Monday, September 28, 2009

What I Learned from Dr. Gene Getz

The very first workshop at Roaring Lambs featured Dr. Gene Getz. Judging by his resume, he is somewhat famous, although you may not know his name. I didn't.

Dr. Getz spoke for 45 minutes, pleasantly, about his life as a writer. He began at the beginning, went on until he came to the end, and then stopped (to paraphrase The White King from Alice Through the Looking Glass).

Early on, I realized this was not a point by point speech. Determined to get my money's worth, I wrote down my own points as I listened. I heard seven. Ironically, after writing his talk, he wrote down points and gave them at the end. He listed six, and we agreed on one. If I ever find a way to contact him, I'll send him this post. I think he would be interested.

Here's what I heard:
1. It's who you know. Dr. Getz, through God's miraculous working, encountered one professor who believed in him. That professor put him in touch with others, and the chain continued until he had links to all the publishers he would later know, who would come to him to write something. Get that? Publishers asked him to write stuff. Sigh.

2. Be open to opportunities. Dr. Getz said "yes" to every chance he was given, whether he was ready or not. I guess he figured if he was asked, he was supposed to do it.

3. Recycle and reinvent previous work. Waste nothing. Many of the 60+ books Dr. Getz has written sprang from ideas from previous books or sermon series or devotionals he'd already written. He simply expanded them.

4. You must be accountable for results (this is the one point we shared although he listed it as #5). Without accountability, you will never finish anything. The more people who will hold you to it, the better.

5. Consider your audience. Dr. Getz writes expository literature about the Bible. He has books translated into dozens of languages, including Farsi, Hindi and Chinese, because he remembers that God's Word is for all people, not just Americans, and he writes that way.

6. Pray always and expect God to answer. Dr. Getz's writing career has been held together with prayer, both his and his accountability group of church elders'. Without God, the workers build the house in vain.

7. Only God knows who your writing will touch. Dr. Getz had no idea some of his books would be translated into dozens of languages, and sell millions of copies around the world. He was simply obedient to God's opportunities.

I have nothing in common with Dr. Getz. I've never tried to get to know anybody. My first response to opportunity is "no." I write new stuff (or try to) every time, and I will not write anything that doesn't interest me (that's why I'm not a journalism major). I've never been accountable for my writing (I have one friend who flatly refused to read anything else I wrote unless it was a completed story). My audience was me. Why pray about my writing when I don't intend to publish at all?

But this was my new start. My Type B+ listening ears took his talk in, and it swished around that big, empty space where a brain should be.

I am not Dr. Getz. I do not expect or intend to become him. But I can learn from him, and the lesson I am trying most to practice is #2: Be open to opportunities.

It's hard. I would rather say "no." However, in the last three months, I have made more writing contacts, admitted my writing skill in public without maternal prompting, and followed up on more potential leads for publishers or mentors than I have in the last twenty years.

Yes, it's scary. Maybe it's supposed to be.

That's probably what #6 is for.

Oh, you'll have to let me know if you want to know his points. I don't intend to write about them without prompting.

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