Here’s the second of the posts that I’d written a year ago about the incredible journey I’ve been on in writing my first book.
After I’d finished the terrible first draft of the book, I set myself to the tedious task of editing the content. At first I thought it would be a simple matter of polishing a few rough patches, but as I read through the text from beginning to end, the lack of flow really began to stand out to me. I had done exactly what I’d imagined at the beginning of this process – I’d effectively written a dozen super-long blog entries. They all worked as stand-alone pieces, but when I tried to patch them all together it became evident that they weren’t really fitting.
Now I don’t know about anyone else, but for me editing my own work is painfully difficult. I’m fine with working on someone else’s text. I was a writing tutor in college, and I’d always considered it my specialty to help student develop cohesive arguments and put them on paper. I can’t diagram a sentence to save my life, but I’ve always been able to tell you when a sentence or paragraph felt “awkward”. But when I already know what I’m reading – when it’s something I’ve written, it takes an active concentration to dig those pieces out, and a lot of work to re-imagine how they might fit together better.
So for the next six months or so my progress became difficult and slow. I would work through a draft for several weeks, and then put it away for a week or two. Then I would come back with a fresh perspective and find a whole new mess of problems. I was playing author and editor at the same time, and the work seemed endless.
At the same time, in order to remind myself of what good writing sounded like, I started to pick up other Christian books from my shelf that I hadn’t read or hadn’t read in a while. One of those books (again, there is a blog entry about this somewhere in my archives) was What You Do Best in the Body of Christ. I’d started reading it years before, and put it down after a chapter or two. But this time as I was reading through it God began to speak to me in a very real and personal way. So much of what was written was so based in practical common sense that it seemed almost foolish, but these logical and “obvious” statements inevitably led to questions that I’d never sat down to actively consider, and they were questions that needed answers.
The essential premise of the book is that we are each given a specific mix of personality, passion, and talent that God desires to use for His glory. Finding the right way to use that mix is what will make us successful. For example, not everyone who has a passion for evangelism is going to pursue it in the same way. Some people love approaching strangers on the street, but there are others who are more comfortable inviting their neighbors over for coffee, while others were “born” to preach to large crowds of people all at once. Finding the right way to use your gifts in pursuit of your passion is key to following your call.
Like I said – common sense, right? But as I went through the exercises that the book suggested, and as I wrote my results down on paper and looked at them, it was like God was ripping a curtain away from an entire realm of possibilities that I’d never considered. There were connections that were obvious, ministries into which I’d already fallen, work that I was already doing. But at the same time God was revealing a path that I’d never even thought to consider. If I tried to explain the dots that God was connecting in my head it wouldn’t make any sense, but they were there, and they were so clear that He might as well have written them out for me. I was going to help my church start a publications ministry. I was going to help them write and publish books, curriculums, and literature that could be read and used by the Body of Christ around the world.
Now anyone who knows me will know just how crazy that sounds. I’m an accountant. I have NO experience in publishing, and NO idea how that kind of business is run. I’m not a terrible writer, but that’s like wanting to start a record label and expecting to be successful because you’re not a terrible singer. And on top of all of that I go to a smaller suburban satellite congregation of a much larger church in the city – it’s not exactly like I have easy access to the pastors to be making these kinds of out-of-the-blue propositions.
But there it was, as plain as day, and as soon as I saw it, it began bursting in my heart and my spirit like a bottle of soda that had been shaken and then opened. It was impossible, absolutely absurd, a task to which I knew myself to be uniquely suited, and for which I was absurdly unqualified. And yet somehow I knew that it was so right, so divinely inspired, that there could be no question.
There it was – the broader vision. I had started this journey with an idea that I thought was big: I was going to write a book and get it published. I was going to put words on a page that would help other Christians with their daily lives. But God’s idea was bigger – so much bigger that it had never even entered into my realm of thinking. It was still impossible, still absurd, but now it was there – like a seed that had been planted.
At this point there was nothing for me to do but to continue on the path that God had set me on. And so I took this seed of a vision and I wrote it down. I prayed over it. And I set it in my heart. And in the meantime – I continued to work on the book. But this time it was different – I wasn’t an author struggling to edit my own work any more. Now I was a future publisher, learning the ins and outs of editing from the perspective of an author as well as an editor. Suddenly this monotonous task (and believe me, it was monotonous) was no longer a drudgery, but an incredible learning opportunity.
God had given me a broader vision, and it had changed my whole perspective.