Of Woodpiles and Word Piles

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By Davalynn Spencer

I recently had a cord of firewood delivered to my home. A cord is roughly a stack that is four feet high, four feet deep, and eight feet long. The depth of the stack or length of the logs varies and, therefore, affects the price and identifying name: full cord, face cord, stove cord, etc.

However, my wood was not delivered “stacked.” It was dumped like a big pile of words out behind the house and you-know-who got to put them into some semblance of order.

I am compelled to stack my firewood for two reasons. The first – rattlesnakes. Haphazard piles are a more inviting hideaway than neatly laid logs. If the snakes stretch themselves along the top of the stack to sun, I can see them. And if it’s that warm, I don’t need the wood anyway.

The second reason is the pleasure I find in an orderly, patterned collection – much like well-chosen words lined up in a sentence.

Working with either words or wood is a tedious, one-piece-at-a-time business, but oh the satisfaction when the job is done well!

A few common principles support both tasks:

  • Foundation

Wood: Do I want my wood raised off the soil an inch or two? Will I risk stacking it on uneven ground, or will I find/make a level place to prevent it from tumbling?

Words: Is the foundation of my book solid? Do I set the stage for my fictional world with a well-laid premise?

  • Appearance

Wood: Do I want sloping ends on the stacked wood, or will it buttress against something like bookends?

Words: Are the beginning and end of my story succinct and satisfying?

  • Structure

Wood: Do the logs fit together in an orderly fashion? Or is something not quite right that topples the whole thing?

Words: Are my story themes and motifs consistent throughout?

I believe these principles can be applied in many activities, whether we quilt, cook, paint, sculpt, or calculate. What about those who work with children, people with special needs, or the elderly?

Is there anything we do that does not require attention to detail or is unaffected by how we handle individual components?

God has given each of us a place in this world to operate creatively like He did.

What an opportunity.

Maybe we should take a moment to step back and ask, “How is my work pile stacking up?”


Whatever you do, do well.
Eccl. 9:10 (NLT)

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Bestselling author and Will Rogers Gold Medallion winner for Inspirational Western Fiction, Davalynn Spencer is the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters. When she’s not writing Western romance, she teaches writing workshops and wrangles Blue the Cowdog and feline mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with her at www.davalynnspencer.com.



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