What My First Book Just Taught Me About Creativity

T  his evening I reviewed my first book, The Wired Church. It is a call for churches to use media as a means to communicate the gospel. As I read what I wrote fifteen years ago, the lesson taught by greats like Hemingway and contemporary writers like Don Miller knocked me over.

Surprisingly, The Wired Church is my most personal work. I was just a 27 year old kid with a hyper drive for better communication in the church. The book is spotty, and I wrote some stupid things, but I also put in some raw and honest opinions. As I read tonight, the 42 year old told the younger me, “good job,” and then told the me of my Thirties to snap out of it, because ever since, I’ve been writing scared, looking for validation from phantom experts and trying to act like I know what I’m doing.

What the heck happened? Is this what M. Night Shyamalan experienced? Harper Lee? Fitzgerald? Any creative that peaks early?

One of my creative heroes, Clint Eastwood, once uttered, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” (That’s Magnum Force.) At 42, I am well aware of mine. My biggest is a lack of woo. Woo stands for “Winning Others Over.” It is the much desired StrengthsFinder personality trait that according to the Gallup site means

You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them.

My former business partner Jason Moore has this in spades. That’s definitely not me. I’ve learned to fake it, sort of, but it’s exhausting.

To mix assessments, I am a classic INTJ. I love big ideas, but I’m also an introvert, and people sometimes see me as aloof. As a result, the lack of interpersonal connection leads me to want to win others over with what I do best – writing. And here’s what I learned as I reviewed my first book.

After its success, I didn’t want to lose the respect that it had brought me, so I started writing safe.

My other books are still good, I think, and contain helpful information. But they aren’t personal, which is what made that book great.

Eventually, The Wired Church went out of print. Lot of good that strategy did me.

So, as I reviewed my book tonight, I realized that I’m done with the safe, Thirties me.

What the Forties me has learned is the counter-intuitive truth that the only woo I’ll ever do is the woo of a transparent heart. I won’t ever work a room over, but I can be honest, and from my honest struggles hopefully help others avoid the same mistakes and discover some similar solutions.

As Jeff Goins points out,

The less you care about your audience’s affections, the more your audience will be affected by your work.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care about my audience. On the contrary, I am freer to help them, which as anyone in ministry knows, is something entirely different than trying to win their approval.

No creative achievement ever comes from hiding your heart.
This is tough, because although my inclination is to hide (protect?) my heart, no creative achievement ever comes from hiding your heart.

So I’ve been inspired by my own first work. Maybe you will too – if not for the content, then perhaps for the young and hungry writer that pulled many all nighters, bleeding with passion for a big idea. And if you have a message for the 27-year old me, send it. I’ll pass it along.