I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a specfic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY athttp://noveljourney.blogspot.com/. The source of this article is my reading the column for the last few years and a few questions Mike Duran agreed to answer. My sincere thanks to Mike for allowing me to use his blog as inspiration for writing advice!
This “final Mike Duran” WRITING ADVICE isn’t exactly advice – unless it’s a word of caution.
After reading COACH’S MIDNIGHT DINER (2007) because I’d stumbled across an ad for it and was curious what “Christian speculative fiction” was, I read all the short stories and finished…vaguely disappointed. I found Mike Duran’s website, deCOMPOSE and I’ve been a “follower” since August 1, 2009 and I comment whenever the Spirit moves me.
That being said, I made a few observations after my curiosity was piqued after a comment Mike Duran made on the May 2010 blog, “What is your ‘brand?”
That blog contained the following question: “…Why are you reading this? How you answer that question not only helps me determine what my brand might be, it probably says something about yours as well.”
I asked myself the question and came up with a good answer. But then this led me to another question much later that had a decidedly cynical bent: “Why are more people reading (and commenting on) your blog now who WEREN’T reading and commenting before you got an agent and had a book published?”
Working at keeping this from edging into sour grapes, because I’m fascinated by the idea of public adulation of people who are deemed/voted/declared “significant”, I know that from personal experience as an “adorer” and sycophant, I hung around certain people so some of their “greatness” would fall down on me.
The same thing happened to Jesus – he absolutely had at least twenty or so people who REALLY cared for Him. The rest were there to get healed or fed. Granted, he didn’t care WHY they were there as long as they heard the Good News, but the fact is that most of them wanted something from Him – like to follow the new King of the Jews, or have their burdens lifted or their sicknesses healed.
Noting Mike’s increased popularity, I asked him a series of questions:
How do you keep that from going to your head?
What do you say to yourself when you get 153 comments on your blog to keep your heart humble and your vision on the Glory of God and your mission to write the best dang book you can because you feel God’s call on your heart and you can’t NOT say what He’s urging you to say?
What advice would you give to those who are venturing into the secular world of writing – where the problem is even GREATER because they have no one to praise but “celebrities”?
In part, Mike responded to all of them with a single answer – as they ARE intimately related - by saying: “Surely, authority, accolades, recognition, or power is not something that should be sought. Jeremiah 45:5 says, ‘Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.’”
“…there's a sense that the best influence one can have is the influence achieved indirectly. People who don't aspire to positions of authority are often the most authoritative leaders.” (Mike used this statement as a Facebook post shortly after he wrote this to me. When I asked him “So -- did you come up with that before or after you wrote my email letter? Mike responded: “During.” July 3 at 9:04pm)
“A. W. Tozer said, 'God uses a man greatly only after He has hurt him deeply.' So in a sense, real influence (from a biblical perspective) stems from brokenness. Which is why we authors and bloggers must constantly check ourselves, and (gulp) aspire to brokenness.”
All that to say, blogging or author popularity is a combination of things, some sought, some bestowed. While some follow [the blog] because they genuinely love [the] stuff and benefit from [the] wisdom, others follow [the blog] because they want to be on the bandwagon or the crest of a potential trend wave.
Mike responded, “It's not easy to parse people's motives, nor should we. The popularity of my blog is probably a combination of things: tenure, controversy, niche, industry cred, representation, being published, being active in social networking, etc. So I'd be reluctant to pin it on any one method or dynamic. While I am still rather surprised and definitely blessed by the number of hits and comments my blog has begun to garner, it isn't the primary goal I am seeking. That goal is much deeper, grander, and independent of whether or not the ‘numbers’ validate me.”
At one point in his life, Mike Duran was a pastor, shepherding a standard church flock through its growth and life. After his season was done, he moved on to other things. I note though that even though he’s now a “writer”, he is as much a shepherd as he was with a brick and mortar church and while he didn’t affirm that opinion…he didn’t deny it either!
Thank you Mike Duran for contributing your writing advice to my career!