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