Monday, June 20, 2011

What I learned from Quitter by Jon Acuff (and an announcement!)

When Jon Acuff announced that he would give away advance copies of his book Quitter for certain people (i.e. its target audience) to give creative feedback, I jumped at the chance.  Was I between finishing my thesis and studying for comps?  Heck yes, I was!  Was I going to pass up the chance for a free book?  Heck no, I wasn't!

So Big Jon sent me the manuscript, typed out the same way my thesis was (8 1/2 x 11 paper, 12-pt Times New Roman Font, double-spaced) and bound by a big honkin' binder clip.  I was able to make it through about three chapters before I was required to submit my response, but I did finish it on the plane to Pittsburgh.  After I finished, in vague recollection of something Lampo Publishing said at some point (that I couldn't find backup for), I returned said manuscript to their office a day or two before Acuff emailed us and said "Thanks for helping out, you can keep the manuscript!"

The week I graduated, I got my own copy of Quitter in the mail, signed by Mr. Stuff Christians Like himself, with my name in the back.

Got my name on the inside of a book!  Next step: get my name on the OUTSIDE of a book!

That's me, middle column, about 2/3 of the way down, right beneath Mr. Ricky Anderson.  Up on the left is Mrs. Lindsey Beisel Harris, whom I first met on a message board over ten years ago, and has managed to find me on every social medium to date.  Needless to say, I feel honored to be among such a glorious cast of characters.

So what did Jon Acuff have to say that was so important and life-changing?  Well, it was basically a square kick in the butt to do what I've been dreaming of doing.  Much like Jon, I've wanted to be a writer for a long time.  My earliest writing-related memories go back to stories like my Star Trek TNG parody, spending the summer as a squirrel, and a messed up boat motor that spat out money.  Thinking back, even my excuses for not doing homework/classwork involved copious amounts of storytelling.  Hopefully, my writing has gotten better since grade school.  The problem for me was that for a long time, I didn't know that a writer was what I wanted to be.  The same goes for being a teacher.

My friend Ben Russell recently asked me which one I am: a writer or a teacher?  Well, I'm both, in a way.  I'd say I'm more of a communicator; sometimes it's through speech, while others it's through words on a page.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that we've all got something to say, and it's all in how we say it.  Sometimes the best way to get your point across may not be to say it outright, but to sing it, poemize it, or tell it in a story.  I've used each of these media at some point or another.

Haven't tried mime just yet.
The particular shoe that Acuff used to apply the the rectal kick was simply this: "If you don't start following your dreams now, you never will."  That's not a direct quote, at least I don't think so, but it's a theme from all over the book.  He deals with the practicality of following your dreams, saying that you can't make a living on an unfinanced dream, but instead telling us, "You're going to have to work harder than you did before, but it'll be worth it."

Let's face it.  Jon spent three years writing Stuff Christians Like in his free time in the morning before work.  In the process, he created a brand and a following that allowed him to publish his first book and eventually get his dream job speaking and writing.  Are his results absolute, or even typical?  No, but that's not what i'm going for.  I just figure, if he can do it with a wife, two kids, and a full time job, what's stopping me?

The truth is, I've kinda wasted the last ten years of my life in that regard.  Granted, I've come away with three degrees, become financially independent, and learned a lot along the way about the right and wrong ways to do bachelorhood, but I didn't spend nearly as much time writing as I could have.  Seriously, the most i ever carried to the end of a semester was 15 hours as an undergrad, 12 in grad school (and that only once!), all the while averaging 20 hours per week during the semesters I even had a job at all.  I wasn't a big studier, but spent most of my time hanging out with friends or sleeping (usually not both at the same time). 

But today, I spent several hours at a coffee shop just writing.  Some of it was a letter to a friend in prison, the rest of it lessons I learned from my aforementioned ten years of bachelorhood.  Afterwards, I went to my day job much more focused than usual.  My thoughts have been extremely scattered lately, and I find it difficult to pay attention to some things.  It's worst when I'm at church and really trying to absorb as much as possible, but in my head there's a reel playing this week's episode of The Office or whatever stupid video Tyler Tarver has put out most recently or some scene in my daily life whether funny or tragic.  Perhaps writing helps me train myself to focus more than I realize, because time really can slip away while I'm doing this.  For instance, I started this post over half an hour ago. 

So, after my fair share of suspense, what's the big announcement?  Starting August 1st, I plan on launching a new blog to complement this one, called Love Thy Roommate.  Another big thing that Jon Acuff has taught me lately is that it's much more important in the digital age to create your brand virally in order to ensure there's a target market out there for it, and then worry about writing a book.  Had he published his SCL book before creating the site and the community surrounding it, I'm sure it would have sold a few copies, but I doubt Zondervan would've picked it up or that it would have done as well as it did (and he would probably say the same).

Well then, what's this Love Thy Roommate business?  It's going to be the practical part of living on your own, whether with someone else or by yourself (as I've done that a time or two also).  As a Christian, I believe Biblical principles applied to real life lead to real change, and I want to use this site not only to help the Christian bachelor, but also to demonstrate that the Bible is practical and relevant to every generation, including our own.  Granted, I'm not able to pull up passages of what life was like when Jonathan and David shared a dorm in college or how Jesus and the Twelve managed sleeping arrangements when they crashed with Mary, Martha andLazarus, but there are definitely principles we can apply to our daily lives to make even the worst living situations better.

So big thanks go out to all of my current readers.  This will continue to be my random brain dump about life, but that blog will be more focused.  I'm very grateful for all of you who are named David Loti and have been reading since I started in September, but I'm also thankful for the friends I've made since then across the blogosphere.  Stay tuned and happy blogging!


  1. Sounds like a book I need to read. I've loved to write since I was a pre-teen, but it's something I do sporadically at best. Lately, I'm running out of excuses. I'm learning discipline in every other area of my life right now - why not discipline myself in writing?

    Looking forward to the new blog. I've shared an apartment with my younger sister for the past 3 years. I assure you that you reach a whole new level of crazy when your roommate is your sibling.

  2. Quitter's not so much about writing, but about realistically how to find and apprehend your dream job.

    As for the new blog, fresh perspectives will always be welcome. Never did the sibling roomie thing (mine are 13 & 15 years older) so your perspective will help out.

  3. Good idea! Sounds like Quitter is a book I need to read as well... probably would tell me to get going with writing too.
    What I'm learning this summer is that to be a writer I need to write more than I do! It's so easy to spend free time hanging out with friends or being lazy, isn't it?

  4. I heard one writer say the reason he hated RENT was because all they did was hang around with each other and complain about how uninspired they were...of COURSE they were uninspired, they spent all their time hanging out instead of getting alone so they could GET inspired!

    ...that was about the only reasonable thing that guy said. But it's still true. If I want to get some serious writing done, I have to separate myself from everything else. I have to be jealous for my own writing.

  5. 2 things:

    1. Thanks for the shout-out and link.
    2. Where have you been my whole life?

  6. I've been hiding right below you on Jon Acuff's list of favorite people.