Okay, now for a personal post. I usually don’t do these, but some encouragement/wisdom from others might help. I don’t know what exactly has been the cause, but the past few weeks have seen my desire to write and effect change rise to a level I’ve previously never known, only to be brought low by information on every side.
If I had to guess, I think my increase in desire and confidence to write has been inflamed by several fronts. First, intellectually, I’ve been experiencing a clarity and creativity of thought concerning books I’ve been wanting to write. Books that have been rolling around in my mind for about a year finally have some shape, structure, and direction. Also, I’ve been feeling more confident in my ability to think and subsequently express those thoughts in writing. This little slavery and atheism series I’ve been doing has been giving me a chance to flex some muscles I didn’t know were there. This has led to lots of affirmation and encouragement from others concerning my writing prospects. This has put writing in the front and center of my mind.
But, anxieties and insecurities ensue, both from within and without . . .
My own mind hears the echoes of every bit of wisdom I’ve received about the arrogance of youth, my tendency to be merely reactive, and my inordinate desire to be “novel” in some way. My life has been marked by a distinct lack of humility and excess of judgment, inevitably leading to being brought back in my thinking to those whom I first judged (example from 2004 here). My interests are so scattered, I don’t even know what exactly I would write. That’s one of the biggest weaknesses to my blogging. Blogging Rule #1: have a theme, attract the audience to go along with that theme, and stick with the theme. With interests including psychology, philosophy, politics, technology, entertainment, web design, art, and everything Christianity, I don’t know what to do. My unfinished projects include everything from music to plays to journal articles. Part of me looks at all these aspirations and knows just how much research, time, and effort each of these monstrosities will require, and I fear I’ll find myself lacking. As has been painfully shown to me recently, I really am historically incompetent. The History of America, the World, Western Thought, and even Christianity itself is painfully lost on me. I wonder if the effort to catch up is worth the words I might have to say. These are all arguments I have with myself many evenings.
But, in the end, my arrogance and the promises I’ve heard all my life that God’s gonna use me for big things generally wins out in these late night ruminations of doubt and insecurity, and I’m right back to planning my “next big thing”. But –
In the past couple weeks, my hopes have been dashed upon rocks outside my own mind existing at the base of the lighthouse of the blogosphere. First there was this diddy which absolutely crushed me. My favorite part: “in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies”. That’s nearly half. Almost half the books published in America sell less than 100 copies. Not only that, I keep running into really great writing by really young Christian writers already writing for major publications (ex: 1, 2, 3). How did they break-in there? The only answer I hear is that they wrote a lot for along time with little to no exposure of any kind and slowly worked their way in. But I have thoughts I want to get out there, that I want people to read, that have already helped a very small number of people greatly. Do I hold on to those things until my “break” or is that how I get there? I don’t know. (Crap. This post has shifted from calm reflections to ranting monologue. Okay, let’s bring it back in.)
Not only do I see really great articles being written by my peers in great publications, but they’re also writing books. But here’s the bad news: they’re books I’ve never heard of! I can’t tell you how many young bloggers I’ve run across only the past couple of days that all have their one publication plastered all over their blog trying to get it to sell (ex: 1, 2). And these are books/bloggers I would have expected to have heard of with the circles I run in online. But I haven’t. People with higher-quality blogs, more readers, and books have still not made any sort of ripple in my water even though they’re doing cannonballs in the same pool. What makes me think I can? And lastly, I have discovered so many more “webzines” and “group blogs” of Christians-exploring-culture-art-politics-evangelicalism-and-Christianity than I ever knew existed (ex: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). And these are some sweet looking sites with some amazing content. Suddenly my own little corner of the web with my own fledgling “webzine” and blog seems a whole lot smaller. So why write?
To conclude, I’ll offer a cause and a cure to my ills. The cause of all this is the stupid internet. I remember reading in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman how the ubiquity of the internet combined with the opportunity in Globalization was going to allow for even the poorest of the poor to make a real economic impact in the world. He talked about how seemingly anyone could now make a movie, post it on YouTube, and make an international name for themselves. More and more records are being recorded and mixed using super cheap software and hardware and then being thrown up on iTunes for anyone to get. Countless new services are around to help you self-publish books and print them on demand (great article on moving from “Me-on-Web” to “We-on-Web” here). But the dark side of all this is that it floods the market, devalues and cheapens work, and creates a culture where thought and creativity don’t set you apart, but rather your ability to self-promote and scream louder than those around you. I don’t like it. It’s frustrating. And it exposes my insecurities, my arrogances (is that a word?), and my pride.
Which brings me to my solution to all of this. I don’t write unto people, but unto God. Exaltation, exposure, and influence are His business, not mine. He has put it in my heart to write. I can’t not do it. I’m a communicator at heart. I must do it. And I shall. What He does with it I gladly receive. If I am able to make a name for myself and lose Christ, it is ultimately the most worthless of endeavors. I pray that intimacy with Him is not lost for the sake of the affirmation of others. I idolize people and the security they can offer me. It has been the story of my life that He will strip me of those opportunities and individuals I would easily replace Him with so as to give me more of Himself. Ah, how sweet it really is. Also, if I believe that we will still be making art, culture, and ideas in the life to come (which I do), why wouldn’t I have all of eternity to write as well? These books will be written. Those plays will be written. That music will be written. Whether the keystrokes will be made with glorified or fallen fingers, these things will find their way into creation.
And the name of Christ will be praised.