More on the Beautiful Stupidity of Writing (Part 2)

More on the Beautiful Stupidity of Writing (Part 2) November 21, 2012

Yesterday I wrote the first article in this series of posts on why it is that I write. Today I’ll jump ahead to the so-called more “successful” period of my writing work.

I got my first book deal back in 2006, and it came, like everything else, by way of a rejection. I had this great idea to publish a collection of my spoken word poetry in book form in a way that helped worship leaders and preachers incorporate them liturgically into worship services. Little did I know at the time that the word “poetry” is pretty much a four-letter word in publishing, and particularly when you’re narrowing your market down to mainline worship leaders to begin with. Top it off with the fact that people kind of have to have a natural sense of how to read the pieces aloud to make them work and…well, it was a stupid idea.

Fortunately for me, the proposal ended up in the hands of an editor who liked my writing style, even if my proposal was crap. They

happened to be looking for someone to hire to write a book on the theology of the show, LOST, and they asked me if I’d be interested. I agreed to take it on, perhaps more eagerly than would be smart for anyone actually trying to negotiate, and promptly turned to my wife, Amy.

“We have to go to the store,” I said. “I have to buy all of the back-seasons of LOST and watch them in about a week.” That’s right; I had never seen the show, but I’d be damned if I’d leta book deal slip between my fingers because of some minor technicality like having no knowledge of the material. A professional writer was supposed to be able to write about anything, any time in any style, so why not put that to the test?

The experiment paid off, at least insomuch as they published the book. Though my editor was convinced it would sell more than 10,000 copies, I think it failed ever to sell out of the first printing. But again, the publisher (Chalice Press) liked my work and asked if I had a project of my own in mind. Of course, I said, and promptly turned to Amy after hanging up the phone.

“Oh shit,” I said. “They want me to do another one. What do I write about?”

You get the idea. I limped through a few other projects, none of which have sold particularly well, and meanwhile I’ve written an entire novel that has never been published (not for lack of trying) and one-and-a-half nonfiction books that didn’t get green-lit, but which I raid on occasion for material in other projects. I helped create and edit a series of book for young adults that (surprise!) paid nothing, and for years, my blog offered precisely the same return.

(Tomorrow I’ll post the third and final installment in this series, including some advice on blogging and what’s next for me in the writing world.)

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  • Charles

    I admire your perseverance and self confidence (yes, even if you sometimes doubt yourself, your actions speak much louder) I have bought 2 of your books and enjoyed them. As well as listened to some of the Itunes thingys (I’m older, forgive my tech vocab) and we really enjoy your blogs and Church signs.

  • This is a good encouragement – gotta keep hangin’ in there like the cat in the motivational poster. I don’t really identify with all of Orwell’s reasons for writing, but it’s interesting reading as well.