A (Short) Tale of Two Writers

There are two kinds of writers.  They’re described quite succinctly by the following quote.  For those of you who are writers (and for those who enjoy reading others’ work), I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

The moment I read the quote, I knew which kind of writer I tend to be… and several other writers came to mind for whom words come from a different place.  Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different.

I’ll admit, I tend rip most of my words from the gut, or I did before I had to start writing every day.  I see now that there is something to be said about pulling some things out of our pockets now and then — like when we’re on a deadline and have no choice.  Or when something needs to be said and we don’t necessarily want to go through a “gut-ectomy”. Pulling things from the gut just isn’t always practical or timely.  Or necessary.  Yet sometimes it’s important to process a subject, internalize it, really deal with it, before trying to express it coherently.

For better or worse, maybe both of these writers – the one who tears it from his guts and the other, who pulls it out of his overcoat pocket – need to co-exist within the same person.  Maybe experience can teach us how to be both kinds of writers over time.

Internalization could perhaps take one writer’s work to an entirely new level, or the ability to not hold so tightly and just lay out some words that work could offer efficiency and volume to our body of work.

I’d be curious to hear from you. Readers, what do you prefer? “Gut” stuff? Or “pocket” stuff?

Fellow writers, which kind of writer do you tend to be and how is that working for you?  Which kind of writing gleans the most response from your readers?

The Dangerous Sport of Writing

I love safety.  I have no secret dreams of  jumping from airplanes or extreme skiing.  I’m the one who’s fine with waiting beside the fireplace  in the lodge with coffee and a journal.  My love for safety probably fuels my love for writing because, at the start, I found solace in being able to “bleed out” all my deepest-held beliefs on paper and tuck them away safely where no one could question me or make a judgment about it.  Sure, I was a pansy, I’ll own that.  Little did I know what I was in for.

Eventually I began to take my death-grip off these ideals I was writing about and I shared them with a very few trusted souls.  I can remember literally trembling while watching another human being read something I had written – something that I cared about so much that if a person didn’t like it, they didn’t like me.   If the feedback was good, I could possibly trust another set of eyes to it.   Then more.   I grew more and more comfortable over time but it still took me years to call myself “a writer”.  I waited until everyone else started calling me one before I was able to fully own that title.

Now, years later, I’ve become fairly adept at spilling my guts on paper without really thinking twice about it.  But the years-long process of becoming a writer who actually has readers has brought a new reality… that those words better hold up!   Documenting my beliefs and ideals (for better or worse) brings a certain responsibility to be a wise steward of the truth. I couldn’t live with myself if I led someone wrong.   That fact is slightly frightening.  Even more terrifying is the added treat of having to back up my words with my “real life”.  Maybe that doesn’t sound scary to a  “normal” person of integrity but here’s the real reason it’s scary.  (Shhh… this is secret is well guarded from hopeful writers, and they don’t tell you this in school!)   The minute a writer puts something  “out there”  we can be absolutely sure it will be tested by fire on every point!

So here’s the deal.  When writers write about our faith, it’s kind of like we’re enlisting in warfare through some sort of slick recruitment scheme where we think we’re signing up for a cool cash drawing but the line we sign is REALLY an entry form to become a front lines soldier of the truth.

Writing was supposed to be SAFE!  What the heck?!   But when I’m being very honest, I have to admit that I’m not really too shocked to finally recognize this.  Because truly following a living, breathing God means holding no cards under the table… not having a “Plan B” we pull out when life turns up the heat.  It means risk.  But not crazy, irresponsible risk.  Risk that puts all my hope into one basket.  His basket.   Is it reliable?  Yes.  Does it require me putting myself out there at the risk of being a fool.  OH YEAH.  Do I always get it right?  Maybe not.  But I’ll take it.  Somehow the fear is over-taken with something bigger… a mission that isn’t about me anymore.

Sure, I have plenty of days when it’s tempting to stop putting my most treasured beliefs out on the line.  I’ve nearly frozen up more than once because I don’t want to write anything down that I can’t trust with my full weight at any moment.  Heaven only knows what I’ll have to endure if I say it!  But hear this, if you hear nothing else:  Inspiration is not truly inspiration if those words can’t hold up under the test of real life.  Sure, I can write about having “vision” (and I did just last week) but if I can’t go back and read those words back to myself when I am faced with a set of circumstances through which I can’t see (which I did just this week), then what’s the point?

If you write (or you’re thinking about it), proceed with caution.  You will be forced to stand behind your words.  And trust me, you’ll want them to hold up under the ultimate test they will inevitably get.  If they hold up, you will enjoy credibility.  If they don’t, you will hopefully write with a different, wiser filter in the future; or perhaps you’ll want to invest in a helmet.

“If you blog it, they will come…”

cornfieldSo my writer friend Erik has been telling me for months that I need to start this blog.  He’s sort of been like that creepy voice in the movie “Field of Dreams” that keeps trying to make Kevin Costner build a baseball diamond in the middle of his Iowa cornfield by whispering, “If you build it… they will come…” Erik isn’t really creepy… but work with me here. The point is, he believes some good things can rise out of otherwise ordinary-looking cornfields just like those here in my home state of Indiana.

 

I’ve kept a blog for several years at Gaither.com which is sort of my behind-the-scenes diary as a staff member at Gaither Music Company. Over the years, I’ve been blown away with emails from all over the world. I don’t fool myself into thinking people read it because they’re interested in what I have to say. They read it because I work for people they admire.  BUT… what I’ve discovered as a “behind the scenes reporter” for 8 years has been this incredible gift called blogging, where a preacher’s kid from Indiana (that’s me) could talk about some things that matter not only to me… but to someone else in another corner of the world!

 

So even if it’s just for Erik and a couple of my favorite cousins… I bring you my blog.  Here you will not hear me talk about my work for Gaither Music… instead, you will hear what honks me off, why I think Jesus is 10,000 times cooler than any of us would ever dare to believe, and all kinds of other treats yet to be revealed! I’ll touch on the craft of writing now and then, because I can’t always resist yammering on about the power of words and how they can move us to think differently and expand our horizons.  I grew up in a pastor’s home and came out with my faith and my family both intact (although I’ll admit to a sarcastic streak and a couple nervous tics) so that might  explain some things you’ll read here!

 

Mostly, I am acting on the belief that I was created to write and there’s a reason for that. Maybe you’re the reason.  Maybe you just need to know someone over here in Indiana has some of the same questions you do.  Or maybe… you’ll just get a kick out of watching me squirm as I try to figure out what the heck I’m doing.  That alone could be worth the ticket price.

 

So if I blog it… will you come?!  Erik Deckers promised me you would!  And God didn’t give him that creepy whisper for nothing, right?! Now perhaps he can use his influential powers and tell me how to change the time on my blog from 3 a.m.?!

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