The following is adapted from something I wrote several years ago for a writer friend of mine, and I thought it might be interesting to post here.
As analogies go, it may or may not work for everyone, but what the heck?
A certain publisher has a contract available to anyone who wants to agree to it. This contract offers a thousand-figure payment for a book that has to have very specific things in it. Anyone, no matter how little talent or writing skill, may write a book and submit it according to this contract, and as long as those things are in the book, and the author did the very best he or she could, the book will be accepted. Since no one, not even genius writers, can write a perfect book (though everyone is expected to study writing, submission procedures, manuscript format, style, plot, characterization, research, and so on and so forth, and everyone is expected to do an unceasing amount of rewriting), the publisher has arranged for an editor/packager to do something no one understands (except the publisher and the editor/packager, of course) that will make up for the imperfections of each author’s book while retaining the individuality and uniqueness of each book.
The authors who choose to accept the contract are encouraged to be in close contact with the publishing house, and as they put each thing into the book, they may receive advances on the payment. (Little advances, compared to the thousand-figure payment, but still advances.)
This publisher is so interested in encouraging people to write a book for him, that even people who don’t accept the contract, who may not even know about the contract, may get little advances, too, as they happen to put certain things in the books they are writing–whether they ask for the advances or not. (In case you hadn’t figured it out, yet, the books are each individual’s book of life.)
While a mission is not one of the specific things that has to be in the book, missionary work is. And a mission is something that can make it a lot easier to put in some of the other things that are required. You could consider it as a kind of intensive publishing internship plus writing workshop where people learn more about the book and what needs to be in it, not only for their own books, but in order to go out and tell other people about the contract.
As I said above, not everyone knows about the contract. Not everyone who knows about it understands it completely (hence the need for the interns and internships). And not everyone who knows about the contract chooses to write the book the publisher wants. No one is forcing them to write it. The publisher certainly isn’t. And he doesn’t want his interns to, either. (However, the interns, current and graduated, aren’t perfect, and sometimes they make mistakes–putting things in their own books that need to be rewritten.)
The thing is, we believe that this contract is the most important thing we can be involved in. And we believe that by helping others know about the contract, we are helping the publisher do his most important work with respect to us.
People can write any book they want to write, but if they want the thousand-figure payment this publisher is offering, they have to 1) know about the contract and what the book has to have in it, and 2) they have to write the book. And then they can make educated decisions about the books they are writing.
And that’s one way of looking at why missionary work is so important.
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