Thursday, October 24, 2013

The In-Between—Goins

***(It’s ok but…)

The In-Between: Embracing the tension between now and the next big thing
by Jeff Goins
Moody, 2013, 164pp.

Jeff Goins has earned his audience as a blog writer aimed at helping writers write.  With this second paperback he edges into the publishing world beyond blogging with the conviction that the greatest growth in our lives comes in the lulls between the 'big things'. He reminds us that growth comes imperceptibly, as we learn to slow down and relish the mundane moments that make up most of life.

To illustrate, Jeff candidly shares experiences from the growth seasons of his own life: a semester of study in Spain, a year traveling with a Christian band, proposing and getting married, the birth of his first child… Though these narratives are of mixed quality from a strictly literary standpoint, each is a vulnerable opening of Jeff's heart to the reader. He walks us introspectively through his own 'in-between's reflecting on what he has gained from each. His hope is that we too will slow to notice the growth in our own souls in the waiting seasons of life.

His retelling of his wedding ceremony brought tears to my eyes. Other sections, particularly the final two scenarios, were unduly drawn out and unconvincingly presented-- as though they were necessary filler to round out Part Three.

The book is light reading and, like blogging, can be picked up and put down in those waiting moments every day holds. It is best read in this way, as too analytical a reading will disappoint.

The light copy-editing throughout contrasts sharply with the professional cover and formatting of this book. Under scrutiny numerous passages are unclear, cumbersome or otherwise awkward:

"Maybe it was the fact that he didn't grow up with much money or maybe he just liked looking good, but Al was a precise, clean-cut man."

"…I swaddle our son in the dark, wrapping him in thin sheets we bought at Target for more than a glorified blanket should cost."

"…and I'd often pull out my parents' cell phone, which I rarely used, and call my friend Ashley."

"The train had to be going half the pace as the ones in Europe,…"

Whether this is a book directed to 'believers' or 'non-believers' is also unclear and problematic. "God" is mentioned throughout but often in the most apologetic of ways. Those who don't share Jeff's faith are offended (as per the Amazon reviews), or assume any 'god' will do. Those who may in fact share his beliefs are uncertain what he actually believes and why he is so reticent to say so… This fence-sitting position in hopes of appealing to a greater audience is unlikely to have a life-changing impact on anyone. For this reason I was disappointed that Moody would carry it under their publishing banner, but grateful to receive it free-of-charge in exchange for an honest review.

Considering the fine job Jeff does as an up-and-coming blogger to would-be writers of all kinds, the lax copy-editing of this book seems an unfortunate decision. Though his informal, self-doubting 'voice' is preserved, his reputation as a serious writer is called into question. On the other hand, perhaps this is just the book to illustrate the need for long waits between the 'big things'--such as getting published. Some things should not be rushed. It does indeed matter what a writer does with the 'in-between' stages in his career.

--LS

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