Yesterday, I received an eagerly awaited book in the mail. It may have been the first time I was anxious to get a book I’d already read through twice. Winter Light by Bruce Ray Smith is the first book released by my publisher. Somewhere between prose and poetry, it’s an exceptional work. But I wanted to see it and feel it as a foretaste of what I could expect with my own book. There was no disappointment.
Writing has been a hobby for a while now. Only recently have I gotten paid for it. And before a month or so ago, a book contract was of the same character as the moon for a young boy. I’d been encouraged to write a book. And I would sit on my front porch and wonder. But the imaginings in my head were as the echoes of someone else’s noise.
But now we are talking reality. Right now, there are men looking over my manuscript to make editorial suggestions. One day I’ll get a box in the mail. I’ll take a key to the wrapping tape, slide it and then pull the flaps back. Will there be those annoying packing “peanuts” in there?
I’ll pull out a copy. The book’s cover will touch against the ends of my fingers and the palms of my un-calloused hands. Like a black-jack dealer I’ll flip fast the pages and gaze at the back. The front. And then the back again. Lord willin’ it’ll happen. And then I’ll take a look at the front again.
I know… I know I’m not supposed to talk about these things. Calm, cool and collected is the order of the day. To act as if this is par for the course is the recipe. But I’m just too anything but. I actually tried it for a minute but it felt self-conscious. And it seemed to come off as if I was special when I know that isn’t the case. What is special is the case.
I cannot remember how I got to this article on the publishing world but I’ve been “stuck” on it for a few days. The following quote is what kept bringing me back:
Do you want to break into publishing? Say something important, but more importantly, say it well. We don’t need more voices, and we certainly don’t need more celebrities. We need transcendent ideas. We need people that challenge us to see how the world ought to be, and inspire us to make it so. We need people who show us the best of ourselves, and call us to be that version, rather than the veneered version that seems so much easier to sell to our “friends.” Inspire someone, and you just may make a bestsellers list the old-fashioned way. Inspire important conversations and you may just stay there. But if you fake it, if you buy your way on, if you take the shortcut to significance, we’ll know, and we’ll ignore you. And that second cut will hurt.
Since I began this journey of writing a book, the need for a platform and 50,000 friends on facebook has unnerved. Not simply because I don’t have them. But because even if I did have those, I would want the focus to be on saying something important.
Update: I guess they have become random thoughts for the weekend since the blog was down a good bit of yesterday and today
1. I saw a commercial for the kid’s show, Martha Speaks. The background music was Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.
2. I now get emails, fb messages and tweets about bacon on a daily basis.
3. There is no subject known to man that my two oldest cannot relate in some way to Star Wars.
4. Started running again. And you would think it would be easier to start back 30 lbs lighter. But nooooo, that is not the case.
5. We are having Carnitas tonight. In other words, heaven and earth will collide for about an hour.
6. In the irony of all ironies, libraries attract those who have no inclination to be quiet.
7. Someone asked for my fax number and I immediately had a Duran Duran tune in my head.
8. In college I took creative writing. I got a C.
9. Angry Birds may or may not have something to do with my reading books so slowly these days.
10. Sorry, this has taken so long. Today, I had to sign and mail the paperwork to the Publisher…you know, for the book I’m writing. No big deal. Just a dream coming true.
For a while now I’ve been toying with a question. Maybe a year or so at the most. I’ve had an answer in mind but I still keep asking the question anyway.
Why is it that Catholics are the best writers? And some of my favorites?
Flannery O’Connor. J.R.R. Tolkein. Thomas Merton. Dorothy Sayers. G.K. Chesterton.
And what about those who are far more similar to them than the people I’ve surrounded myself with? You know like the Anglicans.
Shakepseare. C.S. Lewis. Jane Austen.
And one of my favorites these days is Eugene Peterson, who has learned a great deal from those of Rome. Heck, I would have never picked up Merton if not for him.
My first and simplest answer is that they have a sacramental (read: sacred) view of words. Words are precious and full of beauty. They stand by themselves full of value, devoid of their use. But this is not how we evangelicals primarily think of words. We only use them – whoring them out. They have a function. Like machines. Maybe this is why I can think no writer, who is Baptist – outside of Bunyan – who is lauded as a ‘great writer’ by those outside of the evangelical subculture.
What do you think? Can you think of great writers who are Baptists? Who am I missing?
What have you read that could help me think about this some more?
Is it relevant that all of them are Paedobaptists?