You’re in your early 30s. You have four children. You have a small painting contracting business that is not a wild success but it’s doing fine and paying the bills. And then the economy of 2008 arrives. In a flash of time, the business is gone, leaving behind a pile of debt. Faced with the inability of being unable to afford your home, you leave Virginia for your boyhood home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to live with your family in the basement of your parent’s home.
Words come to mind. Scary, Humbling, Self-image. Guilt. Shame. And faithfulness. Out of these words and others you will build a life, a new life. You will embark upon a journey of building a life out of words.
This is the story Shawn Smucker tells in Building a Life Out of Words. It is a kind of memoir, yes, but it also a status report of a work in progress, for this story has not ended in literary and financial success. It hasn’t ended at all, because to live a life of words is to live a life of faith.
It’s faith to continue writing when even your friends believe words are cheap – and you’re asking for too much money to write, to edit, to rewrite.
It’s faith when a potential client balks at your proposal, convinced they can do it themselves (and the rarely can, and rarely do).
It’s faith when you have an income that’s month to month, or even week to week. Or there’s $12 left in the checking account.
Yet things happen, people return a call, projects arrive, creativity comes.
Smucker tells his story, amplifying his words with short stories by others – Ed Cyzewski, Jeff Goins, Bryan Allain, Kristin Tennant and five other writers. All of them have lived a version of Smucker’s story, and all have something important to say about the writing life.
What the reader somes to understand is that Smucker’s experience is common to all writers, and perhaps even more common to writers of faith. Some of us have day jobs; some of us have spouses who provide for the main part or of the family income (and medical benefits).
Building a Life Out of Words proves the value of ebooks. Few if any traditional publishers would consider a book like this – the memoir genre is flooded and the number of memoir manuscripts floating around agents and publishers is staggering. But this is a book whose sentiments and understanding need to be in the hands of anyone who has wrestled with words, struggled with a writing career, or considered the possibility of a writing career. And anyone who has struggled with doubt about what they’re doing.
It’s a story of faith and it’s a story that’s not finished.