Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


On Writing

posted by xscot mcknight

Every writer likes to talk about writing, the way golfers want to talk about golfing and parents want to talk about kids, and travellers talk about where they’ve been. I’ve been asked by some e-mailers and bloggers to talk about writing and what I do.

First, my vocation is one of teaching, scholarship and writing, and that puts me in a position and in a history of sitting at a desk with a pen and paper, or a typewriter, or a computer. And I’ve been doing this as a professor since 1983, and if you count the student days, since 1972. I’m either working on lectures or articles or books all the time. Very few get to do what I do, and I’m grateful for the vocation.

Second, I love what I do. I don’t get up in the morning and say to myself, “Another day of writing when I’d rather be doing something else,” or “Another day of teaching and I wish I could be making more money working on Wall Street.” I go to bed thinking about what I’ll do tomorrow.

Third, what this means is that I get up, have breakfast, say my prayers, and go to my basement and start writing — and this is usually by 7am. Not always, but most of the time. I’m a friend with, not a slave to, my computer.

Fourth, this summer, for instance, I’ve been working on a commentary on James — and I would work on it on most days (almost never on weekends; that is family time and what time is open, and there is often plenty, I read). The edits came through on Embracing Grace, and that meant plenty of time was spent working on that ms too. And I got some galleys back from some projects, so I spent lots of time on that, too.

My daily schedule, for the summer — and it will all change when we begin school next week, was usually from 7am to 3pm or sometimes 4pm at the computer. I drink tea often, and I let Webster outside to do his business, and I answer the phone, and I make a light lunch, and I wear down by 3 or 4pm. I then head upstairs, make the salads for dinner, and cook the dinner. I love to cook, and Kris needs some down time when she gets back from the office. We then eat and take a walk around Butler Lake in Libertyville, and read and watch the news, and blog and read blogs, and chat the evening away.

Fifth, blogging for me is fun — it is to me what TV is for others. I think about it as conversation with people of all sorts, and I think about things that can be said that might be useful to others, and about what can get some conversation started, and I’m not afraid to stick my neck out with ideas I’m thinking about and am not sure about. Some bloggers want to fight about things, and want to show the world they are smart in their comments, but I find it to be a conversation.

Sixth, on what to write about. I don’t know how ideas come to me, let’s just call it the Muse Clio. (An old Greek idea.) For academic things and for writing projects, I keep a small little piece of paper in front of me that I pin to the shelf. It is a list of what I’ve agreed to write, and I just work my way down the list. For instance, next on my agenda are these things: a book on prayer called Praying with the Church, write papers for conferences on Jimmy Dunn’s Jesus Remembered and John Miller’s Jesus at Thirty, and write a small article for Covenant Companion on Flannery O’Connor. (James will sit here until next May, when I can pick it up in full force, and its completion awaits my sabbatical in a couple of years.) If I agree to book reviews, I put them on another list and read them in my evening time or commuting time. I rarely miss deadlines, but sometimes I do and I don’t like it when I do. Sometimes I agree to write things that become uninteresting to me before I get to them. But when I have an idea, I jot it down and think about it, and I get a folder out and toss things into it just in case I may need them.

Well, maybe this will help. If you’ve got other questions about my writing, let me know.

Tomorrow I’ll blog on some advice on how to be a better writer.



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fr'nklin

posted August 20, 2005 at 9:07 am


Scot,Thanks – this post was very helpful. I couldn’t help but laugh a little when I contrast our situations. I have 5 kids (ages 5 – 15, 4 of them boys, 2 of them teenagers) so writing is a luxury that I’m only afforded EARLY in the a.m. or LATE at night!As I read your blog I was dreaming about quiet walks and evenings alone with my wife…nice. However, I’m not ready for ANY of my kids to leave yet!!! Thanks again. Lookin’ forward to this blog series.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 20, 2005 at 9:35 am


Fr’nklin,When my kids were younger, I didn’t write like this or have this much time. Some summers were a bust for writing. One year I managed 85 baseball games! And I coached high school basketball for ten years, and started up a youth traveling basketball league — so I know full well that my schedule is not what it was or what others might be.



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Jason

posted August 20, 2005 at 9:49 am


Scot,I’ve been reading your blog regularly now for several weeks. Virtually every time, I walk away with some choice nugget to ponder. Your’s is one of my favorite stopping points on the blogsphere. I also love learning the process in which people create. Thank you for opening that window into your life and for your contribution to the conversations.Jason Zahariades



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Kerry Doyal

posted August 20, 2005 at 10:51 am


Thanks Scot – this was a fun inside glance. Like Fr’nkln, we have 5 kids, (four boys) so readin’ & writin’ time is rare, yet yearned for greatly. I often comment to my wife that a good many writers have no, few or older kids. Yet, with kids, I have more I could write about… if I can remember it when the dust settles. Keep up the good work. Heb. 6:10



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted August 20, 2005 at 11:15 am


Hey Scot,I can’t say how excited I was to see the topic of your post (and the promise of more to come). My wife & I have recently made changes in our ministry to provide me with more time to focus on writing (since my first book came out). It is a scary move, but one that is already incredibly fulfulling.I am filled with questions, but I withhold the writing ones, as I am sure some will answered in the next post. However, I will ask this: I have been meaning to read Flannery O’Connor, but not sure where to start. Any suggestions?Peace,Jamie



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Scot McKnight

posted August 20, 2005 at 11:36 am


Thanks, Jason.



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brian

posted August 20, 2005 at 11:53 am


great stuff…I can identify with writing as your “tv” time. I feel the same…I could spend all night in front of the computer–but the tv doesn’t have the same appeal. Look forward to more posts on writing–thanks.



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Lukas McKnight

posted August 20, 2005 at 2:40 pm


I remember Scot’s wife encouraging him to write a baseball book, but don’t see that one in the plans at this point… perhaps you could have been the next Tom Boswell!



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Scot McKnight

posted August 20, 2005 at 3:10 pm


You can write a baseball book. What ideas I had for one have long since subsided — your 5 years of 140 games a year were enough for me.



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Michael Pahl

posted August 21, 2005 at 11:30 pm


Scot, as I note on my blog in response to your comment, I certainly do not begrudge you the summer writing schedule you have! Your research and writing has been a great help and encouragement to me, and I wish you continued joy and success with it. And, although I wish I had more time for those things right now, I am fully enjoying my young children and the stage of life we are at.Blessings,Michael



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Alan S. Bandy

posted August 22, 2005 at 1:49 pm


Thank you for this tremendously helpful glimpse into the life and habits of someone who has accomplished much. Your words have deeply impacted me over the last few days.



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Aj

posted August 25, 2005 at 9:52 pm


Greetings~
Thanks so much for sharing your journey and your process. Hearing about your daily schedule encourages me to set up my own. But as a mother of an eleven-month old, I also greatly appreciate hearing how things looked different when your children were little. Thanks for your wisdom and your words.



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Sue

posted February 8, 2006 at 10:46 am


My first & earliest desire was to learn to read; from this my second desire was to write.
I will read about subjects that are considered out of my depth of education (shaw!).
When I write, it is what I have inside. In reading my notes, poetry, etc. — well, I just feel a kinship with David the Shepherd boy, David the King, David the Singer, and David the Repentant.
The Old Testament is a Rich Storehouse for all readers. It helps us to appreciate the New T.



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