Writers, Stop Writing About Writing

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This might be hypocritical. It’s likely a bit odd and possibly (probably) pretentious. Some might refer to it as Meta. I prefer to think of it as Inception-like. As a writer, I have some things to write about writers writing about writing.

Writers writing about writing, while not always pretentious, can reach levels of pretention previously only dreamed of. Sometimes this shows itself as melodrama. “I write because I must.” “The pressure of pain begins to build until, of a sudden, it burst forth like lava from a volcano . . . and I write.” “Publishing a written work is like sending a child off to school for the first time, every time.” “Writing is a grueling, thankless task, but I have no choice. I am compelled”

Gag me. Nobody wants to hear about the travails of the writer, not even other writers. (In fact, while you’d think other writers would be the most empathetic we are in fact the least inclined to care about your moaning.) If it’s so awful, quit, for all our sakes. You’re not compelled against your will; you write because you enjoy it, or at least something about it. And with all that whining, methinks what you love most is the attention not the craft.

Other times, and more often, the pretension shows itself as constancy. That is to say it keeps showing up, because writers won’t quit writing about writing. A short roll of the eyeballs around the interwebs will reveal a dozen daily new posts by writers about writing. Some writers have blogs devoted to writing about writing.

Give it a rest. Your subject matter is tired. Your craftsmanship suffers because of redundancy and a limited pallet. And you become difficult to trust because, well, you never write about life. And life is the stuff of writing, not writing itself.

The last incarnation of pretension is uppityness. When Stephen King writes a book about writing I read it cover to cover and then start over. And it is marvelous. When a thirty-something, barely published, Internet composer of public journal entries does so, it’s uppity. Stephen King can tell me to “kill my darlings”, not many others can. They ought to be figuring which of their own darlings to off.

You know what’s remarkable? How little the truly great writers say or said about writing itself. They just wrote. And so should we. They didn’t cogitate on “the life of the writer”; no, they lived life, digested it, and regurgitated it in words and stories and essays. They learned and responded. They read and read some more. And they wrote. And so should we. Maybe, someday, we’ll be good enough to write about writing, but if we are we’ll probably be too busy living and writing to notice.

photo credit: cellar_door_films via photopin cc

Introducing My New Website!

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I read a lot of blogs, and in the past I’ve posted lots of links here on this site. But the times they are a changin’.

My wife, Jen, and I, have decided to create a new website called Pay Attention: Seeing God Everywhere. The purpose of the website is to post quality content on a regular basis which, in some way, points to God.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we will only post Christian videos and pictures. In fact, far from it. I believe that the image and glory of God can be seen in every nook and cranny of creation, from songs written by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to videos of incredible athletic feats to finely detailed paintings to humorous sketches. Most of the content we post on the site will not be distinctly “Christian”, although, to paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, every square inch of the creation belongs to Christ.

Think of our site as being like Upworthy, minus the breathless insistence on political correctness, or Twenty Two Words, minus the cute videos of dogs, or Buzzfeed, minus the inappropriate stuff.

So go ahead, stop on over, and start seeing God everywhere.

Books and Tunes For Your Christmas Shopping List

It’s the time of year when people start making their Christmas lists. I read a ton of books and listen to a ton of music so I thought I would give you some recommendations for your own Christmas list.

BOOKS:

League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada

An absolutely fascinating book detailing the slow discovery of the massive concussion epidemic in the NFL. The book also shows the great effort made by the NFL to downplay and minimize the epidemic. Dipping into the lives of Mike Webster, Junior Seau, Andre Watters, Merril Hoge, and many other NFL greats, this book would be a great gift for the sports fan in your life.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

I always enjoy the writing of Malcolm Gladwell, and this book was no exception. In this book, Gladwell, who is always exploring counter-intuitive, contrarian ideas, tries to understand why “Goliaths” are so often beaten by underdogs. Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the others written by Gladwell it was still worth the read.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This was, by far, one my favorite books of the year. As a self-described introvert, it helped me understand why certain things are easy for me and other things are more difficult. It also forced me to wrestle through the biblical ramifications of being an introvert. After all, the Bible doesn’t ever use the words “introvert” or “extrovert” to describe people. These are sociological distinction, not biblical distinctions. Nevertheless, I think this book contains a lot of common grace wisdom, and I recommend it for anyone who would describe themselves as an introvert or who lives with an introvert.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is one of the funniest writers out there, and his ability to find the hilarious in the mundane is simply brilliant. Whether he’s talking about French dentistry, his father’s dinnertime attire (shirt and underpants), or the time he tried to buy the skeleton of a murdered pygmy, he’s always funny and often profound.

Jesus On Every Page: 10 Simple Ways To Seek and Find Jesus In the Old Testament by David Murray

The Old Testament often seems archaic, difficult to understand, and difficult to relate to every day life. But Jesus himself said that all of the Old Testament spoke of and pointed to him. In light of this truth it is essential that we study the Old Testament. David Murray has written a very helpful book which will help you see Christ throughout the entire Old Testament. This book is certainly deep, but it is not overly difficult to read. I recommend it for every Christian.

Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom J. Nettles

Full disclosure: I haven’t had the chance to read this yet. It’s sitting on my shelf and I’m dying to get to it. But without even reading it I can tell it’s going to be an outstanding book. It’s obvious that Tom Nettles has immersed himself in Spurgeon’s life, and that this large book is the result of that total immersion. I am really looking forward to learning more about and being inspired by Charles Spurgeon.

MUSIC:

Instruments of Mercy by Beautiful Eulogy

Fantastic rap music blended with sound theology. As a fully suburbanized, middle-class, white guy I realize I’m not really up on what makes for good rap music. Nevertheless, I enjoy this album.

Forverly by Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones

Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer of Green Day) and Norah Jones have collaborated to come up with a pretty cool album. It’s exactly folk, it’s not exactly country. It’s just good.

Comedown Machine by The Strokes

I’m a big fan of The Strokes, and their most recent album was not a disappointment. The electric guitar work is fantastic, the bass lines are outstanding, and the melodies are catchy. Definitely worth buying.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

The Ravings of a Drugged Man

Several days ago I stated that I would not be blogging this week due to the fact that I am recovering from reconstructive surgery on my ACL and happen to be on some pretty heavy duty pain killers and might accidentally write something that would embarrass my mom.

And I stand by that.

But the fact is, I’m getting really bored. I’ve watched approximately 1200 hours of Sportscenter this week, and I just need a break. So I thought I’d just post an update or something like that. Not any real blogging. Just something to give you a glimpse into my brain.

So in no particular order, here we go.

DISCLOSURE: If I make any statement that sounds disconnected from reality or mentions Area 51, I blame it on the medicine.

First, I’m really grateful for pain medicine. Were it not for the medicine, I’m pretty sure I would be weeping and gnashing my teeth throughout the day. However, I discovered that my body does not like particular pain medicines, such as Vicodin. After taking Vicodin I felt as if I were swaddled in a woolen Snuggie. Very hot and very itchy.

Second, I’m really, really grateful for my wife Jen. She has served me like an absolute superstar. Ever since the day of the surgery, she has waited on me hand and foot (what does it actually mean to wait on someone “hand and foot”?). If you’re going to have surgery on your ACL, I would recommend that you get married first. Also, my little girl Charis is also turning into quite the servant.

Third, I think sharp cheddar is the best cheese. Just in case you were wondering.

Fourth, it appears that not much reading happens on Planet Percocet. I have a big stack of books sitting next to me by the couch, but I’m not making much progress. I read a few sentences, squint my eyes thoughtfully, try to clear the fog from my brain, and then move on. So far I’ve read Goodnight Moon and Mr. Lumpy Goes to School.

Overall, I’m very grateful. Grateful that I live in a country where I could have my knee repaired. Grateful for my wonderful wife and daughters and parents and in-laws, who have all been serving me. Grateful for my normally good health. And most of all, grateful for Jesus.

I will leave you with these words of wisdom, which just came to me: If you have the choice between regular and decaf, always choose regular.

Why I’m Not Blogging For the Next Week

There comes a time in every man’s life when his body decides that it will no longer cooperate. It’s as if the body suddenly realizes that it’s an adult and that it can do as it pleases. Old guys seem to take a wicked pleasure in reminding young guys that their doom is just around the corner. Apparently my body has reached that point.

Several months ago I was playing basketball and I went up for a handspring McTwist helicopter dunk. I accidentally caught my foot in the rim and tore my ACL. On Friday I had my ACL surgically repaired, and now I am laying on my couch, watching television, and reading good books.

I would like to blog, but I am currently taking some heavy duty industrial pain killers. If I did blog I’m pretty sure I would end up writing something about elves, or the Illuminati, or how much I love the Jonas Brothers. So I’m going to take a week off.

See you next week!