Collin Brendemuehl has been with Athanatos since 2018.
Q1: Why do you write?
Writing is hard work. I struggle with it. But I do it as an extension of my teaching, the arena where the Lord has allowed me to serve. It’s my way of taking discussions and ideas to create something more concrete, and hopefully more enduring.
Writing, like teaching, was a way to communicate ideas. I was steered in this direction by two pieces of material. First, Richard Weaver’s classic “Ideas Have Consequences” presented the theme of how ideas shape the world and leave their indelible mark. The second was the video series “The Day the Universe Changed” by James Burke. It’s that same principle but from a long-range historical perspective. Ideas move the world. Not conflict. Not economics. It is ideas that transform minds.
Q2: How would you describe your writing “method”?
I don’t have a single method. Sometimes a piece is distilled from research that’s been done and other times the writing (the initial plan) sets the course for the research. But no matter how the work begins I often set aside a piece for a week to more. That lets me come back and see what’s good, what’s bad, and how a rewrite might help.
There are few for whom writing comes easily. For most it is extremely difficult work. Something important precedes writing and that’s personal discipline. All the research, all the thought, and all the time requires first a commitment to finish the project and second a plan to follow through. For me it’s getting the material needed, often through our state’s inter-library loan system, and spending Saturday mornings at a local Panera reading, noting, and/or writing as the project progresses.
Q3: How would you respond to the classic question, “Is there Christian art or artists who are Christians?”
There is both. Art speaks. Modern art by definition speaks feelings whereas classical art speaks ideas. While art is inanimate it is nonetheless a form of language, a method of communication. The Christian artist has an opportunity to create a communication in the medium of choice.
Q4: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
The principle that helps me work through an idea is to teach it. If when I read a piece I don’t see (even in my mind) students grasping the content then further explanation or clarification is needed. At that point I return to the section and add the needed clarification. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sometimes I have to go over a point multiple times to accomplish the goal.
In short, if the student hasn’t learned then the teacher hasn’t taught. That principle controls the content of what is written.
Q5: Which of your creations has brought you the most joy?
Q6: Which creation has brought me the most heartache?
I want to answer these together with respect to writing. When I was working on the project there was a period where I let it alone for six months. After that amount of time I could read it fresh, as though someone else had written it. Some parts were encouraging – “I wrote that? Wow, that’s great!” was an exciting moment. But just a few pages later “I wrote that? That’s horrible!” brought me back to reality. Moments like this keep my feet on the ground.
Q7: Is there anything you’d like to say?
Never take criticism personally. Always frame criticism as an opportunity to correct an error. If someone says that you left something out, maybe you did. If you’re told that your argument is weak or even cliché, maybe it is. In the end some of your best and most valuable critics are those who reject your ideas. When they tell you why then you can strengthen or correct your position to make it stronger.
Don’t let your efforts become simplistic and cliché. The world has heard so many poor presentations of the Christian faith that one more repetition does nothing. Instead, challenge ideas. Find and develop arguments that might persuade those outside the faith or encourage those who are part of the body of Christ.
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