WHEN I MET JOE…
Two years ago my life was different. I was working as a change agent for a church, helping to found a charter school, and building a unique church community (a “missional neo-monastic community” for all my fellow theology nerds).
While this different life was incredibly rewarding, it was also filled with anxiety and self-doubt. Who was I to be leading the principal hiring committee for a progressive charter school?
Who was I to be sitting in a room of men twice my experience and wisdom, suggesting ways to transform a church they had all begun attending before I had graduated high school?
Who was I to rally a small group and say, “Let’s try to do this centuries old thing – ‘church’ – differently”?
My nights were plagued with stress filled self-examinations of the things I said that day. I’d lay sleepless, regretting whether or not in that critical moment I should have done this thing, that other thing, or this third thing in my head.
I needed a way to process all that was going on in my mind. I needed a stress relief valve, I needed something that would take the boiling pot of my thoughts off the stove burner and make the screeching stop. I needed a distraction, an escape.
I’d enjoyed blogging about my life and had even posted an essay on Amazon as an e-book; so on a whim I googled “online writing course.” I thought it might be a good nightly activity that would drive my mind somewhere else. I didn’t believe anything would come of it.
One of the first results was a course called The Story Cartel. I read the description and signed up.
It was through that course that I first encountered Joe Bunting. Joe was the course director. Joe was the first person to tell me, “You can be a writer.”
These words changed my life. Writing has become much more for me than a relief valve. It has become how I think. It has unlocked parts of my brain I didn’t know existed. It is very much a dominating component of my self-definition. I am a writer.
August and September were some of the most stressful and painful months of my life. My character had come under fire from a surprising source, I’d lost my job, I’d bought a new house and moved two months earlier, and my wife was eight months pregnant. Four things brought me through that time: faith, my amazing wife, a good friends, and writing.
WHAT JOE DID FOR ME
I am constantly plagued by self-doubt. As a strategic thinker, I see multiple options for every decision that needs to be made. They all have their pro’s and con’s. If I’m not careful, I will be paralyzed deciding which direction to go.
There is this voice in my head. It’s my “Are you sure?” voice. It haunts me. It’s the voice that keeps me up at night questioning every move. “Are you sure? It’s a risk. Are you sure? There are other, less painful directions. Are you sure? There is a lot at stake. Are you sure? You’ve never done that before. Are you sure? You aren’t qualified. Are you sure? What do you know about it. Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?”
To my deep frustration, for every major decision I’ve had to make, my “Are you sure?” voice has support from people I love and respect. There is always someone beside me nervously saying, “Are you sure?” These voices have weight and power because they echo my internal fears.
“I’m going to step away from my successful pre-med studies to start working for this church and attend seminary.”
“Are you sure you want to throw all that hard work away, for a church job? Are you sure?”
“I’m going to leave the comforts the life I know to take a low paying job in inner city Baltimore.”
“Are you sure? You’ve got a wife and a kid now. Are you sure?”
“I’m going to leave the traditional church model that provides for my family to form a new type of community with a rag tag group of friends.”
“Wow. That sounds crazy. Are you sure?” (Friends actually staged interventions for me over that one.)
“I’m going to pull my kid from a respected, traditional public school to move to a strange neighborhood and join this group of people I’ve never met in undertaking this grand, progressive charter school experiment.”
“Are you sure? That’s your kid’s future you are messing with. Are you sure?”
“I’m going to go work for a church that has been in decline for twenty years. I’m going to help them turn it around.”
“Are you sure? Because that sounds insane.”
All of my life the voice in my head has questioned every step, every change, every leap of faith. And there have been people who love me, who have the best intentions, standing next to me, singing in harmony with my fears.
Except when, after a week into the Story Cartel course I said, “I’m going to write and publish fiction.” Instead of the “Are-you-sures”, there was Joe. He was there on my computer screen saying, “Push through your fear. You can be a writer if you want to be.”
Would I have begun writing fiction without Joe?
Probably. I tend to be a guy that swallows fears, internalizes anxiety, and moves forward despite myself.
Would I have loved learning to write without Joe? Would I now call myself a writer without Joe?
Joe’s encouraging and practical lessons made my leap to becoming a writer easy. His perspective on publishing in the current book culture is sage. Without Joe’s wisdom and instruction, I would have suffered late nights in anxiety, punishing myself with self-doubt. I can honestly say I wouldn’t now be able to utter the words, “I am a writer.”
Joe has a new, short e-book out. It’s called “Becoming Writer.” I highly recommend it for anyone who has wondered whether or not you have it in you to be a writer.
You can grab a free copy by clicking here.
Don’t pause to ask, “Are you sure?”
Go and grab one now.