Writer’s Cramp

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Listen to “Writer’s Cramp” by Fred Smith

 

Typically, I do not know in advance what the topic of the next blog will be. However, I have already written the content for a future blog because it is the introduction to my first book. Years ago, I promised my family that one day I would write one and this seemed to be the obvious time. Stepping aside from being the President of The Gathering in January and now having the latitude that affords has been a gift. But every gift is at some point a responsibility if you were raised in my family! The official announcement will come in early September and it will be available to order on Amazon that day.

It’s one thing to write a book and then another to sell it. Well, we don’t use the word “sell” now. We call it sharing or building a platform. One of the reasons I decided to self-publish is publishers told me they needed to have a guarantee that I could “move” at least 10,000 copies. That meant I had to have a platform – megachurch audiences, speaking at major conferences, proof of previous purchases, or mailing lists to generate sales. I had none of that. For them, it would have been a bad business decision and I understand that completely.

I even made it hard on my friend Dave Goetz who served as the editor. I didn’t need help writing but I very much needed a focus. His first question, “What is the book about?” stumped me then and now. That’s why there will be no subtitle that normally serves to tell people what they can expect to read. I didn’t have “Five Steps” or “Six Keys” or even “Two Secrets” to share. That’s when he told me to write the introduction first as it might keep me focused and not wander all over the place.  We’ll see.

Not only that, but I’m reluctant to do the normal things authors do to move the merchandise.  I don’t see this book as a newborn child that I want to celebrate with the world on Twitter. After all, it’s a book. However, I’ve been reading Rob Martin’s good “When Money Goes On Mission” and his response to ministry leaders who tell him they dread asking for money is, “If you don’t want that job then you don’t deserve to be the leader.” It’s the same for writers who make the choice to publish instead of writing a private diary. If you don’t want to talk about it then you should not have published it. That’s part of the responsibility. Call it writer’s cramp.

But how to do that with a dose of humility? In the same way the Apostle Paul tells Titus to be ready do good with humility perhaps I can talk about the book. Doing good is not to make us famous or attract attention. We live in a world where it has become standard to publicize every good thing we do. Visibility increases fund-raising. Trumpeting good work on social media is encouraged. Writers and musicians have to self-promote before publishers will even consider them. Humility is discouraged and self-aggrandizement is encouraged. While humility is not self-degradation, it is not self-serving. It was C.S. Lewis who said, “Humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less.” The world of doing good today is caught up in making sure everyone knows how much good you are doing. I know. I live there.

An artist friend on Facebook, Bruce Herman, has been the source of a discussion among artists on how they deal with this tension. They know they have to be visible in order to make a living but they struggle with how much is being visible and how much is pride. How much is letting people know about their work and how much is simply hawking their wares? In reading through the thread I thought about something Henri Nouwen said about this:

“There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician. Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love.”

I would like to believe this book I promised is my call and was done with love. You, of course, will be the judge.

Art by Budhi Button

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Showing 28 comments
  • Avatar
    John Kelly
    Reply

    Thank you for this – and for persevering with your book! Another reminder to stop and consider. Something your words do again and again.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. I kept going as I didn’t want to let you down!

  • Avatar
    Derrell Blakey
    Reply

    As founder’s of Coventry, small nonprofit ministry to adults with special needs and their families, your thoughts resonate with me! Thank you!
    http://www.coventryreserve.org

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Derrell. I’ve been to your site. Do you sell your pottery online or just at the gift shop? I like what you are doing.

      • Avatar
        Derrell Blakey
        Reply

        Thank you, Fred, for your reply.
        Our pottery is produced from the creative skills activities of our participants. It is handmade by them, and so is limited in quantity. We say, “We don’t make pottery to sell, we sell all that we make.”
        We present the pottery at a Spring Tea and a Christmas Open House, at our campus, to the area communities. And it tends to sell out.
        We attended the seminars at Park Cities Baptist last we, I’ve been listening to your blogs since, love your laid back confident style!

        • Fred Smith
          Fred Smith
          Reply

          That helps me, Derrell. What part of the program in Dallas was most useful for you?

          • Avatar
            Derrell Blakey

            Fred,
            The most helpful to me was the panel with you and Gary.
            The types of givers and confusing biblical generosity with fundraising.
            We have always believed that if we simply shared what we believe is a God directed mission, God would move on the hearts of those that He had equipped with resources to support the mission.
            As we move into the next season which is to include residential for our participants whose parents are aging, the mission finding is much more challenging. Yet we still want to allow God to lead the way.

          • Fred Smith
            Fred Smith

            Thank you, Derrell. That’s quite a move!

  • Avatar
    Dr. David Galloway
    Reply

    This was helpful and timely for me. I been attempting to be honest with myself as to why I write.
    I remember my first boss, Dr. Bill Lancaster, who tried to coach me through beginning to preach. I had been awarded the sacred duty of preaching on Sunday nights at Decatur First Baptist. Second prize was cleaning the bathrooms.
    Bill framed the experience: “Sometimes I have something to say, sometimes I have to say something.”
    I found that to be true. When I have something to say, I find my writing serves something larger than my grinning ego and I can be about my work with less anxiety or worry as to how it will be received. When my ego is in the balance, not so much.
    Thanks for re-minding me of that truth.
    I look forward to the fruit of your labor and love.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Sometimes we write for ourselves – and that would be me. I am a 4 on the enneagram scale. Sometimes we write for others as Annie Dillard said so well. “Write as if you were dying. At the same time assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

  • Avatar
    John Wierick
    Reply

    Hurry September! So looking forward to reading.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      You are kind! I already have my sales pitch. “Buy one and get the second one for the same price.”. What do you think?

  • Avatar
    Ryan Skoog
    Reply

    Firstoff, yes!!!!! I’m so excited this is finally happening!!!!

    Fred, I wrestle with this all of the time. My marketing staff tell me I need to ‘get out there’ more in digital media to promote myself as a personal brand to help market the companies/non profits I’ve started. But being Scandinavian from Minnesota, this is about the most repugnant of activities imaginable. Being a Christian, this seems opposed to my Christ who ‘did not entrust himself to humans’ who tried to make him king ‘because he knew what was in them’

    Maybe a chapter of your book can be about stewarding fame, money, influence in a way that grows humility in us instead of destroying it. I’d promote a book like that on Social Media 🙂

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      That will be the next book and will need two chapters! I am so looking forward to seeing you and Rachel soon!

  • Avatar
    C. Harold Willingham
    Reply

    Well done Fred ; I always enjoy
    Your comments!
    Harold Willingham

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Harold! I trust you and Nancy are well. I spent a night in Tucson this year and loved walking around downtown and the old parts. We had breakfast at the hotel. I met Mike Chambers from Tuscaloosa who said he knew your family.

  • Avatar
    frank tillapaugh
    Reply

    Be glad that you have the option to self publish. When I wrote Unleashing in the early 80’s the publishers were in complete control and 8 of them turned it down before Regal decided to give it a shot. At the time I think they told me that they needed to sell 8,000 to break even.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      I talked to a friend yesterday who was rejected by 16 publishers. That’s the difference between him and me. I was rejected by three and went in another direction! I’ll not break even but that’s not why I did it. It was a promise to my family which I have now fulfilled.

  • Avatar
    Greg Campbell
    Reply

    Well said and good reminders, thanks Fred!

  • Avatar
    Todd Peterson
    Reply

    Very excited to read this book…..lots of stuff “written” today …..in my opinion, is recycled….I know what Fred you’ll say is going to be very well constructed, true and provocative thinking ….and I am confident will challenge me….thanks for being obedient and keeping your word to “your family”…..it’s bigger than you think!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Todd – We’ll see what you think when it comes out next week! Thank you for the support. Now on to the next thing!

  • Avatar
    Mike Murray
    Reply

    I look forward to the book coming out, Fred. And, I understand the ego issue. I was helped by reading once that every time I use the word “I” it is helpful to ask, “Which ‘I’ is it who is about to speak? Is is the one who is hungry for affirmation and appreciation? Or, is it the unique, original, God-created self who is made in the image of God and is made whole and fed by God’s grace?”
    Sometimes the question leads me to pause and ask: “Do I say, “I’m unavailable then because I’m traveling” or do I say, “I can’t be there because I will be working in Poland at that time.” Pretty obvious which one is ego!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Sorry for not responding sooner. I was in Poland! Thanks, Mike. You are so right. By the way, Mark and I talked and even had a mutual friend.

  • Avatar
    Howard Freeman
    Reply

    Some time ago, I read that the etymology of “sell” included the synonym “give.” That seemed to file the teeth of the beast that had been threatening me for years: how to reconcile intentional movement of product and service with generosity/humility.

    Here’s the closest result I could find today from a Google search (i.e. this is how Silicon Valley defines generosity and humility): “Old English sellan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Old Norse selja ‘give up, sell’. Early use included the sense ‘give, hand (something) over voluntarily in response to a request’.”

    Looking forward to some good Fall reading, Fred. If you’re selling, I’m buying.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Howard. I like this. There is a sense of being Jochabed in this process – letting go and seeing where the current takes the book. As I said, it was a promise fulfilled and not really a commercial enterprise!

  • Avatar
    John Sims
    Reply

    Great news, Fred — I look forward to checking out the book. And your comments about the struggle between humility and self-aggrandizement are well-taken.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. As part of the media, I don’t hold you responsible!

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