In November of 2011 I wrote an article for The Huffington Post called “How To Shrink Your Church,” that did really well. It got picked up several other places and the traffic was far beyond anything else I had written there. I started to get inquiries here and there from publishers interested in a book. So I sat down one weekend and tried to figure out if there was a book there or not. What emerged was a book proposal that I started to circulate. I had some really good interest in the project, but as I started to get into it, thinking about where it would best fit, what publisher could make it the best it could be, and really get it out there, I couldn’t stop thinking about Zondervan. I really wanted the project to be with them. They are such a trusted publisher in the church ministry genre, and I really wanted to work with their editor on this project – plus they sell books, you know.
So, I went after Zondervan really hard, rewrote the proposal several times for them, refined the idea, and kept trying to convince them that this is going to be good (this book could be seen as a risk for them), they issued me a contract in November of 2012. I was unspeakably excited …still am.
So I started writing, and have worked hard for the last nine or ten months. We changed the name at one point, the official title at the current time is Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture. This book is going to bother some people, I know, but I hope it will be good news to the majority of pastors out there, because the majority of pastors are serving in small churches. Small church pastors – you are my people. I dig you guys/gals. You are the ones I was thinking about every single day I wrote.
So this week was my deadline for the first draft to be turned in. I hit send on Tuesday of this week: 76,000 words – talk about feeling vulnerable. I actually wrote the email to the editor on the project the previous night, but couldn’t bring myself to send it. It’s an incredibly vulnerable thing to pour your heart into a project for that long, to spend that many hours, that much time away from my kids, so much of my energy and passion was concentrated on those files, I was gripping; couldn’t send it; I was terrified of letting someone see my work; I had to sleep on it. Got up the next morning and turned it in to the publisher.
I used to tell my writing students to write what they would like to come upon, and this is what I would like to come upon today:
The worst time in any writer’s life is the two months before publication. ALL writers become mental and pathetic, even those of devout faith, who have some psychological healing to lean up against, and gorgeous lives. All writers think that this time, the jig is up, and they will be exposed as frauds.
Two months before publication, all writers worth their salt have days where they hate everyone, and wish everyone would just die, especially their best friends, who have responded inadequately to the book that is coming out soon, and who are total asshats and losers. All writers wonder what on EARTH they were thinking …
Sigh. Here I am, two months out again, and STILL not a paragon of equanimity and wisdom. it’s all hopeless. it’s all over for England.
All I can say to other writers when they are nearing publication is, “I love your book, and I love you, and you are my darling barling garling, which is what Sam called me once when he was seven.”
All I can say is that we have to let go, that we are in the striving business, but God is in the results business. And the MAIN difference between us and God is that God never thinks He’s us.
All I can say to another writer is that I know exactly what it’s like. It’s a nightmare, the worst part of the process. The only thing that helps is prayer, and radical self-care. Then I might add, “Hey, why don’t you come over here for lime juice bars, and watch the US Open Tennis matches with me?” So that is exactly what I am going to do right now. Thanks for listening.