By Jim Tune
Just over two years ago Mark Taylor asked if I would write for Christian Standard regularly. He offered me the back page and the opportunity to write on a weekly basis online and once a month for the print edition. That’s 450 words, 52 times a year. Occasionally I sail up over the 500-word mark. Brevity is always a tough challenge for me.
Mark and I kicked around a couple of possible titles for my column. I submitted four or five suggestions, but we ended up going with Mark’s title: “A Different Tune.” It really is a good name—I’m a different guy, and some of my thoughts can be unconventional. Whatever. Today I am writing column number 100!
In my first column I mused over the assignment, guessing that “writing this column week in and week out with the goal of both being substantial and short will be challenging.” That has proven to be true. It’s been harder than I expected. That’s OK, though, because I love it!
The exacting need to be concise sharpens my skills as a writer. Deadlines bring discipline, and occasionally frustration for both my editors and myself! Most columns do not just magically flow from my brain in minutes. But I’ve learned a lot about the creative process.
People who write regularly, even many very good writers, report that the task usually amounts to work and discipline. They sometimes experience moments, or even hours, of “flow,” when inspiration and creativity abound. Usually though, they report the discipline of desk time, wrestling with an idea and painstakingly summoning the words that finally come kicking and screaming from the imagination.
Norman Mailer said every one of his books killed him a little more. Oscar Wilde described the artistic life as “one long, lovely suicide.” Clearly my burden and my talent are nowhere near that of Mailer or Wilde. Sure, it’s difficult work, especially when I’m not in the flow, but it doesn’t torment me. I wouldn’t do it if it did. At the end of the day, I love it. And it is nice to look back at a total body of work consisting of nearly 50,000 words over 100 weeks.
I don’t consider myself a great writer, but I am an aspiring writer! Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story about American poet Jack Gilbert (no relation). While a creative writing professor at the University of Tennessee, he was approached by a shy young student who admitted she wanted to be a writer one day. Elizabeth Gilbert writes that he smiled at the girl with compassion and asked, “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
So, I’ll continue to say yes to this project, but that’s all for now. I’m pushing up against 500 words.