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.