“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” ~ Ben Franklin
That’s exactly what one reader said in reference to this blog post last week.
“I believe I know how you think,” the reader said, and he went on to recommend one particular author with whose work he thought I’d identify.
For a moment, his comment took me aback. Not in a bad way. It simply caused me to pause and think. I wonder just how many readers believe they know how I think? And is that a good or bad thing? Is my work overly predictable? Is it too simplistic? Locked in a genre? Have I failed to offer variety to those who read? If so, it’s all a crying shame.
Or … have I been successful in establishing a stylistic brand that resonates with a specific audience … and, if so, is that what I really want … because I honestly despise predictability and status quo, and would much prefer my reader be surprised, and caught off guard from one post to the next. The ultimate goal in my writing is to make people think. Think, perhaps differently, than they may have thought before.
So what exactly does it mean if a reader knows how a writer thinks? It’s a formidable question.
It just so happens that I know this reader. We’re not best buddies, we don’t hang out. We run into one another occasionally, mostly when I visit his retail store in my hometown. But mostly our relationship is via social media, and those communiques are only once a week or so at best.
But when Jay Gunter does send a few words my way, I pay attention. He’s a tactical, skilled entrepreneur, deep thinker and we relate in an extraordinary way on the topic of grace. We share a radical thinking on grace and a mutual distaste for works-based theology.
So when Jay writes, I get quiet, and read, and re-read his every word. I find priceless nuggets in the thoughts he puts into words.
“I believe I know how you think,” he said. Now that’s a pretty audacious thing to say, unless you’re dead solid perfect right. And so he was.
Friends and readers (not necessarily exclusive to one another) recommend books to me all the time. If I read every book ever recommended that’s all I’d do.
But that’s exactly what Jay did. He recommended I read the works of Robert Capon. “I think you’ll really identify with what Capon says, and how he says it,” Gunter wrote.
The last 30 minutes of my day, just ahead of bedtime had me researching Capon’s work. Two great reads are: The Parables of Grace and Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus.
In reading the Kindle samples, it took about 10 seconds to experience an extraordinary revelation.
Capon directs much of his effort towards not only breaking down the parables of Jesus, but he teaches through his own parable writing, and suddenly I realized what Jay didn’t say.
I’m prone to write in parables of my own, especially in this post which Jay referenced, and I didn’t even know it.
Now when a reader points to a writer and it produces a revelation like that, well, it’s enormous.
And it’s created a whole new self-understanding of a writing style I never knew I had. What’s the value in that? Priceless, because now, that style will be used more purposefully and effectively.
It’s like seeing the sun come up in the east for the very first time. Those moments are far and few between, and when they happen, you savor them.
Thanks, Jay, for your profound audacity that gracefully revealed a life-changing moment.
And thank God for the readers who presume knowledge of how we think.
Good, bad, or indifferent, I value reader commentary, so fire away any time.