Who inspired me to tell my story?
My probation officer was the first person I took seriously about writing a book about my life. It was just before I finished supervised release, (sort of like a prison sentence after a prison sentence). I told him I would need to wait for the statute of limitations to run out on any crimes I may have committed but hadn’t been charged with originally. I was joking but he didn’t know that. He simply raised an eyebrow and told me stay out of trouble. The more I thought about it, the more I thought my cautious joke was on point. So, I waited.
The second person I took seriously was a famous evangelist. A pretty cool guy, he told me that people needed to hear my story. I wasn’t so sure, but he said it several times. I guess it was kind of like the testimony of two or three witnesses in Scripture. Still, I waited.
The third person I took seriously was a co-worker. “Just get it out there and let it be done,” she said. I doubted she knew what would be in the book I would be getting out there, so I waited.
My wife, Cynthia, had encouraged me to consider writing a book. I smiled knowingly each time she brought it up. It was one of those husband looks that says, “I am seriously considering what you are saying.” But I wasn’t.
The final person I took seriously was God. He and I have a prayer life where we talk like we believe in each other, because we do. It is a habit I learned in prison before I was told it is supposed to be hard to hear from the Lord. It was July 2017.
Lots of things happened during that month. It was the month I officiated my youngest son’s wedding. It was also the month I began to have a lot of free time on my hands because I quit my job…again. I was laying in bed one morning and I clearly sensed it was time for me to write THE book. I figured I misheard the Creator and Sustainer of all things. I usually do that when I do not like what He wants me to do.
“Well, Father,” I said out loud to the ceiling, “if You want me to write the book You’re going to need to give me more time because I am very busy writing my dissertation prospectus.” Surely He would understand the importance of such an undertaking on my part. A few weeks later, Hurricane Harvey hit, and I had to withdraw from school for four months to help get things back together. By get things back together, I mean waiting on insurance companies and contractors, and swearing, inwardly.
Cynthia recommended I take a year or so off to complete my dissertation and to WRITE THE BOOK. She suggested that God had arranged my time off and that I should use it wisely so as not to have to repeat the lesson. I said okay and started to write. Four months later my masterpiece was completed. I sent it out to a few people and received rave reviews. These were people who knew me.
Funny thing about completing a masterpiece, unless someone outside of friends and family reads it, it is highly likely it is not a masterpiece. Speaking to my editor for the first time disabused me of the masterpiece status of my manuscript.
“What’s your genre?” she asked.
“What?” I replied, bewildered that genre was in the young person’s vocabulary.
“The people you want to read this,” she replied, somewhat harshly I thought.
“Uh,” I replied. I had never given it a thought. I just wrote the book, as commanded by the Lord.
“You need to know who the book is targeted for in the first place,” she explained officiously. Apparently she did not know a masterpiece when she read it.
“And the title is awful. It sounds like a blog post,” she continued.
“I like the title,” I replied defensively.” Three Lessons I Learned About God From My Wife, was an excellent title! I had thought of it myself! It had a subtle quality to it. Elegant.
“Most authors are horrible at titles.” She had been explaining more about titles but I wasn’t listening. I just wanted to get it uploaded to Amazon and let the praise begin! “They really have no clue.” She was still talking about authors. “And contractions, why don’t you use contractions when you write?”
“I do,” I replied.
“No, you don’t. This sounds like an academic wrote it. It needs more dialogue.” I wanted her to stop talking, put the book on Amazon, and leave me alone. “And feelings. You need to write about what you were feeling. For instance, describe how you’re feeling right now.”
“No,” I replied. It may have been the way I said it, or I may have let lose a minor swear word, but she finally stopped talking. After a few moments she began again, only this time nicer. My feelings are easily hurt.
“Mike,” she said slowly, “no manuscript is perfect the first time around. It’s okay, I’ll get it into shape and we’ll make changes together. It’s my job. It’s what I do.”
“How long?” I asked sullenly.
“The editing process will take a couple of months.” I gasped. I wanted it out the following week at the latest. “After that will come formatting which will take three more weeks.” Clearly it would be published posthumously at that rate. “After that we’ll see.”
So here we are, four months later and the book is finally coming out next month, just as hurricane season starts. We’ll (note the contraction), see if I learned my lesson about writing what He wants me to write.