An author-friend recently expressed me that he doesn’t feel something he wrote has much to offer. (He is wrong on that point, but his feeling is nonetheless valid as a feeling.) I too often wonder whether I have something worthwhile to offer in writing. In some cases, and on my brighter days, I think I do, but it is difficult to trust that my efforts can have either Kingdom or vocational purpose. I usually write better than I talk, so I hold some hope that others will understand a worthwhile message better when I write it, but I don’t write well enough to captivate readers . . . plus, I am awful at marketing, which makes the self-doubt and worth-questioning worse.
Pushing the actual book-writing (and substantive blogging) aside now. . . . Some of my recent activity-flurry might be termed “meta-writing”—peri-graphai, if you will. This type of writing is not the core material; rather, it is material about or around the writings. Such periphery can be both important and exhausting and even rewarding at times. In my case, it has included
♦ e-mails and text messages with friends and acquaintances about what I’m writing
♦ e-mails and text messages with advance readers about their responses
♦ e-mails about proofreading (a particularly annoying type of perigraphy—it can be keytroke-intensive to describe/suggest alterations, e.g., “on what used to be p. 72 before that new section was added, 3rd full para [3 paras above the next heading], around the middle of 2nd line, depending on point size and text boxes in the edition you’re looking at, what about ‘had been’ instead of ‘was'”? aarrgh …)
♦ communication about others’ material used within my books
(This blogpost is itself a peri-graph, and when it’s done, I will have spent an hour on it—about 45 minutes more than it was worth!)
It is the last bulleted category above that gives me pause now. During my writing processes, I’ve had to make decisions about quoted material that might carry the need for formal permission to reprint. In some cases, it’s a matter of courtesy, not legality. Aside: I have been treated discourteously in the past viz. some of my original music—in one case, a substantial portion of a collegiate CD recording used my arrangements and one of my original songs—having been provided at the director’s request. Not only did I not receive even token compensation (or an apology for not being able to pay) . . . I didn’t receive credit on the insert as arranger or composer. Try as I might to forget¹ that unprofessional, inconsiderate behavior from some years ago, it comes to mind every now and then, and it has yet to be addressed or apologized for in any meaningful way, although there have been two or three communications since.
In my own writing projects, I have of course tried to avoid such inconsideration, yet it is not always possible to obtain permission. Some materials are out of print and/or in the public domain.² I had obtained permission to print several pieces years ago in other formats, and I’m frankly not sure if it was legally necessary to ask again for the current revision/revamped format, but in most cases, I’m asking anyway, where the other author is still alive/accessible.
The Christian Chronicle has a most helpful and gracious permission-to-reprint policy. No issues there. Just credit them and print it.
The Barna Group waited nearly two months to respond to a request I made, and I frankly don’t think the request was necessary in the first place: I consider my use of their material to be covered under the principle of academic fair use. Their delayed response caused me minor concern, but I elected to trim the quotations a bit and simply proceed without delaying another two months.
The editors of Leaven journal (and Pepperdine University’s Digital Commons) were prompt and gracious in granting permission to reprint an article, as was the family of the author, who is now unable himself to communicate.
Three individuals have so far been silent—for at least two different reasons, I suspect.
Courtesy and Christian-sibling interests are far more important than legalities. If, for one reason or another, a friend or past friend preferred that I not reprint his or her writings, I would honor that request even if not legally required to do so. However, if individuals with questionable decision-making authority have proven themselves difficult, non-communicative, and unkind, and if there is no copyright issue of which I’m aware, I have little remaining concern. I might even say that in the one case I’m thinking of, my feet, having been shaken, are not very dusty anymore.
¹ I do not consider this matter to be in the Christian forgiveness category. Those who live with more of a “live-and-let-live” M.O. may have difficulty with my not completely letting this go. To be sure, I have been mistreated far worse than this—contemptuously and terribly un-Christianly, in several very notable scenarios. Even in those far worse situations, I do not consign the guilty parties to hell. In the above case of my name’s not having appeared on a recording that included with my own music, I believe it was a matter of ignorance and carelessness at first; later, the person probably just couldn’t figure out what to do in order to make things right.