Writers like me love to beget more writers—and attract readers. So here are some pointers to ponder.
What I write about takes readers to places all over the map. Or back in time. Or both. Two months ago, I took you with me to Israel in search for the “Empty Tomb;” other times to places where we dive for some things “lost and found.” For Memorial Day, I took you on a trip down memory lane to remember your heroes, living and dead. This summer I’m reflecting on four epic events of 1969—Stonewall riots (June 29), Apollo 11 (July 20), Woodstock festival (Aug. 17), and the Amazing Mets catching the Cubs (Sept. 28).
In blogging on random topics, I like to link local individual stories with the Story of God, the biggest story of all. So my contributions to the Columbus Journal are sometimes extensions of sermons I deliver in church. I might use one to set up a sermon, as in the history of a religiously observed national event. Other times, blogging is my post-sermon way of creatively letting go and getting away from it all, making points I might not do in church. Such blogs get my juices flowing—where they take me, God only knows. In either event, it’s time I define what kind of blogger I am. (To find out what kind of pastor I am, come to church.)
Most bloggers I subscribe to—a revolving door of 20—are “content experts” (e.g., grief counselor, spiritual devotions, executive coach, church planter, book reviewer.) They each have a niche in the market and create content to fill that niche. They might throw in a little here or there about themselves, but the blog is more of a “how-to” and a series of lessons that portray expertise, foster trust, spread awareness, and (eventually) make sales. That’s fine if you’re selling products or services. However, I have nothing to sell and do not know that much about any one thing.
I’ve never been able to adopt that more detached style or professional tone that thought-leading experts epitomize. Or that Associated Press guidelines call for. I used to worry about that, that I was somehow inferior, with nothing to say. It’s made me question the validity of my work, even my preaching. I long thought that I needed to step up my game and become more of an expert on a certain topic.
If expertise is required, I’d never make it. But thanks to two MVP copy editors, Bill Taylor and Bill Gruen, I get by. Every writer needs a “brother Bill” for honest feedback. Also helpful to anyone who wants to become a writer is this question that writers must ask themselves: Is what I’m writing an “expertise blog,” or is it a “creative personal blog?”
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The latter are the kind of blogs to I like to read and emulate, whereas the former I find too “loud,” with too much hype; hence, I soon unsubscribe to those blogs and rotate to other ones. The more specific question for me as a Christian writer is, as someone else put it: Is this a “Christianity blog?” Or is it a “personal blog authored by someone who is a Christian?”
I’m a creative personal blogger who is Christian. I’m not a columnist (more professional), but a blogger (more personal). Some ask how “Christian” are your blogs, but most wonder: How creative are they?
I am not so creative that I make stuff up; but 90% of my ideas are not original to me. I read widely and borrow freely. T. S. Eliot famously said, “Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” Then Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde are said to have penned that same famous line—which only proves the point. That creative writers and artists “borrow” or “steal” from one another means that we take inspiration from the past, and we put the old idea, even Scripture, to a new use application, perhaps deeper or more focused for today. And watch out for metaphors—I’ve never met one I haven’t wanted to ride or bridge to somewhere else—notably, my recent blog on bridges.
Feel free to borrow when creating a new work. Total originality is God’s prerogative and domain. We mortals re-create with God-given talent and borrowed time. The recreative part, at least for me in sermon writing for you and blogging for still others, is developing something different out of stuff from “creative types.” If I can take ancient wisdom from Scripture to make something in the present which speaks to the future, I’m happy.
There, I’ve just come to the end of where this writing took me, an end I did not see from the beginning. Again, only God can see like that, the end from the beginning. I hope this speaks to you and encourages you to “borrow” from whatever God gives you to work with. Then this “ending” would be just a beginning.