October 20, 2017

Open Forum for Bloggers and Writers

For the past two years, I have had a remarkable unexpected privilege — serving as the lead writer on Internet Monk.

It came as pure gift to me out of the suffering of another, our brother Michael Spencer. He was an insightful and original thinker, a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, a pilgrim who graciously shared his life and perspectives in written words that we discuss to this day.

I have long wanted to write, but have had no idea how to get started, what to write about and how to go about doing it. Michael conferred a great gift on me when he asked me to help carry on the Internet Monk blog. He opened the door to one form of the writing life for me.

I would love to write more, as would many of our writers here on IM — as would many of you, our readers who have your own blogs and other venues of writing. I would love to develop this craft, get immersed more in this writing life.

Today, let’s have a discussion about writing. I invite those of you who, in one way or another, put down words in writing to express yourselves to lead our discussion in this final Open Forum.

Contribute as you like. Tell us about your blog, your book, your poetry. Give us samples. Talk to us about what writing means to you and how you go about it. Who are your favorite authors and writers, and what have you learned from them?

Talk to us about the writing life.

Let’s encourage one another. I know I need it.

Comments

  1. I have a blog. I used to write posts. I enjoyed it for a while. But now I am working goofy hours. I’m older, and tired. So I just post my pastor’s sermons and classes and other things that I believe are cross-centered.

    I really do appreciate you writers, though. It isn’t always easy. Keep up the good work.

    __________

    Here’s a good one for anyone who hasn’t encountered our radical theology before:

    http://theoldadam.com/2011/03/04/loosing-the-shackles/

    Enjoy.

  2. Your description rings true for me, Chaplain Mike – “I have long wanted to write, but have had no idea how to get started, what to write about and how to go about doing it.” I can barely remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I journalled obsessively through my teens. I had a Xanga blog. But it all felt very directionless. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve discovered a little more direction for my writing:

    – I like writing non-fiction. Tell me I have to write a short story, and I blank. Tell me that I have to write a paper for a class, and I’m happy.
    – Writing does have something to do with God’s call on my life. I’m not sure how, but I can’t get away from it. So I blog (here’s my most recent post: http://brilliantvapor.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-living-lightly.html ), and I’m looking to continue a part-time pursuit of an English degree. Having a baby kind of gets in the way of full time school. We’ll see where He takes me.
    – I want to write, in part, to be a part of “the conversation”. Whether it’s Biblical studies or English literature, when I finish reading a book or an essay by a really good writer, I find that I want to learn, study, and write in order to enter the conversation of ideas that they are a part of.

    So that’s where I am. I can’t stop writing, but I’m not sure where it’s going. I’m trying to learn to be patient with it, and take this time to learn and practice my craft so that when the time comes to use it in a wider forum, I’m ready.

    • Bless you, Marina!

      I know your husband. We used to take classes together. I did not know you two had a child. Congratulations to you.

      As you live life, you will learn more and your writing will become more shaped because you’ll know more. God’s grace, delivered to you through nature and other means, constantly opens your mind.

      Blessings to you and Landon.

  3. I am a writer by accident. I have never been trained as a writer. I do not have an English or Journalism degree. Though I do have writers in my family. Maybe there is such a thing as a writers gene? I fell into this world quite by “chance” (though I don’t really believe in chance). I had created a curriculum of adult spiritual formation http://yourspiritualtruth.com, and a business consultant suggested that instead of trying to teach on-line, that I write a book. I was referred to a terrific writing coach. Wrote the book and after a 3 year process found a publisher. My book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy, was published last summer. I have since self-published another book – Christouch – an instructional manual on hands-on-healing from a Christian perspective….and I have plans to publish at least two books this year – one, my first novel. YIKES!

    What do I write about? GOD. LOVE. LIFE. And on most days, I have found my writing to be as critical to me as my morning coffee. I have come to discover that when I write I feel nourished, supported, fulfilled and whole. On the days I skip my writing – either through my blog, my weekly subscription newsletter or working on my books, I feel restless, unsettled, crabby. So……I write……early and often! Who knew that at the ripe old age of 47 I would find writing to be the spiritual practice AND the charism that God has given me to find fulfillment within myself and to lead others to finding their own fulfillment. All I can be is humbled and grateful! God rocks!

    PS: I have also found my audience to be a unique one: Progressive, Contemplative, Christians, mostly raised Catholic and looking for more. Now the question is how to effectively reach this unique audience! 🙂

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries
    Oshkosh, WI USA
    http://yourspiritualtruth.com

    • Is a contemplative holier than a regular Christian?

      • The statement that you make with your question is, “There is no such thing as a contemplative. You’re either a Christian or not.”. At least that’s what I hear so my comment based on that assumption is: Contemplatives do in fact exist and yes they are way, way holier than everybody else. I know because I am one and I am one of the holiest that I know of and that’s on my bad days. Perhaps a good topic for a post. What is a contemplative?

      • I cannot speak for other contemplatives, but from my own experience on this path, I would never claim holiness as something to be lauded over another. I think Jesus said something like, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” As such, I try really hard to remain humble and not to judge contemplation as either a holier path or as some have accused me, “The path of the devil.” I felt called to this path. Others have not. I have grown deeper in my relationship with God through Jesus on the contemplative path. Others grow in their relationship with God via other means. I think some else said something like, “Grace is sufficient unto itself.” Perhaps this applies here as well.

        • Hi Laura,
          I was only joking. My holiness is only exceeded by my humility which is also best in class.

  4. Marcus Johnson says:

    I’m currently writing a memoir about my deployment in Iraq. It’s a really tricky process, because a significant part of my experience consisted of my involvement with the worship team at one of the chapels. I am surrounded by a community of writers, but most of those writers do not really understand my Christian perspective, so it’s a lot of work to present these experiences in a way that can relate to everyone. I’ve tried to present some chapters to my writer friends, but some of the ideas I’m presenting cause a lot of head-scratching.

    One of my biggest inspirations has been the memoir, “The Unlikely Disciple,” by Kevin Roos. As an undergraduate student at Brown, Roos, who was ambiguous about his own personal faith identity, took a year-long sabbatical to attend and study life at Liberty University. He was also the last person to interview Jerry Falwell before he died. It’s a very eye-opening read, to the point where I forget that this is a 21-year-old writing about an experience he had as a 19-year old.

  5. Good writing like good anything requires muscle development, coordinative development, a clear long-range goal with steps to get there. It requires interest in the body of material and not merely its hoped for results, hence good motivation. Natural talent helps a lot but rarely does it go beyond its incompetence. Read, read and read some more to pick up articulative gifts and skills. It takes time, your time and the time you might spend with others so plan and manage. Great athletes train when scheduled whether they feel like it or not because they know it isn’ t about training when you feel like it. Keep a note pad or something to record thoughts as you think about your material. You can either write for a specific audience or write to let you audience find you. Complete your project. Then, you will know more clearly how the process works and how it can be tailored for you. But the truth is that it is a lot if mental work many simply are not up to in the long run. Putting together ideas and articulating them well, over and over, takes energy. I stated the obvious only because this is what many wishful writers hope to discover they can circumvent. Kind of like wanting to be an explorer without sweating, cutting paths, being hungry or sleeping in a tent. You can do that only you are exploring what someone else already found and built.

  6. Blogging has been a surprise blessing for me. I write everyday and find words expressing many topics. I am floored when at times I think a post is too personal, boring or insignificant – and get more comments than expected and that it touched people in ways I never imagined.

    I also write for our local newspaper. But what I have been noticing as a write this year I blog and submit articles to to the paper BUT don’t write the in-depth spirituality books/articles I know I have been called to write. God has been inviting me lately to get back to that area.

    I invite any one to hop over to my blog and appreciate any comments;

    http://www.healthyspirituality.org

  7. I’ve been a writer for pretty much my entire life. I remember associating myself as being a writer when I was eight years old. But I’ve been an avid writer and blogger for the past five or six years, and it can be a frustrating profession—but a very rewarding one as well. I’ve very much enjoyed reading the comments left by other bloggers and writers—thank you for opening up this discussion!

  8. I’m hoping with every fiber of my being that this thread will not remind me of my favorite Bible verse:

    “He that tooteth not his own horn getteth his own horn not tooted.” (Hezekiah 3:16)

    Thought #2: The world needs writers who write, not writers who write about writing (unless your name is Anne Lamott). In other words, the message is of far more interest than the process. One must know the process, of course, but one should neither bore the audience nor preach to the choir.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      That’s a valid concern. On the one hand, sometimes it helps writers to talk out their writing process (as both a writer and a first-year writing instructor at a university, I’ve seen it work). On the other hand, writers do tend to struggle with their own ego (especially memoirists like myself).

      How do other writers find balance between developing their writing process through verbal expression and flaunting our achievements like we’re creators of the next great piece of world literature?

      • Sarah L. says:

        As another first-year writing instructor, I think it’s important to talk about the writing process. So many of my students assume that Real Writers shut themselves up in a room and emerge with a perfect first draft; looking at their own writing (almost always a first draft), they either despair of ever being a writer or they think that they have no room for improvement. I teach my students that writing is a process, and a process that can be greatly enriched by writing in a community. This allows both the despairing and the self-assured writers to assemble a toolbox of skills that can help them improve their writing; and while many students are initially resistant to the draft workshops that occupy much of their classroom time, by the end of the course almost all of them see the exchange of drafts in many stages (from shitty first draft to polished final draft) as the most useful aspect of the course.

        I think being honest about our own writing processes and open to feedback from others keeps ego in check, but I’m also the type of writer who gets to the end of a third revision and then despairs that what I’ve written doesn’t make any sense (not exactly conducive to finishing a dissertation . . . ). But writing is a skill that we can always improve, and talking both generally and specifically about ways to improve has been incredibly helpful for me.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Amen; what are the chances that I would find another first-year writing instructor in this forum!

        Sarah, I usually have to repeat statements similar to yours at least several dozen times a year.

    • I think you misquoted the verse there. It actually comes from Egotisticus 17:6b. 🙂

  9. I have been blogging for a few years now at http://rebootchristianity.blogspot.com and it is something which has been both a great blessing and at times a great struggle.

    Like many of the above commenters, I have always found myself desiring to write, even though I chose a career (engineering) best known for being barely able to string together five coherent words. Leading small groups I was encouraged to start a blog and it really took off from there.

    My big struggle with writing is always to battle whether I am writing for me or other people. I have a few thousand regular readers, which is mind-blowing to me, as I do nothing to promote the blog. But I know that I could have a bigger influence if I posted things which were more controversial, posted comments and had debates in the other blogs that I read each day (like IM), did Facebook advertising or whatever. I just cannot bring myself to do those things. They just don’t feel like me for some reason.

    And so I am constantly struggling with these competing desires. On the one hand I just want to be ME. I want to write what I want to write, and frankly I am not a big controversial guy. My blog’s motto is “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love”. That’s just who I have become as I matured in Christ. But on the other hand, I constantly worry that if I do not do all of those things, then I am just a signal being lost in the noise of the blogosphere. After all, there are thousands of very excellent Christian blogs; so why would anyone read mine unless I promote it better?

    This is ultimately my big struggle as a writer: do I write for me (in which case, I may have a more limited audience but will be more authentic and filled with joy in the product) or do I write for other people (in which case I should be doing those things necessary to promote my blog to a broader audience)?

    • I don’t comment a lot, but I read every Reboot post and it’s close to my favorite blog on the ‘net. I hope you’ll be doing it for a long time, because I (and I’m glad to see many others as well) would seriously miss it.

  10. I’m a longtime IM reader who found the site years ago when I googled Larry Norman and ran across an article Michael Spencer wrote about Larry and CCM. I almost never comment here, but I read daily. Michael’s writing had a profound impact on my life, and I love to read his old posts.

    I’m a novelist with Multnomah. I’m from a Lutheran background and I’m still a Lutheran at heart. As I grew up, my favorite authors were Sayers, Chesterton, and Wodehouse. (They still are.) My parents let me read anything, trusting me to do my own censorship. I grew up in the pre-CBA years when Christian books mingled with everything else in bookstores. I wish we could go back to those days, but here I am, writing for a market that I almost never read. (I might get in trouble for saying that….)

    My first novel was about spiritual abuse in the Christian homeschooling community. Fortunately, my editor gave me freedom to write honestly about it. I believe fiction has incredible power when it’s allowed to be what it needs to be, but Christian publishing is a weird mix of art, business, and ministry. It’s a tough balance between conflicting goals. (I’m sure Jeff could tell us some stories about that.)

    Here’s something from a blog post I wrote a few years ago: “Last year, I sat down with a friend who wanted to start writing a book, and I tried to share with her some of the most basic principles of writing. The most fundamental thing I could tell her was that words are a sacred gift from God and we shouldn’t treat them lightly. Those marks we make on paper–the symbols that represent sounds that form words that we string together into sentences–they’re the thoughts of one mind, recorded so they can be accessed later by another mind, a world away. A century away. Words can time-travel.”

    Can you imagine a world without writing, without some form of books? I can’t. It would be hell.

    By the way, the email on my website isn’t working at the moment. If anybody wants to email me, try meg (dot) moseley (at) google.com.

  11. I have been blogging for the last two years, although it has not been consistent. I have found it to be a profound blessing in the sense that it gives me an outlet to communicate and share things that are on my heart. I also approach it as a discipleship tool for those that are in my life. I love to preach and teach, but I often feel that I communicate far better writing than speaking. At the same time, there are dynamics that are irreplaceable when comparing speaking to someone and writing.

    I love studying theology so my writing is mainly theological in nature. There is one thing that I have noticed since I started blogging: the tendency to use life’s moments as blogging material rather than ways to encounter God. the same goes for my times do devotion. There are some things that are meant to feed my souls desire to God. Not everything needs to be a blog post or an opportunity for writing. I hope that makes sense.

    I blog at http://www.stonecall.com

  12. One more thing: mobile devices are not as forgiving as keyboards when writing, as you can tell from the many grammatical errors in my previous post.

  13. I was surprised to see the headline “Open Forum for Writers” in my inbox this morning. And now I just have to share the little story God spun into my life recently (about a book deal with Harvest House, among other things).

    I’m Caleb, by the way, and I’m blogging/building a tribe of truth-seeking Millennials (18 to 35) at http://www.calebbreakey.com.

    Anyway, here’s the short version of my little story that I shared on Facebook, which ended up exploding with 275 ‘likes,’ a testament to God’s continuing outpouring:

    *************

    For 4 1/2 years, Brittney and I have preached one thing to each other: The Chinese bamboo plant. For its first four years, the Chinese bamboo plant hardly pokes out of the soil. But during the fifth year, it springs up 90 feet in six weeks.

    Over a span of six hours on May 31, 2012, God let me spring up.

    • At 10 AM, I learned that I was one of three finalists in the speculative fiction category of the ACFW Genesis contest.

    • At 11 AM, I received an out-of-the-blue, full-time job offer from a prestigious Bible-based company.

    • At 4 PM, I received a two-book (non-fiction) deal from Harvest House Publishers.

    • By MIDNIGHT, I was still shaking.

    My first book will release Fall 2013.

    I’m excited. Really excited. But here’s the thing: this is more about YOU, if you’re an artist of any kind.

    NEVER give up. NEVER give in. Just do the work. And more work. The results come later.

    God WILL make you spring up. God WILL be with you all the way.

    More on this in the days ahead. Until then, thank you to everyone who’s encouraged us along the way. We’re praising God and celebrating!

    And then … back to work.

    *************

    If you’re looking for more encouragement, check out this video I created at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It’s about beating Resistance and writing like crazy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_HSlvkyOZE.

    • Caleb,

      I checked out your blog and I like the way you ask questions. It was in your target age range that I started asking questions, but not until later did I begin to formulate answers. I didn’t yet have all the tools.

      I’ll be reading some more and hopefully I’ll drop some comments here and there. Cheers!

      • Steve, thank you so much for your comment. I can’t really express the impact of these words: “It was in your target age range that I started asking questions, but not until later did I begin to formulate answers. I didn’t have all the tools.”

        This is just … encouraging, brother. I’m a questioner at heart, a former journalist. My favorite question is, “What does that look like?” Because sometimes I feel so stuck in theory and doctrine without arms and legs. I long for unity, yet can’t help but stir the Body with questions.

        Your words are encouraging because it sounds like days of tools and answers may be on the horizon. I look forward to that. I really do.

        I’ve only got one life to live and I want to give my absolute BEST to Jesus, my King. Praise be to God.

        Caleb

        • Caleb,

          I mostly used my age in this because I didn’t convert to Christianity until I was 30. Many of my questions were posed before then. I hope tools and answers can come to you and your readers before mid 40’s. 🙂 Keep blogging.

  14. First of all – many thanks for the diverse open topics this week and for the myriads of comments. It is good to be challenged and stretched. I have found that my written prayers/insights are more in depth than my spoken prayers. Perhaps it is the process that one slows down to hear our own hear-beats. It is amazing is it not that God knows our thoughts before we do? There is a place of solitude (not my words, but true) where there are these divine interactions that can be profound and at times so simple. So to ALL who sense to write (by whatever way) to do so. For it has been those of the past that challenge/enrich/inform the Words of God to transform our inner soul. I find that I need others to be truthful in their struggles as Christ-followers to share their vulnerabilities and then the Holy Spirit’s help to begin new and fresh and free from my “fleshly ways”. Be encouraged to step in what ways the Spirit will direct you.

  15. Randy Thompson says:

    As someone who writes, at least occasionally, I think a lot about the conflict I feel between what I want to write about and what really is worth writing down. (I include this reflection in that statement, by the way.)

    I feel as though we are drowning in words, and to write something is like offering water to drowning people.

    The rest of this post will be silence. (Enjoy it, because it may be the best part of what I’ve written!)

  16. Joseph (the original) says:

    i don’t consider myself a writer although i do like to write. i find the written form of communication the most comfortable for me as i write pretty much as i think; that proverbial conversation going on in my head put to words…

    i found writing to be very cathartic. i did an intense journalling for a few years, then i hit my stride in message forums of varying theological slants, but mostly camped out in what was loosely categorized as the ’emerging’ conversation…

    that interaction was very influencial in my later spiritual development. and then the fairly recent life disruption of divorce & unemployment had me journalling again thru email exchanges with my closest friends+family…

    i can express myself well enough in written form, although my interaction with theological blogs+websites less now that before. i have discovered i do not need to have my own platform/soapbox & my perspectives are, well. my perspectives of no great theological import/weight. i am not an iconoclast in the sense of addressing the perceived wrongs of Christianity as i live it out in today’s culture. i have concluded there is so much more transformation that needs to happen in & thru me & as i measure myself against the red letters in my bible i find myself woefully lacking in divine character…

    those that have the inspiration, discipline, clarity & skill to write is something i do admire only because of the writing i have done. i do appreciate a well crafted, succinct sentence. i do like a well crafted treatise, especially a heart-felt & humble theological one. i like writing so much i am actually envious of those that do it well. but i am not a blogger or an author or a journalist. i simply like to write as my most expressive form of communication…

  17. The Internet Monk was the very first blog I read regularly. Michael Spencer’s writings were invaluable to me in my healing process from a very difficult church situation. His posts were like cups of fresh water as I wandered through the “post-evangelical wilderness.”

    After a few years of wandering, my wife and I recently became Catholic. We feel that, at long last, we are home. It’s been difficult, though, because so many evangelical friends of ours feel we have at best made a poor decision, and at worst are now apostate.

    So I blog. I hope to put into words, as best I can, the beauty and joy we’ve found. It’s been a great way to start dialogues. I love writing…the process itself has brought me a great deal of enjoyment, and a lot of understanding of where the Lord has brought us.

    Here are two recent posts of mine:

    My thoughts on marriage– http://wp.me/p2b7Uo-8m

    A testimony about the role that devotion to the Sacred Heart has played in my walk with the Lord recently: http://wp.me/p2b7Uo-6w

    Many blessings to you, Chaplain Mike, for continuing this wonderful website and sharing your heart with us in so many great posts!

  18. I never started out to be blogger much less a writer, but over the past four years I have done a lot of the writing over at the New Reformation Press blog. I enjoy it, but that may be because I have the freedom to only write when I have something to say. I also spend a great deal of time pointing to other writers/speakers that are far more eloquent and observant than myself. The theology of the Lutheran Reformation has literally saved my faith from being extinguished on several occasions. When I first heard the doctrines of the Reformation, I was angry that these teachings were not common knowledge, at least among Christians, so I labor as best I can with the talent given me to make them known.

    Thanks CM, for your work here carrying on Michael’s legacy.

  19. Rick Ro. says:

    Back in 2002, I became a stay-at-home dad to take care of our new-born daughter. I thought, “This will be great! Now I’ll be able to write The Great American Novel!” Little did I know how much time it took to care for a new-born. I then began writing poetry, as poetry seemed to best fit the short snippets of time I had to myself during my daughter’s naps.

    When my daughter began full-time school in 2008, I started writing a science fiction novel. The first 100 pages flew out of my brain and onto the page. Alas, writer’s block set in, and though I can periodically blow through the writer’s block, my writing now happens in fits and starts. I hate to say it, but I think by the time I’ve finished my first draft all the sci-fi gadgetry sprinkled throughout the book will have become a reality. 🙂

    One of the things that really, really excites me about writing is this: every now and then, as I write a scene and characters act out according to who they are (and NOT as I think they should act), I get the slightest glimpse of what it must be like to be God, to see your creation come to life and watch those you’ve created and those you love suffer and thrive, do good or do bad, and live and sometimes die. And every now and then I’m hit with the thought that I’m a part of HIS story, just as my characters are a part of mine.

    • Rick, I loved your descriptions of your characters coming to life. That’s the best part of writing fiction. (Well, one of the best parts. There are a lot of best parts.) You might enjoy “The Mind of the Maker” by Dorothy L. Sayers because it gets into the concept of writer as creator, on a deep level.

      For me, writer’s block happens when my soul gets dry, and then writing is like trying to draw water from a dry well. It helps to take a break from writing and immerse myself in reading a big variety of truly good books, fiction and nonfiction, unrelated to whatever I’ve been trying to write.

  20. My favourite quote:

    ‘A book should be the pickaxe that smashes up the frozen sea inside you’ Franz Kafka.

    A definition of art:

    ‘Deliberate Human Action’ Nicholas Wolterstorff

    So accidents are not art, nor is the action of an animal, nor is a sunset. Making cheese-on-toast is, as is writing, painting, speaking, praying, cooking, acts of kindness, words of encouragement and anything else you could think of doing. Perhaps there is no difference between ‘artists’ and the rest of the world because everyone is an artist, bringing good and life-affirming, or perhaps cruel and selfish art into God’s creation every minute of every day.

  21. My interest in blogging started, oddly enough, from a professional software users forum (CAD software for architects). This forum was a great community (even better than here at iM, if you can imagine) and we shared personal lives as well as professional endeavors. Much of the writing done was in debugging new versions of our software. One day I received a comment from somebody who said he enjoyed the way I communicated, and suggested I start a blog! I always was kind of a self-critical “communication nazi.”

    I was stuck in a neo-Calvinist theology, largely due to the churches I attended, and although I liked the deep thought that Reformed theology availed, I couldn’t help but feel alone in discovering things that weren’t quite right. It hit me that I should blog about those things. One of the largest problems I recognized was that all theology seemed to come from pastors and theologians, and their buddies who wrote the books we sheep read. I never got to hear what anybody in the pews thought. Hence, my blog title, From the Pew: http://fromthepew.blogspot.com

    I stumbled across iMonk, and it took a while for me to figure out what was going on here. I commented somewhat regularly, but never found anybody interacting with my comments. It was very frustrating. Until one day I received a personal email from Michael Spencer himself, telling me he was a fan of my writing (Huh? Must have been our kindred spirit in our critique of evangelicalism), and asking me if I would be an occasional contributor here at iMonk. I was thrilled. But the economy took a toll on my family and, having to start a new career from scratch, I never made it past my intro post at iMonk.

    In short, I try to write in a manner that provokes others to think about things in ways they normally wouldn’t think. I have benefited greatly from others who have the same approach, and my reading everything from Anglicans to anarchists, fundamentalists to apostates, Baptists to Eastern Orthodox, and iMonk, has helped shape my thinking and “world view.” Many thanks to Chaplain Mike for this platform, and may iMonk serve the internet well.

    • Steve, I just read your first paragraph, about CAD software, to my wife. She’s got herself involved with a similar user’s forum (ArchiCAD) and has been lamenting every time they change something and then she can’t retrieve earlier documents. But no sign of this leading to her starting a blog.

      By the way, the name of my blog was inspired in part from yours, or at least the “from” in fromoffshore. Just plain “offshore” was already taken at WordPress.

      You’ve had some great stuff on your blog. I haven’t peeked for a while but will get on that right away. I think you had a good series on Romans 13 a while back that I used.

      My blogging has declined a bit lately. It’s hard to bare the soul publicly, especially when there’s no telling who’s reading the thing and there’s not a lot of feedback. And cartoons and youtube can only go so far. Most of my writing these days is in the form of emails to friends and entries to the blogs of others, such as iMonk and two or three others.

      I’d like to get back to my attempt at a novel, but several years ago I met with frustration compounded by a ruthless editor critiquing it (it wasn’t Jeff), and it’s dead in the water. But you need to keep on writing.

      • Ted,

        Thank you for the kind words. It’s humbling to hear about even a small influence upon others.

        My Romans 13 series, as well as a bunch of other material, was taken down “temporarily” a few years ago. The elders of a church we were attending at the time found out about my blog and decided to “have a meeting” with me. Turns out blogging about theology was verboten, especially, it seems, when one blogs about the topic of authority, and in the interest of peaceful dialog with them, I took some stuff down. I haven’t put it back up because my thoughts have changed a bit and I wanted to revise a few things, but time and circimstances have prevented me. Needless to say, we don’t attend there anymore.

        Funny how an editor (or church elders) can have such an effect upon writing. If you’ve got a new editor, maybe you can start afresh! I haven’t peeked at your blog in a while, either, but one thing I enjoy is that you incorporate good photography and art in your writing.

        • Thanks, Steve. I had noticed that the Romans series was gone but didn’t know the reason. Sorry to hear why but glad you’re clear of that church. I blogged about Romans 13 a couple of July 4ths ago and nobody pounded on my door.

          By the way, have you been over to Christian Monist? He made a cartoon video entitled “Evangelical Church Exit Interview”. Scary. Click to the link on the right of this page for his blog and then scroll to the bottom of his page once you’re there.

          • Ted, yes, I occasionally read his blog and I’ve watched that video numerous times. Hilarious! Or not!

            Are you beard-less in any of those mission pics of yours? If so, I’m trying to pick you out.

          • Nope. Beard all the way back to 1976. I’m in the Feb 7 photo, and Feb 18 in the bottom photo on the left. Also the lobsterman in the O.R., Feb 15, but they made me cover the beard.

  22. Hello All,

    I didn’t begin writing until 1985. I’d suffered a season of PTSD from an incident that had happened some 13 years earlier when I was a pilot in the U.S. Army. The VA counselor that helped me though the grief suggested near the end of our sessions that I write about the time. I did. Doing that seemed to wake up a desire to write more. In the years since that beginning, I’ve written numerous poems, short stories and essays. I’m currently working on a novel. An audio version of my short story, Bay Street, is available for free on my website: http://mkmstudios.com.

    What follows is the shortest of all my stories — only 370 words long — entitled The Craftsman’s Plan.

    Blessings to all of you,

    Michael

    The Craftsman’s Plan
    by Michael K. Mills

    The Craftsman sat alone on a hill. His body soaking in the warmth of the day, his nostrils treated to a multitude of fragrance borne on the breeze. Music played somewhere, and yet, everywhere — music to dream by. His mind was in a distant place: a shop — his workshop but, more precisely, on the creation to be produced in that shop, which was taking shape in his mind. And, as the form developed in the mist, a smile began to break on the corners of his mouth.

    “Ah, it is good,” He thought. “Yes! It will be this way!”

    Eternity continued, as did this plan. He wrote nothing down. There was no need too. Every detail was taking shape in his mind, every nuance of texture becoming clear, except for one thing. What if…what if it…. The idea struck him like the blast of an explosion. How to overcome this great obstacle had become so suddenly clear — almost before the problem was evident — that even he was shocked by it. The smile grew to maturity, while at the same time he realized the cost for such a project would be immeasurable.

    Could it work? Could it fail? I must stake everything I have, everything I am, on this. I must literally place all that I am into this work…I must become the work.

    The smile had faded only slightly with the realization of this price, because the result would be more amazing than anything ever conceived. This work would never wear out. It would last for all to see and enjoy.

    “It is finished,” he exclaimed to no one but himself as he stood, preparing to begin, knowing that he would speak those words again during the middle of this work — which would be the most agonizing part, but also, the most beautiful. One last look around, nothing would again be the same. One last deep breath, smells would change. The music was already different.

    He called to his workers. He would tell them only of the beginning stages, for now. The plan was too complex for them to fully grasp.

    The Craftsman turned toward his servants, his joy complete, the plan now firm, and spoke:
    “In the beginning, God…!”

  23. I just recently started blogging again (http://allynsalley211.blogspot.com). I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, a fun time during the month of November when the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It doesn’t have to be a good novel. It just has to be 50,000 words and written in 30 days.

    My frustration is time. I am a student in court reporting school, and had I known it was going to be this difficult, I would probably not have picked the field. I also have a child with autism.

  24. I used to blog on occasion but decided I wanted to write fiction after recognizing that I had a God-given talent that I was wasting by not using it. I’m currently working on a big, epic fantasy novel, trying to write about twenty pages a week in between teaching English in Japan.

    I like genre fiction like science fiction and fantasy. Favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, China Mieville, Yukio Mishima, George R.R. Martin, etc.

    Here’s an excerpt from one of the viewpoint characters in my story.

    – – –

    The air was still cool, the stress brought on his body by ascending the hill mercifully warming him up by the time he arrived at the entrance. There was nobody else outside. Pale red flowers bloomed from the low-hanging bloodberry trees on either side of the long wooden door. Normally that heralded the start of summer, but now it felt more like an omen than anything else.
    The panagon was the most distinct building on the island. If seen overhead from a bird’s eye view, it would appear as a nonagon, its unusual pointed roof appearing pointed from where Tenya stood but convex from the side. Its roof was made from slick golden tiles forged on another Kuyu island, the main building made from light, hard wood from the surrounding forest at the hilltop. It had been all but cut down several decades ago to build the panagon; now it had completely regrown.
    Tenya slid the door open and took off his shoes in the entryway, putting on the straw slippers used indoors before opening the inner door to find his master sitting alone in the center of the room on a nine-sided cushion. His eyes were closed, his face in an expression that did not reveal whether he was meditating, sleeping, or in prayer. A sword in a rosewood scabbard sat at his crossed feet, a piece of paper and brush next to it. Light from outside reflected onto the glassy floor of the panagon, projected by a complex system of mirrors from the roof that gave the building a warm inner glow even on dark or rainy days.
    “You asked to see me?” Tenya said, slowly approaching his master before kneeling about ten feet away.
    “Yes. Thank you for coming, Tenya,” he said.
    “Where is everyone else?”
    “At home with their families. Most likely in bed.” Yusano choked, clearing his throat.
    “You do not sound well,” Tenya said.
    “I am not. That is why I called you here.”
    “I’m ready to help however I can. What shall I do?” If his master simply required someone to take care of him, Tenya would be more than happy to oblige. It was a fitting task for the lowest in his school.
    Yusano looked up for the first time, showing Tenya his stark gray eyes and his tough, golden-brown face. His white hair with only a hint of red still remaining hung down well past his shoulders, tied in the back into three loose braids. His simple, charcoal robe reflected the modest philosophy of the Kaba Zitu school. If Tenya somehow became a master swordsman, he would wear the same style one day.
    “This pox threatens all of Kuyu,” he said, clearing his throat from the sludge that made speaking difficult. “And it is not getting better on its own.”
    “Yes, master. My family still suffers from it, as well.”
    “You recently lost your brother, did you not?”
    “I’m afraid so,” he said. He had not spoken personally with his master since it had happened. “We lost him in the night, two weeks ago. He went out into the water and drowned himself. We did not know until his body washed ashore two days later. It has been… hard for us.”
    “I understand,” he said. “And that is why it is with great sadness that I must take another child from your dear mother.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You, Tenya Dukada, are the last healthy man on these islands,” he said. “The last we know of. At best, the rest of us are just holding on to life, but each day a few more bodies pile up. Soon there will be not enough graves on this island to bury all who are lost, and we will be forced to throw their bodies to the sea, as in the savage days. Perhaps those days have truly returned.”
    “What would you have me to do?”
    “You are special, Tenya. We both know that. We have known it since the day when you first set foot in this panagon as a boy.”
    “The mark on my neck,” he said. “It protects me, doesn’t it?”
    “Yes. That is no mere birthmark, however. That is a seal, one showing that you have been chosen by the gods.”
    “Chosen? For what?”
    “In the savage days, great terror reigned upon the world. It split apart at the seams, lands cast across the sky. Mountains fell apart, fertile lands were turned to deserts by raging flames, and desperate armies clashed against the dark powers from beyond the sky that shattered our lands.”
    “Do you really believe that? Those are just legends. They tell of days where evil magic wreaked havoc across the world, wielded by the Bakh Lords and their followers. But there is no such thing as magic, is there?”
    “I do not know,” he said. “But remember the rest. A small group of warriors banded together to struggle against the evil one, the Bakh Lord called Mekh Abeknos. The Bastion Against Darkness.”
    “So they say, anyway.”
    “And do you know what it was that united them? The seals on their backs. The seals described as being just like yours.”
    Tenya’s heart sank, though he could not have said why.
    “You have been chosen for something far greater than life on Hagazu,” Yusano said. “That is why I trained you.”
    “That’s why you kept me around even though I’m a failure.”
    “Listen, Tenya. You are not a failure. You are a fine swordsman and will grown beyond any of the other students in this panagon.”
    “I find that hard to believe. I’ve been failing for the past fifteen years.”
    “Things that other students quickly master simply take you longer. In time, you will reach their level. A failure in Kaba Zitu is more than a match for the swordsmen of any other land in the world.”
    “That may be. But what does it matter now? Everyone is either sick or dying. I suppose now I am the strongest. It’s not worth it, though. I would rather just help however I can.”
    “Tenya, I did not call you here to take care of me or anyone else,” Yusano said in a serious tone. “I called you here to send you out from Hagazu. To leave Kuyu. To find a cure.”

  25. You know, I used to blog every day…in fact, Eagle was one of my most frequent commentors. But since there was no set theme to my blog, literally blogging about anything I may be interested in at that moment, it was tough to build an audience, so it was a bit of a mess. Plus every time I blogged about Christianity, members of my former church would come and comment and try to correct me or lead me back to their views. Just another love of mine that was quenched.

    I miss blogging some days, it’s a good outlet and focus, but committing to blogging every day is quickly tiresome.

  26. I didn’t read every comment here, but I clicked on all the available links on this post. If you just got a new computer or a new browser and want to bookmark some blogs to read regularly, choose a blog you really, really like — like iMonk — and then click the links and read the people who leave comments.

    With a self-made commitment to post each day to two different blogs — Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201 — I’ve also created a self-imposed daily deadline that can seem overwhelming at time, nonetheless, I encourage people who are hesitating to try daily blogging for one year.

    With the trend toward micro-blogging, you don’t have to ramble on for paragraphs (like I do), in fact the trend is toward greater concision. Tag your posts exhaustively, submit your URL to search engines, and with the click of a mouse, your words have the potential to reach the world!

    In the last four years, I’ve met the most interesting people, and been forced to engage topics that I otherwise might not have considered. Although I have never monetized my blogs, the payoff in free review books has exceeded all the titles I ever received in several decades of working in the Christian book industry.

  27. Just back from vacation, saw this forum and wanted to contribute.

    I’ve been writing my blog http://www.momentarydelight.com for over one year now.

    I wanted to write about those things most important to me. I came from a very earnest and legalist Southern Baptist background. They never really encouraged us to engage in our gifts. Starting my blog, I heard all the old voices.

    “You’re not good enough”
    “You don’t have ‘authority’ to write.”
    “What is the purpose or point of your writing.”
    “Where is this headed?”

    These old voices were all about diminishing me and about my fear of failure. When I started writing Momentary Delight, I set out without any clear sense of where this “writing thing” was headed. I set out with the understanding that this could end in failure.

    At first, when I started writing, I talked a lot about my church experience. I was working through my own disappointments and loss, and this blog was my way of working through things, like forgiveness, God’s plan for my life and more. I also kept my blog on stealth mode. I didn’t tell any of my friends about it. I think, I was afraid of what they might say. Maybe they would think my writing was terrible. Maybe they would think I was messed up. Gradually, I began to share my blog with others. The response has been positive and supportive. Surprise!

    In the end, I write for many reasons, but foremost, I write because it helps me. It helps me work through things. It helps me get out of my head. I also believe that writing is God’s gift to me and sometimes God even speaks to me through my writing.

    Thank you for giving us this forum to share.

  28. I write about prayer, worship, ministry resources and technology.

    I blog because it gives me a voice to express myself and share what little I know with others.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.