November 20, 2014 was perhaps one of the proudest and most monumental moments of my life. You see, it was the day I published my first co-authored book “A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World.”* Throughout my life I have had a profound love of reading and writing. Since infancy, I couldn’t get enough of books, journals, and magazines, and as I have gotten older my appreciation for poetry, fiction, and short-stories have deepened. Although my literary interests have shifted over the years, a common thread of reading Biblical and theological musings has always permeated the very fiber of my being. I attribute my success as a student, solely to this love for words in all forms.
Nevertheless, as I reflect back on my journey as a young writer, I am reminded that what could be considered a natural talent, is only a very small portion of what has allowed me to be featured in several magazines, journals, and now in a bound copy of a book. That’s because, had it not been for the wonderful people who have mentored me throughout my literary career, I would likely never have made these gains. Therefore, I feel that it is so important to share a few examples of people who have mentored and nurtured me as I have learned to write. Of course this list will not include everyone who has had a literary impact on me, but I hope it serves its purpose of explaining that writing is not a solitary art; rather it is one that is fostered in community.
From the earliest days of my life, my parents have fostered in me a desire to read and write. My mother even has her own fond memories of me as a youngster attempting to devour books (literally by eating the paper) while my older brother was enjoying pointing and laughing at the pictures. As a young adult looking back on this experience, I now tell my mother that already from infancy and toddlerhood I was simply trying to digest the words and make them more alive in my heart. By age three, my mother insisted that my brother and I keep a journal and by middle school, I was well on my way to being coxed by my mother to enter into reading competitions. Therefore, I can clearly attest to the fact that my parents were perhaps the strongest literary supporters I have ever had and for that I am grateful.
Throughout my childhood, I was also blessed with many other wonderful adults who provided me with gift cards to bookstores and with magazine subscriptions. These individuals did not place stipulations on what I was reading so long as I was reading. They also fostered in me a desire to have a large and varied library which has since expanded to include commentaries and many books.
Finally, I cannot go without thanking several members of my congregation who have truly encouraged me once I began to write more professionally. These individuals saw me through several transcripts of books that I was working on at the time (and that as of today have not yet been published). Yet, even though these people perhaps knew these books were theologically underdeveloped as a result of being written by a 17 year old, their love of me and their interest in what I was writing about helped foster confidence in my own abilities eventually enabling me to get to the place where I learned that I did have something to offer and that I wanted to share with the world.
All of these individuals are the real reason that I write and the real reason that even after all of these years I still enjoy a solitary day with a good book, a notebook, and a cup of my favourite tea. Yet, they only really make up one group. The other group are the individuals who have inspired me.
Although they may never realize it, my colleagues and core-members (residents with developmental disabilities) at L’Arche Daybreak have challenged, inspired, and motivated me in my writing by providing new ideas and insights on topics that never would have crossed my mind had I not come into contact with them. Through graciously allowing me to be part of, and even to write part of their story, they have shown me that writing is deeply rooted in relationships. I’m also constantly inspired by countless individuals who have an unshakeable faith despite great personal difficulty, who have taught me that writing theology is completely useless unless we also live it out.
Today, I not only engage in several freelance writing opportunities, but I am also an undergraduate writing instructor and editor at Tyndale University College and Seminary. In this role, I am able to mentor many young students as they also find their voice and their calling as writers. Other than the fact that I find this to be a profound ministry, it is also truly rewarding because I am able to use my own experiences in order to also benefit and encourage others. You see, the truth is that although I may have been born with a love of writing, that does not mean that it has always come easily to me. Throughout my life, there have been certain individuals who have tried to discourage me. They have told me that I did not have anything to write about or that I lacked the skills to make good arguments. Rather than try to mentor me into better writing techniques, some of these teachers even told me that I should quit writing entirely or that I should give up on my academic pursuits. Although hearing such words threatened to reduce my enthusiasm and spirit, it also taught me that writing is a difficult discipline and one that often does not come easily, but rather that must be carefully honed throughout our lives. Thus, because of my own struggles in writing, I am able to share honestly and openly with others who are less confident about their skills and give them the opportunity to know that they really have more to offer than they give themselves credit for. Additionally, I can see how God has used my own struggles with being largely unable to read or write in my head to become more empathetic to those who have learning disabilities. Finally, through my own difficulties over the years learning French and other languages, I have developed such a respect for our English as a Second Language students who have so much insight, but who find the grammar and spelling difficult within our North American context.
At first glance, this blog may seem to only be about promoting me and promoting my writing, but it’s not like that at all. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of that. In fact, it is simply saying thank you to the various teachers, editors, and professors who have encouraged me all along to continue to write and to continue to express myself through word and pen. I truly give God and these other individuals the credit because without them my chapter in “A Living Alternative” wouldn’t exist. I hope that you will also be able to find such wise mentors to walk alongside you.
* A Living Alternative is a joint project of the MennoNerds blogging collective and features some 20 Anabaptist thinkers and lay theologians.
For More Information on “A Living Alternative” See: http://mennonerds.com/living-alternative
To Win a FREE Copy of A Living Alternative Check Out: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/introducing-a-living-alternative-a-mennonerds-anthology/