Thursday, February 04, 2010

Writing: Thoughts about the Wisdom of Foolishness

(If you're looking for the next installment, just scroll down to the next post!)

So why is it that I'm writing a book? There are a number of answers to that question.

For example, in the book "Why Johnny Can't Preach?" which the circuit pastor's conference just read for our January meeting, T. David Gordon, makes the case that a pastor who doesn't spend a good number of hours a week writing (it doesn't matter what - journaling, poetry, articles, etc.) is a pastor who will be a poor preacher. (The same, he says, goes for reading and contemplation as well!)

Then there is that part of Pastor Fisk you might not know yet: I am a writer. It's what I do. Originally, it was my intention to make writing a career. I didn't plan to be a pastor. I planned to write, to teach English, to compose, to edit: I wasn't quite sure. But my BA is in Creative Writing (which includes a minor in English Lit.) From the time I was twenty I've been trying to write books - both fiction and theology. (I do place some emphasis on that "trying" part. I did finish one fiction novel when I was 23, but...let's just say it'll stay in the files. And I have several theological books in complete first draft forms, but not at a point ready for publication.)

So I love to write, which, (as George Orwell points out in his little book, "Why I Write,") means that I hate to write but I have no choice in the matter: I write. In his words, "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some [passion that] one can neither resist nor understand."

So, there's two reasons. Pastors are supposed to write, and Pastor Fisk can't help but write. And then, there is this: the eNews. I started this eNews when we were in the midst of implementing the Revitalization process. It became clear that we needed a central source for information as we "moved forward" week by week. At that point, the writing I was doing for the eNews was an attempt to create some stability and purpose to the ideas we were pursuing. Revitalization came and went, but the eNews lived on. The new dilemma was that, without a goal to write about, the writing started to take a toll on me. I started banging my ahead against a wall every Tuesday afternoon trying to figure out what to talk about to keep the eNews feeling eNewsy.

Then my eyes (somehow) drifted across an old, half finished book I kept in a three ring binder on my shelf. "The Meaning of Life," I had called it. "That's good stuff," I thought. "It's mostly simple, has a purpose, and will give me a muse to pull ideas from." So I started to pull my eNews topics from the chapters and sections of that book.

I fear that the publication has become less engaging since I went from publishing entire chapters, to publishing sections. You might remember that simple time-constraints have pressed me to write in bite-sized chunks. I could, of course, not publish anything until a chapter is finished, but then, I wouldn't be serving the eNews.

Maybe you see a little of the dilemma? It's even more bizarre, in that "The Wisdom of Foolishness" (the tentative new name for the book,) is not even the book I really am compelled to be working on! (That book, if I'm lucky, I get to work on for about an hour on Thursday mornings - but I haven't touched it for two weeks and going.) Wheels within wheels within wheels!

So I could (A) just stop writing this book and not include any theology in the eNews. Or I could (B) write in bite-sized chunks, but only send out full chapters. Or (C) just keep going along as it is.

I'm not sure. What do you think?

I'm rather convinced bite-sized chunks is not the best way to read a book like the one I'm writing. It is meant to be read a chapter at a time. But it's a great way to write one because, with a deadline, its a good way to crank out a 1-2 pages a week. There could even be some real advantages to the long term goals. Think of it: the world really does need a Biblical counter to the massively popular "Purpose Driven Life" phenomenon. And here we are, a writer and a group of readers who could, conceivably, provide immediate feedback every week. We would not be the first congregation to see the writing of books as a valid and important part of Christian outreach and mission. But even that would look a little different than what we're doing right now.

In any case, I just wanted to pass on some of my thoughts that are bouncing around my head as I labor to get a little "writing" done for the eNews. For now, I'm out of time!

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