One of the things that I’ve had to keep in mind while reading Donald Miller books over the years is that as a writer, he often works alone. I know that’s not totally true, though. He has editors, first readers, critics, and fans that he probably has a strong sense of responsibility for or connection to. I also know that it’s a little different when you work in a place with dozens . . . or even hundreds . . . of people, often over the course of each day, and five days each week. It does something to you, living and working as part of an organization or institution. I’m keenly aware of the fact that I have become much more of an institutionalized self over the last few years. So I read Miller’s chapter on “the risk of being careful” with great interest and a strong sense of culpability.
Miller writes of the time he spent in Washington, DC, and how he found himself interacting with others in a way that went against the grain of the culture: “I always felt two whiskeys in while everybody I talked to was as polished as a news anchor. I kept looking for cameras.” That’s not an easy thing to handle when you’re used to a certain amount of vulnerability and candidness. But when you live under a microscope, or when you come to be a representative for something bigger than yourself, the freedom to take risks diminishes. Too much seems to be at stake. And so play it safe, and safe has a way of scaling.
Miller writes of the time where he decided, after honest words with a friend, to write again with a sense of risk. And I remember those moments on his blog where he said controversial things (like his discussion about church-going). And I read the flak that he got in the comments section . . . and the support he received. And while I may not always agree with him (or anyone else, for that matter), I have come to a better understanding of (1) the fluid nature of blogging [where everything is always in process] and (2) the fact that we as individuals can always be in process. As such, we can’t be afraid to risk. We should always strive to try. Miller decided to write “as though God thought [his] voice mattered.” He even made a list of a few things he wanted to feel more freedom in as he worked: the willingness to sound dumb, be wrong, and to express a theory are a few excerpts from the list.
It’s strange, the relationship between identity, institution, and predictability. You can often be welcomed into the fold of a group or organization because you bring something new or different to the table. Over time, though, the new and different becomes the predictable and expected. It’s an inadvertent complacency. To break out of that odd rut is no small thing (and potentially not something to be undertaken lightly or glibly). It’s something I’m working on, something hopefully evidenced in a renewed commitment to post something on this site regularly . . . and with something more personal than just a comic strip or video. I hope to show you evidence of some of my most recent “theories” next week. But tomorrow will bring my last official “Reading Scary Close” post, my thoughts on the last main image from the book. Good stuff. Thanks for reading!