Enjoying Life...One Slice at a Time – Meet Darlene Hight…
Interview by Debbie Porter
FWM: Darlene, you’ve been an active member of FaithWriter since June, 2004, as well as working as part of the FaithWriters’ Magazine team for twelve months. During that time, I think it would be easier to count the number of times you haven’t entered the Writing Challenge, than to tally up the number of times you have. What is it about the Challenge that is so appealing...dare I say, addictive?
DARLENE: I started doing the challenges on a whim. I was in the middle of a Christian Writers Guild course which I found to be reasonably challenging and also included a deadline that I had to meet each month. I am the type of person who gives myself deadlines. For instance, with the novel that I am working on, I will set a certain number of chapters that I want completed by a target date.
The first Writing Challenge that I entered was for the topic word "rest." At the time of that challenge, I felt extremely pressed to meet several deadlines and therefore came up with a silly poem titled, "Ready Set Rest." http://www.faithwriters.com/writing-challenge-article-previous.php?id=1921. I enjoyed the interaction with other writers and the feedback. From that time on, I was completely hooked. As I saw my skills improve, plus the benefit of knowing which types of writing people responded to and which type bombed, it was, and continues to be, too good of an opportunity to pass up.
FWM: In one of your articles at FaithWriters, "The Kitchen Classroom," http://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=15538 you credit your dad as being the one to spark your love affair with words. What other influences have brought you to this point as a writer?
DARLENE: I always have used writing as a way to express myself. In my early days of writing, I mostly journaled or wrote poetry. When I worked in the Human Service field, I would get comments about my reports, letters, etc. I wrote the employee newsletter. I dreamed of writing a book, being an author, but it wasn’t until I left my fulltime job that I started pursuing writing in a serious way.
Even then it was sporadic, until right before I joined FaithWriters. That year, I made the decision to get serious about my writing. I signed up for the Christian Writers Guild course and joined a writers group in my area. I began emailing back and forth with a lady to critique each others work. She is the one who pointed me to FaithWriters.
It was like suddenly writing moved to the front burner after years of dreaming of being a writer. I don’t think that I actually took myself seriously until I was approached by someone who wanted to use one of my articles on their website. It was the very first article that I ever posted in the articles section at FaithWriters, and it is still my most requested article – "Can I Get a Witness?" http://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=14191
FWM: What are your greatest motivations?
DARLENE: I love hearing that my writing spoke to someone. At one time, I wanted to write because I loved it, but also because I wanted to share my thoughts. I don’t care too much about sharing my thoughts these days. I want to share God’s word in a way that will lead someone closer to Him, whether this is a Christian who draws closer because of something that I have written, or someone who isn’t a Christian but finds something worthwhile in what I have written. I once thought that making money at my writing was pretty key. I see a higher purpose for it now. Not that I have any problem with making a little money but I want to use my writing to glorify God, however that works.
FWM: Fairly recently, you took what seemed to be a left turn from your normal style of writing. Up until then, your style tended to fit into the inspirational article category – always full of godly wisdom for life. So, what brought about this apparent re-direction into writing these wonderful "Slice of Life" scripts?
DARLENE: This question makes me chuckle just a little bit. I had another FaithWriter ask me if I had ever written drama before, because I really seem to have a knack for it. I told her that drama is what I do, and everything else is new. That is really the truth. I never considered these "Slice of Life" scripts to be "writing," until I wrote one for the Writers’ Challenge and got such positive feedback.
I have been in drama ministry for about ten years and have been drama coordinator for four different churches. I’ve written drama as a part of that ministry but somehow it seemed separate from "real writing" until recently. Last quarter after I wrote the first Slice of Life script for the Writers’ Challenge, I added a personal challenge that I would write a script for each of the topic words. I didn’t know if I could do that or not. My script writing has been occasional whenever we needed one for something at church. I have written a one-person play but it is very different than the style of writing that I have been doing for the Writers’ Challenge and the Magazine.
FWM: Well, I learn something new every day! And here I was thinking that you had suddenly discovered a theatrical bent.
So although you’ve been a "drama queen" (in the nicest possible way) for a decade, the actual "Slice of Life" idea for your writing is quite new. What do you think it is about these little scripts that works so well? (And they do work very well.) Have you heard of anyone using them in church yet?
DARLENE: The "Slice of Life" illustrations are what I have always considered "jump off" scripts and are mostly the style of drama that I use. They work particularly well as an introduction to a sermon. "Cross Point Scripts" writes and produces scripts similar to these. The scripts are, also, typical of the style used at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, IL. I believe that people relate to the little scenes and it sets the stage for them to hear a message on that topic.
One of the strongest reasons that I write them and use them in our church is my husband. My husband is a visual learner. He doesn’t get much from sermons that are strictly lecture variety. I know that many people fall into that category, so I write for him and for them.
I haven’t heard of anybody using the scripts in their church yet but I want to go on record by saying, "Please use them!" I want the scripts to be used and of course I would love to hear that they have been. Send me an email if you use them didget_01 @yahoo.com. I don’t have any plans for selling any of my scripts so if you can use them please do and then just let me know how they worked.
FWM: Darlene, I found it very interesting that you are someone who works best with deadlines. I know exactly what you mean – in fact, I don’t think I could cope without them, or goals for that matter. Obviously, discipline is very important for a writer. What other characteristics or attributes do you consider vital for anyone who wants to get serious with their writing?
DARLENE: I believe the most important thing, other than discipline and practice, is to take yourself out of the writing. My dad once said to me, "Darlene, I fell in love with everything that I ever wrote. I had to get over that and you will too." What he meant by that is that our words aren’t golden. We need to be willing to listen to other people and writers about how to make our writing better without getting our feelings hurt. Writers don’t improve unless they learn that lesson.
FWM: What are your goals for the future?
DARLENE: I mentioned before that I wrote a one-person play. It is temporarily shelved but I felt led by God to write that and I believe at some point I will be performing it in churches. I am just waiting for God to open the starting gate. I also have a couple of fiction books in the works and a non-fiction on the Fruit of the Spirit.
FWM: You mentioned that before you made that quite deliberate commitment to get serious about your writing, that you had mainly written poetry and journaled. Journaling is something that a lot of people find incredibly beneficial, whether they have ambitions to be a writer or not. Do you still journal today? What do you think are the main benefits of keeping a journal?
DARLENE: I do still journal. Journaling is when I get completely and totally real with God. I just lay everything out there, no matter how pitiful or ugly, and He ministers to me through it. I love and hate reading back over my journal entries, especially after a few years. It really causes me to see how God has worked in my life.
FWM: Now that you are no longer working full time, do you find that you are busier than ever? What would be a "normal" day for Darlene Hight?
Yikes! Normal day?! As if that could ever happen!! [Okay now that I got that out of my system.] A normal day for Darlene – I actually have two normal days. I have a normal "summer break" day when the kids are out of school and then I have a normal "school days" day. But let me back up...
When I originally quit working full time, God gave me about a month of reprieve. During that time, I had no kids at home. I cleaned closets and puttered around the house, thoroughly enjoying myself. I spent time writing and it truly was a touch of heaven. I didn’t originally know how long I would be at home. God, quickly, got me up to speed with my mom’s double hip replacement, my husband’s travel schedule, and then weddings and grandchildren.
Currently, I am in the role of Grandma/Mom to four grandsons. My youngest son lives with us, with his four boys. My day begins at 5 A.M. I don’t roll out of bed at that time, but that is when hubby leaves for work. I am awake and pondering life before rolling out myself at around 7A.M. My son and oldest grandson are next out the door. They manage this without assistance from me most of the time. At 7:30 A.M. life gets moving as I get the two middle grandsons up, dressed and out the door by 8:15 A.M. Then, me and the little guy (4-year-old) settle into our routine.
I help him get dressed and he moves into his world of daytime kids programming or videos and playing with his trains, etc. I spend about a half hour with my Bible and talking with God, then shower, etc. The rest of the day until 3 pm is a combination of working on church projects, writing, and housework. I am the church secretary for our small, meet-in-a-school, church plant. This involves approx. two hours a day. My husband and I are the outreach coordinators at our church and I am the drama coordinator. I generally schedule meetings for in the evening. That is, also, when I do the majority of my writing. I am a night owl, so most evenings I am locked away in the office working on something. I watch very little TV, the exception to this is an occasional Home and Garden program or Antiques Road show with Hubby.
Fortunately, I am definitely a ‘multi task’ variety person. Any trip that I go on includes my notebook and whatever writing project that I am working on. My challenge article, "Get Me Outta Here," was written on the way to a company picnic. My husband often helps me write; some of the best lines in that particular piece came from him.
At this stage of my life, I have very little girlfriend time. I make up for this by participating on the FaithWriter’s or City Gate forums. These places also allow opportunities to mentor and be mentored. I know this is a long answer but the truth is I have long days. The structure is there, but it wouldn’t be easily recognized by most people.
FWM: Darlene, thank you so much for sharing this slice of your life with us. It’s been a delight to spend this time with you. May God give you the desires of your heart.
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