A Dozen Glimpses into Writing this Book

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I need to get my book formatted for ebook release, so you Kindle devotees and smartphone readers have a shot at it. But I loathe don’t wildly enjoy formatting and, as it turns out, I enjoy writing, plus I’ve neglected the blog for a stretch here, plus I know some of us have this strange affinity for reading about others’ writing process (“Oh, that’s how you do it?” “Oh, thank God I don’t do it that way!”). So, here are twelve things that went into writing this book.

1)The idea popped into my head, more or less fully formed. I share that in the introduction. I felt a little embarrassed choosing to share my friend Loren’s affirmation–I always worry such things will be read wrong by people who don’t realize I spend 60% of my life’s energy resisting the negative thoughts in my own head–but I chose to, anyway, because the lighting strike would not have happened without him.

2)The original idea was to include like 200 short reflections or meditations–seriously–and was going to be released in late spring, or maybe 2016, even though the idea came to me earlier this year. It was a little ambitious.

3)I didn’t submit it anywhere first. It’s self-published but not because it was rejected, merely because I was out of time. Even if an agent or publisher had accepted it, there’s no way it could have gotten out by when I needed it to.

4)I literally did a full editing for sarcasm. I was aiming at a positive, direct-but-not-defensive-nor-attacking tone. Not sure I succeeded, but there are pages worth that got chopped for tone. I indulged one full-blown, unrestrained sarcastic comment and footnoted it. I find it much harder to describe something that has hurt me matter-of-factly than tongue-in-cheek, facetiously…or scathingly. I meant to match my tone to my message. I really hope I succeeded.

5)I had to do another edit to cut out arguing. I didn’t write this book to convince some people that they are wrong. I wrote this book to encourage people who believe as I do to keep living their beliefs with integrity and grace.

6)I’ve never written anything with such loud censors blaring in my head. That’s a big reason I had to cut out all the arguing: I kept answering my imagined critics.

7)I’m both excited it’s out and nervously bracing myself for backlash.

8)I really am a marketing genius: if it’s true that 80% of white evangelicals still support this administration and I wrote a book for Jesus followers and other justice seekers who do not, I narrowed my field of prospective readers pretty effectively. I’m being sarcastic. I wrote this book because there are so many of us who oppose what we’re seeing and follow Jesus, who oppose what we’re seeing because we follow Jesus. Many of us feel isolated, alienated, and ostracized, but it turns out 20% of a really big number is still a big number. Further, I know a lot of people who haven’t–or no longer–use that label, “evangelical,” who love Jesus, however they understand that relationship, and who have said to me exactly what I reflect back in the book. I’m trying to encourage us by helping us grasp that we are far from alone in saying and feeling these things. That’s how a movement works.

9)I really struggled over the title. Hard. Authentic Faith: Feeding the Soul in Politically Divided Times: Encouragement for Jesus Followers, Justice Seekers, Resisters, Immigrant Supporters, and Peacemakers It’s a bit long. In the end, I chose to go overboard to make certain that no one who goes to the trouble of reading the whole title will feel misled with what they find in the book. I dislike that it has two colons–that’s a punctuation monstrosity I did not intend–but I did not want to make Authentic Faith the whole title. Why? I did not want to claim that I’m conveying the one authentic expression of faith! I always thought that the title Raising Kids God’s Way had a subtle but distinct implication. This is not the book “Having Faith God’s Way.” I lay that out as clearly as I know how in the introduction–while trying not to be sarcastic, defensive, or argumentative–and I still expect to get attacked for claiming that I know the only way to have authentic faith. You can have authentic faith and not agree with what I say in my book. What you can’t do is tell people–we!–who live this faith that ours is not authentic.

10)I also wrestled with whether to include material from this blog or to make it exclusively new material. I concluded that A)I have worked pretty darned hard on writing good stuff for this blog, B)when I try to say the same things but with different words it always comes out sounding derivative and forced,* C)the vast majority of the population I described in #8 have not read this blog, unlike you, Beloved Reader. I hope you will forgive me for giving you some of the same words again. I realized they were some of the best I had to offer and I should offer them, e.g. the series on each day’s grace.

11)Everything I’ve ever tried to write for this level of publication ends up feeling like childbirth. Joy, excitement, then anguish and exhaustion and “Would you just get out there already!” But unlike when our children arrived out in the world (after Kim did all the work), I get about 5 minutes of relief and exhausted ecstasy before the second-guessing crashes through. For this one, I pushed so hard in the last couple weeks that my level of exhaustion, paradoxically, kept the self-doubts at bay for an entire day–that day being my birthday! I felt buzzed from exhaustion for my entire 52nd, which allowed me to live the day the way I would like to live all days: mindfully, taking everything in slowly, enjoying small pleasures and blessings, seeing God present all around me. Then Saturday morning, I woke up to find that the book status had changed to “Live” and the excitement and anxiety came crashing back in. “It’s OUT! Oh, my gosh, what have I done?

12)You made this possible.

I’ve still never had a book published by a publisher and it struck me, as I was getting attacked by self-doubt and insecurity (see #1–it’s no small task to keep up 60%), that my sister Chris’s favorite quote really applies here: “If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

So here I go: I’m not going to be embarrassed or apologetic that I self-published this book; I was able to write it only because my supportive community of friends and family, Jesus followers, spiritual people and loving agnostics, readers, encouragers, and faithful hecklers, patient editors, proofreaders, and prayer warriors helped me to believe that I could. Instead of feeling sheepish that I didn’t succeed more impressively, I’m grateful that I could do this at all–because you made it possible! When I jokingly respond to affirmation by saying “I’m going to put the words on a poster and hang it on my wall”–I’m not really joking. Literally speaking, I am. Mentally, I do that. Every. Time.

These are not just polite words. I’m using my sincerest tone and raising my eyebrows of sincerity as I tell you:

Thanks. Your support means the world to me.

PS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WRITE, LIKE TO SOLVE PUZZLES, OR BOTH: I used this awful selfie for my featured image because in it you can identify many of the crucial tools of the writing process. Some are very obvious, others much more subtle. How many can you name?

*I know this from every time I try to rewrite a sermon, whether I was composing it in my head and didn’t have means to record it or technical difficulties (or user error) kept it from being saved. When I try to go back and recreate what I have, it’s always wooden and awful. Every stinking time.

5 thoughts on “A Dozen Glimpses into Writing this Book

  1. Trish G

    I’m hoping someone more observant than me responds regarding your selfie. All I see are a laptop, a coffee cup, a wide view, and an empty cereal bowl (ok probably not cereal in your case but that’s one of my favorite snacks) ~

    ~ okay and a few statistics & lots of faith ~

  2. Aaron

    I see:
    1) your own book. “Have I said this before? Was it better, worse, or just different?”
    2) unrelated book. Because baseball.
    3) Catan. Games are life.
    4) motivational t-shirt.
    5) beautiful view.
    6) computer, so you can read about the latest political nonsensery.

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