Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here
Read part 3 here
Read Part 4 here
Read Part 5 here
Every writer faces the issue of literary criticism, but in your case it seems that people get most excited about what you’re saying as opposed to how you say it! How do you deal with criticism? Is it a burden to bear, fuel for more thinking and writing, a little of both, or none of the above?
I'm glad you ask this question because it gives me an opportunity to ask for prayer. This book will probably garner more criticism than any of my previous ones, and the one I'm finishing up now (The Last Word and the Word After That - sequel to New Kind of Christian and Story We Find Ourselves In) will probably break recent records for criticism. I need prayer to a) learn what I should learn from criticism, b) not get bitter when some of it is unfair or inaccurate, but rather grow in love for my critics, and c) not be wounded or discouraged in the process. So, I'd categorize criticism for me as a burden to bear, and a temptation or test to overcome.
The criticism that is hardest to bear is not the ranting attacks - most of which don't really understand what I'm talking about, and are expressions of cherished systems being questioned. This reaction is completely understandable and easy not to take personally. But when people who generally agree with me decide to quarrel with some small point - which tends to minimize the big picture - that's tougher. In this regard, I remember the reviews of the movie "Waiting to Exhale." The first reviews praised the film: "Finally a film that does justice to the African-American woman's experience." Then a wave of reviews came out that said, "What a dismal failure at making sense of the African-American male's experience!" One film - and one book - can only do so much, and it's hard when you've tried to do one thing reasonably well to be criticized for not doing everything at once. But that's life, and therein lies my opportunity to grow in character and virtue!
At the end of the day, I really care about my writing and am seeking to tell the truth as I see it. I care about many things far more than how my writing succeeds (however that's defined), of course, and through my writing I hope in some small ways God's kingdom coming on earth as in heaven. That's a messy process and the life of Jesus tells us that what appear to be defeats can be successes. And vice versa. So, even in my failures where I'm rightly critiqued, I hope some good can come - and even when I'm unfairly criticized, much good can come I know.
Thanks Brian for taking the time to offer us a little insight into your writing, and your heart. We appreciate that you are willing to think and write thoughts that have helped bring some order to the confusion. We'll be praying.