Friday 16 February 2018

Beautiful Writing

By Cindy Williams @nutritionchic 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. (Psalm 19:1-2)

They say that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader. I love reading but my literary diet has been almost vegan-like: restricted mostly to nutritional science, Christian fiction and non-fiction, and the Bible. I have been woefully starved of literary classics and so, in pursuit of a balanced literary diet, I decided that this year I would read every one of my son’s prescribed texts for IB Literature.

The reading list arrived and I eagerly read the reviews for each one: Sophocles’ Greek tragedies – great! ‘Woman at Point Zero’ – prostitution and female genital mutilation… gulp. ‘The God of Small Things’ – child sexual abuse and an anatomically detailed sex scene… gulp, gulp. ‘Perfume’ – mass murder of virgins… a deluge of disappointment drowned my eager anticipation.

Was the Christian school really going to make teenagers study such themes? Was there no good literature with uplifting themes? Was I just an over-protective and out-of-touch mother?

 ‘But the writing is so beautiful,’ said my friend, commenting about 'Perfume'.

Is beautiful writing a good enough reason to read it, I wondered. Over the summer I read two of the prescribed texts, plus another with more hope filled themes. All three had beautiful writing that made me sigh with delight.

“How about peaches, dear?” murmurs Madame Manec, and Marie-Laure can hear a can opening, juice slopping into a bowl. Seconds later, she’s eating wet wedges of sunlight. (All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr)

His feet were short and broad, and when he stood or walked his heels came together and his feet opened outwards as if they had quarreled and meant to go in different directions. (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)

 The jam was still hot and on its sticky, scarlet surface, thick pink froth was dying slowly. Little banana bubbles drowning deep in jam and nobody to help them. (The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy)

I have concluded that beautiful writing is like the honey that my mother mixed with crushed panadol when we were ill. Themes and images that we might normally avoid slide into our mind on the sweetness of the writing. On the flip side, beautiful writing eases the way for non-believers to consider the life giving themes of the Bible.

 As Christian readers let us be eager to consume a healthy literary diet with plenty of themes that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

 As Christian writers let us pray and ask our Lord, the ultimate author, to bless us with his creativity so we can write words as beautiful and uplifting as those he pours forth from the heavens.

 About Cindy Williams 

With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy has worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.

Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize. She writes a blog - - stories of health, history, food and faraway places.

Cindy lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance.


  1. Thanks for these thoughts, Cindy--and for those wonderful examples from the books you read. I loved 'All the Light We Cannot See' but haven't read the others as yet. I think we need some kind of balanced diet when we read, remembering, as you have already said, those true, lovely and admirable themes, and also picking the right times in our lives to read any darker themed books. And yes, hopefully our reading such beautifully written books will enable us to become better writers along the way.

  2. Thanks Jo-Anne. I loved 'All the Light We Cannot See.' The other two have some horrible scenes and questionable themes - certainly the 'sometimes food' of a balanced literary diet!!

  3. Hi Cindy, great post! I prefer to read happy stories with positive themes like hope, redemption, forgiveness. I'll occasionally pick up a challenging read on deeper topics, but I'm still looking for a takeaway message that is hopeful rather than hopeless. Beautiful writing can also be boring writing if the characters and story aren't engaging. I'm sometimes suspicious of reviews that wax on about beautiful writing and wonder if there's a reason why the reviewer isn't focusing on the story? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. :)


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