Back before I’d ever published anything, I used to look at all the books on the market and think, “Do we really need another book on prayer?” or “Why a new book on marriage?” or “Why would someone want to publish another Bible study on Sermon on the Mount?” What I didn’t realize back then but came to know years later was that each author’s unique sphere of influence provides a platform through which some readers are more apt to hear from that author than from others—even if the others are more eloquent. Thus, there will always be a need for more books, new books, even on “old” topics.
For example Richard Baxter wrote wonderful stuff for Puritan audiences, and it stirs me when I read it today. Yet I still love reading about the same topics covered by Eugene Peterson and Calvin Miller. Not only do these men live in my own time, but I have also had the honor of interviewing both. Now that I have interacted with them personally, I want to read everything they’ve written.
My former pastor, Dr. Gary Inrig, in Redlands, California, is someone whose name I might never have heard had he not served our church in Dallas, Texas. Yet having sat under his teaching and seen the way he and his wife, Elizabeth, live out their faith (and personally cared for my family through some difficult days), I approach his written works with a particular openness to learn. Because of his credibility with me, I read with a desire to be taught that I would not otherwise have when reading about the judges or the parables. Other people have written about the Book of Judges and on Jesus’ parables. Yet Dr. Inrig’s works on these topics are my favorites.
So as I said, each author’s unique sphere of influence provides a platform through which some readers are more apt to hear from that author than from any other. Because of this, every year I exhort my grad-level journalism students to go ahead and write on topics that interest them, even if the topics have already “been covered.” Several years ago after hearing this little lecture, one of my students showed up the next week with a quote for me that I have since cherished. It’s from St. Augustine’s De Trinitate (On the Trinity), translated by Edmund Hill:
Not everything … that is written by anybody comes into the hands of everybody, and it is possible that some who are in fact capable of understanding even what I write may not come across those more intelligible writings, while they do at least happen upon these of mine. That is why it is useful to have several books by several authors, even on the same subjects, differing in style though not in faith, so that the matter itself may reach as many as possible, some in this way others in that.
If you are at all inclined to write, do it! Ninety percent of writing is having something worth saying, and if you're a Christ-follower, you have a message the world needs to hear. Don’t let that voice telling you someone else has already “done it better” stop you from writing anyway. Perhaps that better-written book will never make it into one of your readers’ hands and you will get to be the fortunate soul through whom someone’s life is forever changed.