Monday, May 25, 2009

Travis Thrasher's "Ghostwriter"

I like how Travis Thrasher writes. He’s written 11 novels; I’ve read four of the most recent – Isolation, Sky Blue, Admission and now Ghostwriter. Earlier today, I posted my review of Ghostwriter at Amazon. It’s a novel that sticks.

Ghostwriter falls in the suspense/horror genre, and it’s got all of the characteristic elements – a ghost, a serial killer, the possibility that the main character is only living his own horror writer’s imagination and slowly going mad, and enough tension that builds to the point you wonder if you can stand any more. The novel succeeds simply as a suspense/horror story.

But it’s more than that. And it’s the “more,” rather than the story’s ghost, that’s haunting me right now. The “more” is about creativity and faith, and I’ve read this novel at a moment in my life when I’m wrestling with both. And Ghostwriter has helped me see that I’m actually wrestling with one thing, not two, and His name is God.

I’ve talked before (OK, I’ve bragged before) about the incredibly creative team I have at work. For more than two years now, the team has had an unparalleled run of innovation and accomplishment. A handful of lightly regarded functions was brought together and given the chance to excel. And excel they did, beyond anything thought possible. Our website was transformed. Our internal communications went from coach to first class. Our involvement in social media was launched. A research function was created and soared right out of the starting gate. Issues management was fundamentally changed from reactive to “we’re playing in this space so watch out.”

A lot of people have pointed to my leadership of the team. I knew better. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t the wellspring of all the creativity. I contributed some things (like helping hire good people) but I added one critical thing – my belief that all people have the same inherent value (which I’ve often talked about at work), the inherent value that comes from all of us being made in God’s image. That part is more problematic to talk about in the workplace; possible but problematic, and only done very carefully.

Things at work are now changing. It’s hard. My focus has shifted from creativity to helping people deal with the change and not be changed by it.

At the same time, church is changing. We’ve attended a church for several years that we really enjoy. And now church is changing, beginning to embrace a more “relevant” and contemporary approach. We left our last church because the focus became relevance instead of worship and discipleship. And I’m struggling to cope here, too, questioning a lot of what’s going on and my own beliefs as well.

Then I read Ghostwriter. And it tells me that, like the main character, I’m trying to control what I really can’t, at both work and church and all other parts of my life. A novel did this. It’s going to haunt me for a while, and I needed to be haunted. So, Travis Thrasher, you did more than entertain and tell a good story. You challenged and provoked.

Good writers tell good stories. Great writers challenge and provoke, and help change people’s lives.

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