Increasingly, people ask me, “How do you do what you do?” They want to know how to become a writer, speaker, or consultant. I wouldn’t be a speaker or a consultant if I didn’t write a book, so I’ll start with how to write a book.
I met with my writing group as they looked over the pages of Tribal Church. I had written about my experience as a teenager traveling to China as a short-term missionary. I looked out of the train window and saw people everywhere—good, kind, smiling people. They were in misted rice paddies, using each inch of land was wisely. They were in the grey city, riding bicycles to factories.
I was talking about an author I admire and Brian, my husband, asked, “Her writing’s great and all, but who’s she bringing up?”
I knew what he meant. He wanted to know who was riding her coattails. Who were the people she was encouraging to write and helping along the process? I named a couple of people, and he nodded with satisfaction.
This summer I am going to be teaching at a Kenyon College writing workshop designed for clergy who want to hone their writing skills for conversations beyond their congregations and denominations. The program, Beyond Walls, is envisioned as an interfaith conversation with writers and clergy from both Jewish and Christian traditions. I will be teaching essay writing along with Rodger Kamenetz, and he and I each have an essay in this month’s Beyond Walls e-mag.
I've seen family relationships crash and burn on the Christian celebrity circuit. I've seen how we get so addicted to praise that we can't handle criticism. But when we write, we generally become healthier humans.
This week, I was speaking to a handful of strong, smart writers who were on their way to publishing major books, but they were nervous about entering the Wild West World of the Internet. How were they going to handle the criticism they would have to endure?
It’s always bad for the sisterhood when we target our resentment amongst ourselves. And it’s called the Old Boys Network for a reason. Because the Old Boys know how to work together, network their power, and add younger men into their ranks. And we should do the same. There’s no way that we are going to get beyond the one-slot conference tokenism until we put some money, support, and voice around other people in the field.
About three times a week, pastors ask me 1) how to get on the speaking circuit or 2) how to get published. The questions go together, because the answer to how to get on the speaking circuit is usually to get published. Sometimes they are just starting out in the ministry, and other times they are retired. Either way, my answer is the same, no matter what stage of life you’re in: Writers write.
It's hard to know what to do and what not to do on the Internet. These are new forms of communicating, so we're trying out different rules of engagement. Often our social behavior forms by what gets on people's nerves.