I find writing you these things no burden. Philemon 3:1
I had no idea that I would be writing this long. If I did, I may not have started. Believe me, it is all-consuming trying to keep ahead of a weekly deadline for that length of time. With that said, it may be the most effective thing I have ever tried to do. Unless hundreds of people go out of their way to lie to me, it continues to be received with enthusiasm.
I have done some thinking and the question I would like to explore on this 10th anniversary is this: “What have I learned about myself and other people from this experience?”
- I need to quit beating myself up for not being the sharpest pencil in the box — I could not write a deep theological treatise if my life depended on it and I do not need to feel bad about it. I do not write for academics, anyway. I write for the ordinary Catholic in the pew. I have always heard, anyway, that “if a teacher is not smart enough and in touch enough with the non-elite peoples to communicate his or her knowledge to them, then that person is in the wrong vocation.”
- It is my weaknesses, not my strengths, that are most powerful. — I have been amazed at how often people respond favorably to my “wounds” and “humble upbringing.” I used to hide them. People across a spectrum actually like my stories of growing up in Rhodelia, Ky. I have discovered the key. People do not want to hear about how bad I had things, but how I overcame them. As Johnny Sain put it, “People don’t want to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby!”
- Visibility equals vulnerability. — Edna St. Vincent Millay was right when she said, “A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public with his pants down!” When you stick your neck out as many times as I have done during 10 years, many will like it, but a few are likely to take a whack at it. Writing is not for cowards or the thin-skinned.
- Writing is hard work. — Editing and polishing and finding that right word is everything, especially if you only have a 500-word limit. I am reminded of an Oscar Wilde quote: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” This column is my version of giving birth once a week.
- Writing is a spiritual discipline. — In the end, I write because it helps me. I will continue to write, but whether it gets published will depend on whether it helps you.
Father J. Ronald Knott