Monday, May 02, 2011


Hey. Anybody still out there? Hello?

I told you that I'd be back.

Where have I been, you ask? Well, that is a fun story.

I think it started around the beginning of January, when I thought that I was going to take a week off from the blog. It didn't work out, as I felt compelled to keep writing. But the feelings that led to that hadn't abated: feelings that things here had become stale. By the time I posted the recap of my 2010, I just got sick and tired of my blogging self. Who cares about my year? I barely cared about that post and I was the one who wrote it. I became incredibly irritated with the expectations and persona cultivated over years of blogging here, and needed to step back and look at this hobby of mine.

At the same time, I'd been nursing two or three book ideas. I mentioned the idea of compiling a collection of sermons on which I still haven't delivered, and a couple that I haven't mentioned here but that have been in the back of my mind. And I finally thought to myself, "The only way I'll do it is if I actually DO IT." And the only way I'd do it is if I'd give myself to it completely, at least for a few months to get started.

So that began my blogging sabbatical.

The sabbatical itself took me to places I hadn't considered, and fairly quickly. It ended up being a good reflective time about who I want to be as a writer. I was in contact with Jeff Dunn from Internet Monk, a guy in the publishing business who helped Michael Spencer get his book deal. I wanted to know more about what it takes to find a publisher and be accepted. His advice? Self-publishing is the better way to go.

Self-publishing is the better way to go.

Surprised by that? I was. While it seems easier than trying to impress editors enough for one to take interest, I also thought that it carries a stigma of being a last resort for wannabes and washouts, for people who don't have what it takes. I've since been disabused of that notion in several ways.

First is the publishing industry itself. They pick up ideas that they think will sell, based on their own judgments and on their need to make a profit. That leaves out a whole lot of quality authors who may address a more niche market or who aren't already well-known. Dunn's initial response to me included an observation that Christian publishers are mainly publishing books by "celebrity Christians" at the moment, well-known pre-established speakers, authors, and pastors who are sure things. So I'd have to work ten times as hard for a publisher to give me a look (I think that this applies to magazines accepting articles as well, but that's for another time).

Second, there are tons of independent musicians and filmmakers who are celebrated and respected and who have their own audiences, so why not authors? Why should self-published authors be considered second-rate while independent people in these other media are respected? This insight comes from Zoe Winters, author of Smart Self-Publishing and of a relatively successful series of self-published novels. Sure, these people have to work way harder to get their stuff out there, but they have control. Real Live Preacher self-published his second book. He's an awesome writer. Ergo...

The first point above gave me pause, because I really had to think long and hard about what goals I want to pursue in writing. Will I blog, attempt a book, do both? The point, I decided, should be the writing itself, believing that I have something worthwhile to say, and doing my best to get it out there. This blog doesn't have a huge readership so far as I know. How much should that bother me? I thought about that quite often. How much would a self-published book sell, and do I really have the patience and determination that goes into such a project? And ultimately, where do I want it to go? Is this a hobby, or do I want it to be something more? While I haven't resolved it for myself, I do feel a lot more at peace with my writing, as if it'll just be what it is. I do okay in and around my most immediate context, and first and foremost my calling is to my local church and not to constantly fly around the country on the off-chance that somebody "notices." Writing is a fun hobby and a creative outlet, and I'm actually quite content with that.

I also thought a lot about what I want to write, and what I want this blog to be. Like I said in January, I've been wanting to focus more on the longer essay stuff, and cut way back on the pithy throwaway stuff. I like Small Sips, and doing some commentary on current events, and yeah, I like just being goofy on here. Like I said, a big chunk of my break had to do with just getting tired of my blog, and I don't want to be tired of it.

As kind of an aside, I took up with Twitter and discovered a whole new group of interesting people and bloggers. I'll probably introduce you to some of them over time.

So my plan for the blog is pretty simple, and from your perspective it may not change too much. I don't want to hold myself to something that I can't maintain, but I'd like to post more in-depth entries, as I've been striving to do for several years now. The Roundup will remain insofar as I've experienced enough media to warrant one. And then I'd like to post something lighter, like a Small Sips or a guy who rides a motorcycle with a cow in his lap. There will be things you'll see less if at all anymore, but like I said you probably won't notice. In fact, it may be that I just needed a break, and now that the break is over I'm fine with continuing on just like before.

And since I took three months off, that totally means that I've got a book nearly finished, right? That's the other thing. I dropped the ball fairly early on that due to things like "family" and "my job." In fact, January through April was one of the busiest stretches of time around the church and home that I can remember, and was exactly the wrong time to decide to tackle a book project. So no, there is no nearly completed book. There are two barely started books, though, so there's that.

Anyway, here I am again. It was a welcome respite, but I really was itching to get back to posting by the end. And I consider that a good thing.