Tag Archives: writing

Are you an expert?

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“Rats.”

I got to my daughter’s house to watch the kids all day and forgot everything – my writer’s notebook, the book I was going to start reading, and, darn it, I should have remembered to bring my laptop.

Nothing.

Oh, well. Ana always has really good books ready to read, so I selected searching for sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Although I can’t yet recommend the book, so far, so good. I usually read with a pencil, but it didn’t belong to me, so when I came to a particularly riveting line, I stopped to make a note of it in my writer’s notebook.

Rats. No notebook.

And I said, out loud, as if reprimanding myself, “Evidently, you’re not a real writer at all.”

Thankfully, and just as quickly, I snickered, shook my head, and began to wonder where that came from. It didn’t take long to figure it out. It came from “experts”.

I am the member of at least 4 on-line writing groups. We regularly comment when a question is posed, some have broken into smaller groups to read and critique each other’s writing, and we post things only fellow writers would enjoy. And each group has been organized by a professional writer with a lot to offer. They have generously made themselves available to those of us investigating ways to improve our own craft. They don’t offer all of their experiential knowledge for free, but they suggest reliable resources and can help point you in the right direction if you are looking for professional guidance or a new perspective.

In other words, they are experts. A well-deserved title and I give them all the props. They have paid their dues, worked hard, broken through big obstacles, and revealed inevitable pitfalls for those of us who are just beginning.

Yes, they are experts.  But, that doesn’t mean that everything they say is a requirement or that they are all-powerful and make the rules. Rules like If you want to be a real writer:

  • you must write everyday.
  • you must write at least 1,000 (or 500, or 10,000, or some other random number) words a day.
  • you must always carry your notebook so you can write down brilliant ideas, thoughts, and epiphanies.

Yes, they are experts in the craft of writing, in the process of publishing, in knowing which resources are the most valuable. And most of them write eloquently and cleverly and have ingenious stories to tell. But they are not experts of being an artist. They are not the experts of who God created me to be.

Once again, and please do not misunderstand. I’m casting no aspersions on people who offer assistance, guidance, advice, or wisdom about anything. And I’m grateful for the mistakes I have avoided because of them. But, just because someone has a website with 243,819 followers does not mean that they can do the work God asked me to do – nor can they necessarily judge it.

So, no – my day was not ruined. As it turned out, I took cell phone pictures of a couple of pages from Rachel’s book and found a piece of very un-remarkable notebook paper to document my thoughts. Not eloquent, but purpose serving.

So back to my reading and these words in searching for sunday:

Our church believed the Bible, so we practiced immersion. Believer’s baptism, we called it. Had we lived in sixteenth-century Switzerland, we might have been killed for such a conviction, symbolically drowned or possibly burned by fellow Protestants who considered the “second baptisms” of the radical reformers heretical. (Fun fact: more Christians were martyred by one another in the decades after the Reformation than were martyred by the Roman Empire.)*

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Now, stay with me. This has been on my mind for some time. Not the drowning or burning or martyring.

Not that those issues are insignificant. And truth be told, we are not doing a better job of being humans than any generation past.

Not when you consider the constant and consistent stories of child abuse and racial conflict. Not with the random storms that rage against those who believe differently. Not with the condition of our government; no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself, the future does not look bright. The disregard of those who have no voice. The subtle and blatant ways that those with less than are run over or simply dismissed.

But that is not what has been so heavy on my heart.

Just as alarming as the violence or injustice is the assumption that God will smooth it over for Us. That because we are Believers, our political and social positions should and will prevail and our lives of comfort and security restored.

As if lives of comfort and security for Believers are Biblical or guaranteed.

As if everything would be fine and dandy if everyone would simply believe in Jesus and conform to our expectations.

As if we have finally at this very point in history gotten it completely figured out. That our understanding of the Bible is the proper understanding. That, as a Church, we know God better than any generation before us ever has.

As if we are the experts. Like the sixteenth-century Swiss Protestants thought about their faith and beliefs.

As if, had we lived in sixteenth century Switzerland, we would have been able to set those other Protestants straight about baptism and any other subject they cared to bring up or argue.

As if we have the inside spiritual scoop on every ding-dang topic and story from politics to sex to alcohol.

My sweet and dear lovelies, I don’t believe for one second that I have it right. Except I’m pretty sure I don’t have it all right.

But I do know this: I’m responsible for me – not for what others believe, or how they vote, or who they love, or when they get baptized.

And I know Jesus loves me and wants me in Heaven with Him and my dad and granddads and all others who have gone before me. He didn’t come here to briefly lose his human life in the most agonizing way to impress me or as a suggestion for eternal life. If there were other ways to God the Father, I’m pretty sure Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and avoided the whole “life on earth” thing.

And I know I’m not supposed to keep the love of Jesus for myself. I’m supposed to spread it around like crazy, freely, with wild abandon.

Not because I’m an expert or the boss of you or because I have all the answers. But because that’s the only way anyone will ever want what I have. That’s the only way they’ll know I’m a Christian – by my love.

 

I’m supposed to spread the love of Jesus around–like crazy, freely, w/ wild abandon. Click to Tweet

 

*Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 11: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 71.

What the editor said…

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letters-1500992_1280The only “editors” I’ve ever worked with are college professors and Tim.

But in spite of all of the heart and mind prep I’ve done and all of the advice and cautions I’ve read, I knew there’d come a day. A day when I’d have to let go, open up, and be truly willing to learn and revise and improve. There would be a day when I would work with a professional editor on a project that I couldn’t do alone.

Last Tuesday was it. “Here you go, Andi. What do you think?”

When I got her email Friday, I sat down. I prayed that I would be a professional and a grown-up. And then I clicked it open with one eye closed.

I read as slowly as I could. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But my head knew that there would be a lot to process, even though my heart hoped for flowers and applause. This is a reasonably accurate transcript of my initial response.

Oh, how sweet. Thanks so much…
Okay, sure, I see that …
Really? …
Ouch …
I don’t see that …
What do you mean? …
Ouch!! …

How do I do that? …
(etc. etc.) …

Oh, okay, well thanks, I guess.

You get the picture.

It wasn’t flowers and applause, but it wasn’t a steamroller. In fact, I’ll bet it was very much like a lot of other comments written by a lot of other really good and honest and kind editors.

But it was my first one. So, a little bit of ouch. (Okay, maybe more than I want to admit.)

And then I remembered praying for the professional and grown-up approach. So I wrote back quickly, promising to ponder and reread and get back to her.

Which I did just this morning. I’d read her comments and advice several times. I’d read the work of suggested writers and then reread what I had submitted. I prayed again. And I wrote an honest reply, with a few questions, a few explanations, and probably a little bit of whining. And…

Good golly, Miss Molly, she answered right away.

You know what? Those Ouches and Really?’s and What does that mean?’s were a bit premature. My own tendency to pile on and assume the worst and return to “not good enough” turned her honest comments into more slice-and-dice than she ever meant.

Her thoughtful and expert intentions were clear – just not to me.

Not to the one who either doubts herself into surrender or blurts stuff out without thinking. Not to the one who can’t find the balance.

But, believe it or not, this was a good day. Because instead of stewing in the dark mess I had conjured up for myself, I didn’t wait or hesitate or dawdle about looking for some reason not to put words to my feelings. I didn’t let the fear of hearing “the truth” keep me from being a grown-up and facing the editorial process with faith. And a little bit of confidence.

The truth is that I really do trust Andi. And the truth is I can’t do this by myself.

Even if I think flowers and applause are in my future.

So, stay tuned for project updates. Right now, it’s just an alphabetical dream. But I’m hoping soon I can give you all a taste of gratitude – seasoned with my personal spice and stirred by, who else, but my editor, Andi.

 

What the editor said… the very first time. Click to Tweet.