IVP - Andy Unedited

September 15, 2016

I Hate "the Creative Class"

I hate "the Creative Class."

I don't hate creative people. I love them and find them very stimulating. I am always interested in new ideas, new ways of doing things. I am fascinated and delighted when people come up with really good solutions or show artistic talent.

What I hate is the term the Creative Class. Why?

It's elitist. It sounds like designers, artists, writers, media workers, researchers, consultants or whoever are trying to say, "Don't question me. I know what I'm doing, and you don't. Just let me do my work and pay me the money. You should be grateful for what I give you regardless of whether you or anyone else likes it or understands it. And especially don't talk to me about whether or not it will sell. How gauche!" Now I don't think most of these people are saying that, but it can feel like that's how we should interpret what the Creative Class means.

The key problem word here is class which makes us think some people are just better than others. Worse it gives the impression that some people are creative while others are not. But your profession or training do not make you creative or uncreative. Every one can be and should be creative--plumbers, receptionists, sales people, administrative assistants, parents, accountants (ok, not too much "creative" accounting, please), cooks, house painters, and so forth. No one person, group or profession has a corner on creativity.

I suppose creative class.pngwe could take the time to come up with a different term that isn't nearly so offensive and problematic. And that would be a step in the right direction. So if any of you out there have suggestions, let me know. But I even wonder why we need a term for such people in any case.

Richard Florida coined the term for the purposes of his sociological research. He contends that this group really is a class with significant (oversized?) impact in society and business. But as soon as the term got out of the academy, the problems I mention above emerged. So I think we are just better off without it.

So creativity--yes! For everyone. But Creative Class? Never.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:24 AM | Comments

September 8, 2016

The Pitfalls of Praise and Criticism

"Give someone a book, they'll read for a day. Teach someone how to write a book, they'll experience a lifetime of paralyzing self doubt," Lauren DeStefano tells us.

The psychological, spiritual, emotional pitfalls of writing a book are so numerous and varied it is amazing a word is ever written. And if you do finish and publish, you face a whole new set of issues instigated in equal measure by success and failure, by praise and criticism.

Many people will react to you positively in person or in writing. The flattery can feel awkward at first. You just aren't sure how to respond. But then you begin to hope for it, look forward to it, expect it, and then need it . . . like an addiction.

Others can be quite critical, especially in the anonymity of social media. Some who know you may react out of jealousy, perhaps especially if they are writers themselves who have been less successful than you.

One of the reasons such comments can be so personal is that every book is a piece of ourselves. In a sense every book is autobiographical because it expresses a part of our life, our interests, our ideas, our passions.Dante.jpg Even a book on actuarial science expresses the hours and interest we have personally invested in the subject. A book is about us, our ideas and the way we think.

So it is hard not to take responses personally. The effects of praise or criticism can send us into levels of Paradise or the Inferno that Dante never imagined.

So how do you deal with all this? Here are a few ideas.

Remember, it's just about you. Why did you write the book? Probably, first and foremost you wrote it for yourself. And that's not a bad thing. There was something inside you that you wanted to get out. So you did. Did you enjoy the process? Did you enjoy the result? Did you learn something along the way? Well, then, that's worthwhile. If people are critical, well, you still got something out of it. Did people like it, well, that's a bonus.

Remember, it's not about you. A pastor told me that sometimes he preached and felt dry, but the Spirit took what he said and moved people in amazing ways. At other times he preached with joy and energy, only to see no response. It helped him learn that preaching is not about him or about how well he does. It is about whether or not the Spirit shows up, and that is the Spirit's decision, not his. His job is to faithfully preach. So he does.

Say thank you.
What spiritual discipline can help us keep things in perspective? Gratitude. We didn't write the book alone. We owe a debt to those whose books influenced us, whose words we've heard, who gave us time and encouragement to us to write, who gave us advice along the way, who bought and read our book, who recommended it to others. We need to say thanks to them. This is not just to deflect praise (we need to say thank you to people who express appreciation too) but to keep us grounded.

Expect criticism. It happens. Just being aware of that ahead of time can help you deal with it when it comes. IVP's illustrious academic editor Dan Reid once said, "If you are starting out as a biblical scholar and the notion of having your dearly held 'contribution' summarily overturned in 20-30 years unnerves you, may I suggest a career in accounting?" Which is to say, grow a thick skin, and realize that others shall dish it out to you as you have dished it out to others. That's part of how scholarship works. I critique those who came before me, and those who follow critique me. Hopefully, we all move forward as a result of all these discussions, even if not in a straight line.

Get a support team. IVP's equally illustrious editorial director, Cindy Bunch, notes that some authors develop a launch team to help them promote a book when it is published. But maybe we also need a spiritual launch team. They can help you sort through the spiritual and emotional implications of praise and criticism. But there is also the issue that the book may or may not sell well. Or something in between. It's always a guessing game in publishing. But any possible result can have spiritual implications too.

Remember my identity is in Christ. I am not defined by my book. I am not defined by the praise or criticism or sales of my book. My identity is in Christ who loves me with an everlasting love, who made me, who put that book in me and who helped me get it out. I look at him and find myself in him.

Now go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:59 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2016

How Did He Make It So Suspenseful?

Eric Larson achieves the drama and suspense of a political thriller in his book on the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. This is a remarkable achievement because everyone knows how it ends before they start--a German U-boat sinks the ship. How was he able to do this? When I read the acknowledgments at the end of Dead Wake, I found out. He listened to his editor.

Continue reading "How Did He Make It So Suspenseful?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM | Comments

August 16, 2016

Prophetic Lament

Throughout my life I have attended worship services in a variety of traditions, but they tended to have one thing in common--they began with praise to God and then moved to confession. This is an appropriate model to follow with much merit. When we see how holy and good God is, we see more clearly by contrast that we are not, and so we confess.

Continue reading "Prophetic Lament"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:15 AM

July 28, 2016

Learning from a Presidential Biography

What might an incoming president learn from a biography of Thomas Jefferson? Much indeed.

Continue reading "Learning from a Presidential Biography"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM

July 14, 2016

Unlocking the Book of Job

Here's what many people know about the book of Job.

1. Job is on trial.
2. The book is primarily about suffering.
3. Job's hope for a redeemer foreshadows Christ.
4. God puts Job in his place at the end of the book, telling Job that God is God and Job is decidedly not.

All of those points, however, according to John Walton and Tremper Longman are quite mistaken.

Continue reading "Unlocking the Book of Job"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:00 AM

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.