Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
I am writing several blogs in a row on CS Lewis's essays published in the book, ON STORIES. I enjoyed these essays immensely. And I would like to whet your appetite for this book and Lewis in general.
I once heard a man, quoting from a book, saying he never read the introduction to a book because you got no new information in the preface. As a writer I try to set the stage for understanding the rest of the book in my introduction. The introduction to On Stories is written by Walter Hooper who was CS Lewis's secretary near the end of his life. After his death Hooper was the primary impetus for Lewis’ books coming into our hands all of these years. He kept at Publishers to make sure Lewis’ books were published again and again. (I highly recommend Eric Metaxas' interview with Hooper in Socrates in The City, https://vimeo.com/149724229.)
One of the things he talked about in the introduction was Lewis's ambition. All writers need ambition. But it must be balanced by devotion to God. Walter Hooper said “Lewis’ ambition was like a man living with a beast with only food enough for one. And the beast wants it all.” However, he said “Lewis's conversion spoke to everything in his life. There was no facet of his life that was not touched by it.” He said, “certainly Lewis would have been a writer of note. That was already self-evident. But he would never have become the good and great man that he was without his conversion.” And his conversion spoke directly to his ambition.
As it turned out Lewis kept his ambition. But it took a backseat to goodness, righteousness and truth. I feel toward ambition and even tricks to be published, a little like I think of church growth methods. I became convinced that I was to do what I believed was right as a pastor even if it did not gather crowds.
I would also rather write what I believe is needed, what I believe God is calling me to write and what pleases God, then to write what would please editors. I am aware those things do not always oppose one another. But I'm reminded of Ravi Zacharias’ Harvard Veritas Forum lectures, Can Man Live Without God. The publisher protested that people would never read the book if they didn't dumb it down. Ravi resisted and the publisher conceded. Ravi says it is still the best selling of his books.
When I had just finished my first book, Joy, and was approaching people to read it, I wrote a friend who already co-wrote a fabulous best seller with his father, and had published a number of successful books. He wrote me back and said, “David, I am also writing a book on joy. I don't want to see your book until mine is published.” Months later I was at a writers conference where I pitched my book to an editor. Interestingly enough the editor brought up my friend’s book on joy. I don't know if he suspected that I knew him. Even so, I feel he was out of bounds in telling me what he told me. He said he thought they should have published it. But his publishing house felt his book was too far above the average reader. And he said my friend quite obligingly made the changes they suggested. But after he had made the changes they said it had lost its greater spiritual significance.
I have been in contact with a writer (as a pupil) who in fact has more New York Times bestselling books than any Christian writer I know of. I'm afraid to say more lest he be easily recognized. He basically teaches people how to please editors. Much of what he says is helpful. But some of what he teaches gives me the creeps. I do need to admit that his books include significant spiritual depth. But I'm not sure I could do both. Whether I could or not, I need to be at peace with writing what I'm supposed to write. Rather than writing what might please editors. And I'm not convinced that editors know what would please readers any better than most writers.
What I have been proposing calls for prayer. Pray about the ambition that underlies your writing. Like you, I pray for my books to be successful. But I am convinced that you would need to come to a deep conviction to agree with my position. It is not enough that Lewis agreed with me, or that I got my thinking, to some extent, from Him. Such a conviction must come from God.