Pentecostal/Word of Faith minister Joel Osteen not only runs the largest church in the U.S., his how-to faith book Your Best Life Now has hit #1 on just about every bestseller list out there. A worried friend with good intentions gave me a copy of the book. I've had several run-ins with charismatics and I already know the drill, but I thought I'd give it a fair shot, so I read it.
It seems what Pastor Osteen preaches is prosperity gospel, or the belief that Christians are entitled to good health and prosperity, as long as they forget the past and future, make the most of the present moment, and follow seven easy steps. I won't rant about it, but I admit, I haven't been this dismayed by a cult leader and his groupthink since the Borg tried to assimilate me.
In case you're curious, the seven steps to gaining this mythic state of entitled oblivion are:
1. Enlarge Your Vision
2. Develop a Healthy Self-Image
3. Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words
4. Let go of the Past
5. Find Strength Through Adversity
6. Live to Give
7. Choose to Be Happy
Those sound a lot like the seven steps to gaining personal wealth through infomercial stuff, don't they? Like those real estate schemes, peddling financial notes, selling your soul to Amway . . .
Okay, I'll stop.
Actually, some of these aren't bad as personal goals -- I can attest to the benefits of #5 -- but I kinda doubt they're going to stop the war in Iraq, reverse my father's Alzheimer's, or endow research with a ba-zillion dollars to find a cure for AIDs. Then again, I'm an ex-Catholic, what do I know? Maybe the "don't worry be happy" approach will work better for Osteen and his followers than it did RWA.
The book stopped being fodder for my inner bitch when I thought about how much advice I hand out on a daily basis. I do want to help other writers; I think it's important to pay it forward. Writing is my religion, and I try to practice what I preach. PBW also makes up for the years I spent working in solitude and wishing I could talk shop with other people like me.
I have really good intentions! Just like the friend who gave me Osteen's book.
Honestly, I can't give you seven steps to a better writing life. There is no one-size-fits-all method that works for everyone. A better writing life for you may be one day and one step away, or ten years and a thousand steps down the road. Many of you go through experiences and wrangle problems I have no experience with; some of you will never have to deal with what I have.
The writing life can't be measured or quantified, pigeon-holed or labeled. It's different for each of us, all of us.
Next week we'll be discussing a lot of writing-related topics during my second annual Left Behind & Loving It virtual workshops. Along with goodie bags, I will be handing out more advice and techniques that I believe in and practice myself. I hope that part or all of it makes your writing life a little better, easier, more productive, etc., but I can't guarantee that.
What I can promise is that we'll share the writing life here, with no rules, steps, membership qualifications, or income requirements. We'll just be writers, talking about what we battle, what we need to learn, and what we love. Which very well may be the best part of this writing life.