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After Week #6’s disappointing stagnation, I’ve been back on track this week and last. In particularly, I’ve been working to outline the article so that I can get started writing.
I’ve faced a couple of challenges in outlining this essay. First and foremost, I’m not an outline kind of writer. Usually I just don’t work that way. However, given the years I’ve spent researching this topic, the vast amount of information I’ve gathered, and the various approaches I’ve taken to this topic in my various presentations and public talks on it, I need to write an outline to make sense of it all.
Which leads me to the second reason outlining has been so challenging: I need to strengthen the narrative of this article. In previous public talks, I’ve taken a more thematic approach, focusing on the three ways the Brethren in Christ responded to Evangelicals in the mid-20th century: ratification, resistance, and reformation. This thematic approach highlights the way I’m seeking to adjust the historiography of Anabaptist/Evangelical encounters. And it helps me to keep my approach to the topic down to the 10-30 minutes I usually have for paper presentations and public talks!
But for the purposes of this essay, I want to focus more on the story of the Brethren in Christ and Evangelicalism. This requires me to think chronologically and to construct a kind of historical “plotline” to drive the article forward. The benefit, of course, is that I can ultimately produce a product that’s more engaging than your average historical article. After all, as public historian Taylor Stoermer reminded us in his excellent article at the New York History blog:
A good story is, in fact, the lifeblood of a public historian. As long as that story is real (first rule of public history: don’t make it up), relevant (second rule: go with what you’ve got), and engaging (third rule: Freeman Tilden’s “information is not interpretation”), the rest is just details. Find your narrative then build around it an interpretive structure that can tell it.
But to tell such a story, I first need to re-conceptualize the way I’m presenting this information. An outline — I hope — will help me to do that.
You can’t see it in the photo above, but my outline in its present state is a bit of a hodge-podge. I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide where to include certain bits of information. I’m hoping to finalize the outline tomorrow — which will mean I can get down to writing next week! Stay tuned for more.