With the release of my latest collaborative book a couple of days away, people ask me, "Hey Mark, when are you going to write another of your own books?" by which they mean, a book where my name doesn't come after the word "with". It is a fair question, one I've asked myself many times over the past year. The problem I run into is basically this: I don't have any good ideas that should grow into books. That doesn't mean I don't have any possible books floating around in my head. I have this one about a dachshund who takes over the world, or at least the US of A, and when you hear the story you will say to yourself, yep, that's plausible. Maybe I'll write that someday. Maybe not. Perhaps I'll save it and tell it to my grandkids someday in the distant future since I'm not sure it has any real potential to grow into anything larger.
Yet when it comes to ideas burning inside me that I simply must write, the well is dry. Honestly, I don't see it as a big deal. Out of my 12 solo titles, three are what I refer to as life message books. (That is, books that I HAD to write.) Of those three, two are actually the same book. That leaves just two books as my core books, the books for which I became a writer, books that I pray stay in print for a very long time, books that I want everyone I can reach to read. Anyone who knows me can name the titles. They are "How Can A Good God Let Bad Things Happen?" (aka, Out of the Whirlwind), and "Living with Less, the upside of downsizing your life." God gave me the ministry of writing for these two books.
Perhaps God will give me another life message book at some point in the future. I don't know. Until then, I find collaborative writing to be a natural extension of both my calling as a writer and the pastoral gifts God gave me. The collab books with which I work are not the basic celebrity tell alls. Instead, I primarily write books that tell of finding great hope in the midst of tragedy, of seeing God at work when it appears He has forgotten us. From Clay and Renee Crosse's book, "I Surrender All," to "Mistaken Identity" and on to the book on which I will start this week, "The Sacred Acre, the Ed Thomas Story," I find myself working on this theme time and time again. One of my favorites, and I believe one of the most powerful stories I have yet told, is Jerry Yang's "All In," which comes out next July. It weaves together the theme of God's faithfulness in suffering along with the idea that true success in life is measured by the lives we touch.
For the eight or nine people who have read both "How Can a Good God..." and "Living with Less" you should now see a connection. As a collaborative writer, most of the stories I have the privilege of telling echo the themes found in my two life message books. I don't see this as a coincidence. When will I write another of my own books? people ask. The way I see it, I never stopped.