One shelf. Two books. Lessons learned.


With little book arms and little book hands, the two books I was involved with that were published this year could have reached out and touched each other. I stumbled upon them at Wycliffe College’s bookstore, and, very quickly, before the hip-looking young woman at the counter could catch me, snapped a shot of them.

It was satisfying to see the two books on one shelf separated only by John’s Use of Ezekiel: Understanding the Unique Perspective of the Fourth Gospel — a book that if it had little book legs would probably have excused itself to go stand beside more academic works than mine. Seeing the books out in the real world, enjoying the view from the Most Recent Arrivals shelf, reminded me of my Most Recent Lessons in projects like these. Three have stayed with me.

  1. There will be dead darlings everywhere. Every writer has heard the “kill your darlings” advice. That dreaded instruction to not build your work around a clever turn of phrase or brilliant metaphor just for the sake of it. There is another kind of darling: all the material that could also have gone in a book but had to be left out because of space and focus. That was true for Shifting Stats, infact, my writing partner and I are already at work on a small follow-up of great stories we missed or hadn’t yet heard when writing the book. For Evangelicals Around the World, the tough choices were around author selection and honing in on a list of chapters. There were many more brilliant writers out there that we could have used, who could have written excellent chapters. Touch choices were made for either books to ever make it out of our computers and onto Wycliffe’s top shelf.
  2. Write with a team. Both books were team work. For Shifting Stats, it was my writing partner Patricia Paddey — an iron-sharpens-iron relationship based on  honesty, humour, and a delight in editing of each other’s work. We work to make the other shine. It’s not that we’ve never had conflict or hurt feelings. Of course we have. But we talk through it and often accomplish more together than we could apart. For Evangelicals Around the World, the team was larger, global, spread out. I was a bit like the air traffic controller, or maybe the clown juggling a lot of balls at once is a better picture. There were some moments when I had to swallow my pride and ask for more hands-on help, because I knew something was going to land with a splat if I didn’t. I learned to accept my own limitations and work within them and beyond them with the help of others. A good thing.
  3. Enjoy the fun moments when you can. I know how fortunate I have been to help create the books I have been involved with. I am extremely grateful. And it would be awesome if there were more. But, as I heard author Mark Buchanan once exhort a group of writers, being published does not complete you as a person. You get over yourself pretty quickly. The gloss on your book cover grows dull. The gloss on your family, that always shines strong. And projects come along and replace your big writing adventures with new challenges. This is good. And exciting.


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