i've always thought of myself as a writer, mostly because i've always been writing. when i was a little kid i used to sit in the back of the schoolbus and write stories. when i was in high school i tried to take every writing class i could. i used to write in my free time. i still do. when i first began working in ministry i began writing more and more (plays, songs, stories, whatever) thinking that there would be good opps for good writing.
along the way, though, i gathered this impression that *people* thought writing was a waste of time and that i really shouldn't bother with it. that made me sad, but at the time i felt like i understood.
then we started writing atlases for westwinds.
it was a strange sort of beginning - almost an accident, really. norma everly, a lovely gal who loves christ and loves her church, transcribes all our messages after the fact. she does this for sunday teachings, but also for other stuff - like sunday school or mid-week stuff when we ask her. we had taught a new believer's class at the winds, and norma had transcribed it so when we - about a year later - considered teaching that material on a sunday it just made sense that we'd take her transcriptions and put them into some sort of book form. that way, people could read up on the material beforehand and get prepared.
the response was really positive, so we began doing it more and more and more until, now, we pretty much do it for every single teaching series.
i've often thought this has been a cool way to bring my love for writing back into my ministry. it has all felt really natural, and there's so much good fruit from it (both within the winds, and through amazon.com and the internet as well).
having written about 30 atlases now, though, i'm beginning to wonder if non-fiction writing is as helpful as i'd like it to be.
when "the shack" was published there was such a huge outbreak of enthusiasm and support that i immediately went and bought it and read it (as i do most popular books, as a means of staying in step with the popular mind/culture). i was so disappointed. the story was great, and his thoughts on spirituality were terrific, but i thought the writing was poor.
still - the shack has done 100 million times as much good as all our atlases combined. that might simply be because god has chosen to use that book in a special way, but it might also be because simple fiction is easier for most people to identify with than simple non-fiction.
non-fiction feels like work or school, but fiction feels like the beach or a sunday afternoon on the couch.
i'd like to write some fiction. i've written a bunch of short stories and whatnot for the winds (and those have been really fun), but i'd like to write a few that are a little longer, a little more involved, and (yup) a little more like the shack.
i kind of cringe at that statement, but if i'm honest that 'cringing' is pride. thing is, i have no reason to be proud. especially not these days, and especially not about writing. i've had some signficant writing-related disappointments this past year, and been told (by people i think know what they're talking about) that i shouldn't waste my time. that hurts. but then i think about the guy who wrote the shack, and about all the other cringing-jerks like me who didn't like his writing, and i think: well, even if i'm no hemmingway, i ought to at least do the things that god has placed inside me to do... and if that means writing some crummy fiction, then so be it.
that's all any of us can do, isn't it? do what we love, work to get better at it, stay sweet while doing it.
so, in a couple of years when you're scouring for trashy summer reading at the local thrift store, enjoy my forthcoming theological speculations concerning the gospel of atlantis, the recovery of quantum magic and potentiality (as taught by angels and dragons), and that one about the guy who wakes us from a coma only to discover he's satan.
they probably won't be worthy of pulitzers, but i hope you still get a few moments of reprieve from life's tragedies because of them.
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