Cursing and Praying

Dark pink flowers from a bougainvillea plant set against brownish grass, a wooden fence, and trees beyond the fence. Wordage: Happy Monday

Mark Twain once said that “under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer,” and people have been swearing as long as they’ve been praying.

That’s an interesting tidbit of trivia about Mark Twain, and it is a fact that folks have used colorful language for a lot more than describing pretty flowers or what’s on their palette as they prepare to paint.

That is true for me, too, although I wasn’t always inclined to drop word-bombs into my daily speech. In fact, when I set out to write my first mystery, Doubletake, with my co-conspirator, er, writer, I had a real hard time with certain words. My prose tended to reflect the person I was. A mother of young kids. Writer of a family-based humor column. Wife of an ordained Permanent Deacon. Hospital minister. Volunteer at the elementary school library – something that I absolutely loved doing. All those books. All those excited little faces coming to the desk with their treasures.

Margaret Sutton was a total opposite. She had no kids. Wasn’t a seasoned writer. Owned her own thriving manufacturing business. Hobnobbed with the top echelon if the gay community in Dallas. Never went to church. And was a little rough around some of her edges.

Okay. A lot rough around some of her edges.

Cover for Doubletake by Maryann Miller & Margaret Sutton. Gun barrel with a hint of vapor coming from the muzzle. Blurred hand holding the gun.

Despite our disparate backgrounds, the writing partnership worked. She has a delightful sense of humor and one time took me out behind her barn to make me say all the words that horrible sadistic killers used. By becoming more comfortable with the words, I could then type them into my sections of the story without blushing and wanting to cover my monitor with a brown bag lest one of my kids happened into my office.

This process also helped me write scenes that blended so well with hers, that it came to a point where we couldn’t tell the difference in the sections, although she continued to be better at some of the grittier parts than I was.

When the book was first published by a small press in Nebraska, I sent my mother a copy. The next time we talked on the phone she asked, “Maryann. Did you save all those words I told you not to say when you were a kid and put them in this book?”

I laughed and told her, “Of course. I had to let them out somewhere.”

Years later, when Open Season, the first book in the Seasons Mystery Series was published, there was a celebration for me at the local art center. People who attended knew my strong connection to church and ministry and one brave person asked how I balanced the use of “language” in the book with my spiritual and religious endeavors.

The question brought a smile. Most people tend to forget that characters are just that – characters. Not a replication of the author. Yes, parts of ourselves are infused in each story, but we are not the people that live out those stories. So, that day I told the questioner that I only had the characters speak and act the way they needed to be true to themselves. I didn’t feel like I had to go to confession.

That drew a bit of laughter, which is always good when giving a talk.

Something else that came to mind when thinking about that quote from Mark Twain, was when a good friend told my daughter who was about ten at the time, that she could yell and curse at God over the unfairness of the tragic death of a little boy. The boy was the son of mutual friends who’d been playing with my twins, all about the same age, when he was hit by a big truck pulling a small Kat.

My daughter, who often babysat the little boy and his sisters, was devastated, just trembling with anger that God allowed that to happen. Our friend told her she could go to her room and scream at God, even curse, because God has broad shoulders and can take it.

It’s also a form of prayer, as odd as that sounds.

Prayer is “a spiritual communion with God,” and even railing at Him qualifies. Think of Job who wailed and cried out to God to take the pain and suffering away. That isn’t so different from what my friend was encouraging my daughter to do. Not to turn away from Him, but letting Him know the depth of our despair and anger.

Granted, that kind of railing can be done without using colorful language, but as Twain said, a few pointed curse words carry a whole lot more weight than merely saying heck or darn.

That’s all for today folks. Hope your week is off to a good start and whatever you have planned goes smoothly. Be safe. Be happy.

3 thoughts on “Cursing and Praying”

    1. Glad you liked the blog post, Barb and thanks so much for getting Doubletake. Hope you enjoy the read & it would be lovely if you could leave a short review on Amazon when you finish.

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