh

For the writer, working in metaphor is a life-and-death matter.

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

The heart of an artist's life is metaphor. I'm not sure how to say that with the impact it deserves. Maybe this: Metaphor is the currency of the artist's inner economics. That might convey the appropriate weight at this numb end of the nineties when a person in a position of authority can put one's daughter or dear woman friend to convenient sexual use and then lie about it, and it's perfectly OK as long as we all have money in the bank. Or so it is if we can trust the polls.

Metaphor is the currency of the writer's inner economics. Metaphor is where the artist works every hour of work. And not only works in it, and habitually thinks in it, as most do even when they aren't working, but the very act of creation itself is metaphor. That letter you wrote is.

The finished work an artist produces is metaphor. It isn't quite the thing it self, or life itself, as the artist knows, or that artist would be in deep trouble. And it isn't like life, which is a simile. There is greater power of engagement in it than simile, or the artist wouldn't be able to continue because the work, first of all, has to hold the artist's attention. Nor is any finished work the truth itself, quite, though it may contain threads of truth. The proof is that en during writers keep producing more books.

The artist who creates noteworthy work, and in addition professes to be a Christian, inclines toward truth in a way that others may not, as in "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Such definitions of truth generally lie beneath most of what Christians say and do, and they exert an authoritative impact. That impact is especially felt by a writer, or so I find—a worker in words fashioning metaphors for The Word as King.

When any artist does actual work, however, a sense of each essential I've mentioned—of this being the thing in itself, life itself, like life, or ...

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