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Rhythms of (a writing) Life

posted by Scot McKnight

At Messiah College last week I was asked three different times this question: “How do you manage to get all the teaching, speaking and writing done?” OK, I’ve talked about this before, but I’d like to have a conversation about this again.

Tell us, what works for you?

First, our schedule now fits the pattern of our life now. It has not always been this way. Once a scholar-friend said to me when Lukas was about 12, “If you didn’t spend so much time playing and watching baseball, you’d get more written.” But that was what my life was at that time — I had a son who liked baseball (still does in fact) and a daughter who was involved in school and that meant we lived their lives with them. Then they moved on to college and then to marriage, and now here we are in a new pattern of life: quiet evenings and mostly gentle weekends.

Quiet.jpgSecond, we’ve made some choices, and I’d say some wise choices if you don’t mind my saying so: we protect quiet evenings, we avoid indebtedness which eliminates financial stress, and we say no to things that interfere with the things God has called us to do.

Third, our weekdays have a rhythm: up early (usually by 5:30 am), off to work (either to school or at the desk and when I’m home I stick to the desk from about 7am to 4 pm), we make a salad around 4 or 5pm, and then we walk around the local lake (on weekdays), and then we have dinner together and then we have our quiet evening. For reading and conversation and watching a little TV and our evening prayers.  We do the normal get-togethers with family, friends, students and neighbors, typically on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Thursday evenings).

Finally, on weekends, or during an evening moment when something strikes me, I do most of the blog posts … and then assign the day and time for them to appear.



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Travis Mamone

posted April 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm


Great post! What I try to do is do whatever writing I can after I come home from work and eat dinner. And it usually works, except when YouTube distracts me.



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robyn beckley vining

posted April 13, 2009 at 4:59 pm


Thanks for sharing. good words.



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RJS

posted April 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm


Scot,
You’ve posted on this before – and talked about it – and it always leaves me a little frustrated.
I agree completely on “avoiding indebtedness.”
But then you come to time stewardship and preserving “quiet evenings” and mostly “gentle weekends.” Especially when it comes to say no to things that interfere with the things God has called us to do.
So what has God called us to do – lead simple, stress free lives, or contribute to his kingdom? And yes – these can be mutually exclusive, at least if one’s “day job” is not church.
To achieve a simple, quiet life something has to give. Should we all withdraw from “worldly” occupations? Say no to any and all extracurricular church activities? …



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Tom Davis

posted April 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm


Thanks for some great thoughts in your post. As an author who has 5 kids, this is a continual challenge for me. Time for writing is difficult to find. The demands of our kids schedules is like another full time job. That, along with the challenges of running an international orphan/widow ministry is extremely taxing. I’d love to her more of your thoughts on how to live a balanced life with a full plate.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:08 pm


RJS,
I’m Protestant here: I believe our “jobs”/vocations are to be for the sake of the kingdom. I’m concerned that many people equate frantic, busy lives with fulfilling lives because they are worn out at the end of the day. And I believe we need to find the pace that gives each of us the opportunity to maximize what we do.
When our kids were home and young and involved here and there, our lives were hectic too. So, rhythms were different then and I want to reemphasize that.



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RJS

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm


Let me put it a little differently.
The question is “How do you manage to get all the teaching, speaking and writing done?”
Your answer is
First – there are times of life when it can’t all be done.
Second – it shouldn’t all be done if it interferes with living a simple stress free life. Just say no.
Third – be disciplined and organized.
I agree with the first, the second bothers me a bit, and the third is a real key.
On the second – we need to set priorities, I’m just not sure that simple, stress free should guide the priorities. I think “kingdom of God” should guide the priorities.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:21 pm


RJS,
I think “pace” is a little better than “stress free”. But, the more stress the less likely you will do what you need to do well. So, do what we can in the time allotted us, and don’t burn the candle too late for too long else we will burn out (before the candle does).
That better?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm


Tom,
When the kids are young, you do what you can … and I follow you on twitter with all those games. I did the same. One year I managed 85 baseball games and loved every minute of it.
The key for me is “pace”: do what you can with the time you’ve got and give God thanks. Get up tomorrow and go at it again.
Which means: getting the proper amount of sleep.



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Christine Sine

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm


Scot,
So glad you blogged on this. I find that people in our culture find it almost impossible to do the balancing act and seem to feel guilty if they slow down and take a rest. I think that the more of us who are willing to stand up and be counted because we have a balanced rhythm the better. I cringe every time I see one of my twitter friends say they are taking a weekend off but then hasten to add that they are taking their computer with them. I now have a message on my gmail that says I do not look at email on Sundays and like you I try to discipline myself to keep to set hours for work and plenty of time off. But it is not easy.
Blessings



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RJS

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm


Scot,
Your comment was posted while I was writing my second – so I didn’t see it until after I submitted mine.
I also agree that we need to find the pace that gives each of us the opportunity to maximize what we do.
My job could consume all of my time if I let it – and the peer pressure to “let it” is intense. Setting priorities is important. So I’ve made a deliberate attempt over the last three or four years or so to steward time more wisely – with judgment based on thing like spiritual formation and kingdom of God – even doing things like writing here – rather than getting ahead. But the judgment isn’t on maintaining time for leisure.
Maybe I’m too Protestant – I don’t think that we were made for leisure – “self time” is simply not very high on the priority list.



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Chris Bean

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:50 pm


Thanks for sharing a great model for working, living, and playing.
My first 15 years of ministry/vocation were spent pretty frantically…maximizing the calendar for Jesus-uh!
Now we’re seeking a more sustainable “rhythm” which allows us to be present to our children (9 & 6) as well as to our neighbors. As for ministry and vocation…transitioning from youth ministry to some kind of role in campus ministry and perhaps some teaching is giving us the opportunity to control this rhythm a little bit more which is nice.
Blessings,



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Keri Wyatt Kent

posted April 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm


Scot,
Great post. I too am a writer–and I’ve been writing since they were babies. (they’re now 13 and 15) In a few minutes I will drive one to art class, then pick up the other from soccer.
I have found that living in what I call Sabbath simplicity keeps me both productive and sane. one day a week, we devote to worship, family and friends. (No writing for me, or errands or housework). We also limit the kids’ activities–one sport at a time (and one artistic pursuit). So many parents i talk to think if one activity is good, five are better–that is simply not true. It’s our greatest temptation to “conform to the world.” It causes too much stress. Kids, and their parents, need some down time!



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Brian Beckstrom

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:03 pm


Thanks for the post Scot. After three years in our first call God seems to be leading our family to something new. I must admit that I’ve been tempted to look for the next career stepping stone, but I don’t think that’s what God wants for us. I appreciate your wisdom and reminder that life is full of different seasons, and we don’t always have to be in a hurry to get to the next one.



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Tom Grosh

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm


Dear Scot,
As before, I find your summary of writing helpful. As a thirty-something father of 4 young girls (9 year old twins, 4 year old w/developmental delays, and a 10th month old) and various Graduate & Faculty Ministry responsibilities for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (which span a 1-hour range), I regularly remind myself that I cannot keep up w/all the blogs I write for and follow AND blogs supplement my primary face-to-face ministry of identifying, encouraging, and equipping Christian scholars to be redeeming influences in higher education. But I find it encouraging to be reminded by you that pace/patterns of life may change over time to enable more writing in various forms.
Musings on my own pace/pattern, I try to give blogs about 1 hour most mornings, archive interesting topic ideas as I come across them, and try to set aside 1 morning a week to prepare future posts. As such, I have a variety of posts ‘in process’ and conversations which ‘will continue.’ I’ve also found the accountability of participating in http://blog.emergingscholars.org/ and Christine Sine’s Lenten Syncroblog at http://godspace.wordpress.com of great value.
The only way I post/comment as much as I do is that we live in close proximity to family and have local congregation which provides support to our family in ministry. If we didn’t have these support structures, I would consign myself to much less blogging.
Note: I find facebook a helpful venue for much of what used to be emailing and for a significant amount of event, cause, and support team communication which used to occur on my blog.
That’s all for now. I’d be interested in how other a lot their on-line conversation time. In Christ, Tom



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Dennis

posted April 13, 2009 at 7:52 pm


Scott,
Thanks for this post. At the encouragement of some friends, I’ve begun to blog and use FB. I’m enjoying the connections and the learning curve for blogging!
Grace and Peace!
Dennis
P.S. I’ve enjoyed reading two of your books.



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Theresa Grosh

posted April 13, 2009 at 8:10 pm


Good to read Keri’s comment (#12). I have repeated her testimony/recommendations, which she with me several years ago, to many moms.
Tom and I are trying to limit organized activities (particularly sports) until 5th grade. We don’t see any point of 3 year old T-ball. We like to encourage the exploring at home, giving them time to play outside. Theresa



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James Hukari

posted April 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm


What a great post. For me the hardest spiritual discipline has always been discipline. I think if you master discipline, you can anything. And it all starts with the hour of arising.
Scot, just a note: I really appreciate your blog!!
Jim H.



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karen

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm


Good post, Scot. It’s important for others to see the seasons of our writing lives. Thanks for sharing.



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Jeremy Berg

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm


Scot –
I’d love to hear a bit how you go about writing a book. Does that occur during your weekend writing time? Or, does that change your rhythm a bit? For example, how long was the Parakeet project from start to finish?
I love hearing about your personal writing schedule and family rhythms. Thanks for sharing.
Jeremy



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marko

posted April 14, 2009 at 2:35 am


my normal life doesn’t have quite the rhythm yours does. but when i’m writing, i find it do it best in 3 hour bursts; and i can’t write well at home or my office. so, it’s the local coffee shop, first thing in the morning. usually from 7 – 10am. by then, my brain is too distracted with things of the day. when i’m really in a crunch, i’ll go away somewhere for a few days, and crank out longer writing days, somewhere without distractions (last year i just went to a friend’s house who was at work all day).



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Shane Tucker

posted April 14, 2009 at 8:14 am


Scott, thank you for this post. I have for a number of years now been contemplating living into a Rhythm of Life that 1) exemplifies good stewardship of the life God has given me and 2) is suitable for a willing community to experiment with. Toward that end, I finally (after some years putting it off) sat down and tried to make sense of all the thoughts, present understanding, examples and Scriptures that lend themselves to shaping a healthy Rhythm. So, we are in a ‘consultation process’ within our nascent network which has just begun with most of the questions addressing the differences of living into a Rhythm in close community and in a dispersed community.
I think one of the most important aspects to a conversation about creating / living into a Rhythm of Life is 1) that it is based upon principles (not necessarily methods) that are contextualised to each individual situation and 2) that each person experimenting with the Rhythm has patience with themselves in the process of discovery.
Again, a very meaningful post that has potential to make a qualitative difference in peoples’ lives. Brilliant!



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Brian Rice

posted April 14, 2009 at 11:17 am


Scott:
Wonderful thoughts, thank-you. I’m grateful that your vocation involves that of writing, both scholarly works as well as more popular oriented blogging and everything in-between. The seasons of life stage are crucial, but as you said, we have to make choices, saying no to some good things so we say yes to what we think is best, like writing.
Highly intentional and wisely strategic about the things that matter the most in our vocations … the hard choices we must all make. Thanks again for sharing how you do that.
brian



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Pat

posted April 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm


“we protect quiet evenings, we avoid indebtedness which eliminates financial stress, and we say no to things that interfere with the things God has called us to do.” AMEN!!



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MatthewS

posted April 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm


I did appreciate reading the part about playing baseball. I have a ten-year-old. I work a relatively demanding job (I’ve had worse) and am slowly working through seminary. I have a standing appointment each Saturday morning for a couple hours of father-son time where we take a walk, go to the library and look up something interesting to him, get a hot chocolate, or whatever else we decide to do.



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Doug Allen

posted April 15, 2009 at 9:20 pm


Scot,
This post is probably too late to receive an answer. I knew you had to be very disciplined, but my question is what time do you go to sleep? I know you get up by 5:30 AM, and I guess you are one of the lucky ones who can get by on way less than 8 hours sleep. Wish that were me! Another question. I share you enthusiasm for baseball (bur for the Rockies who beat the Cubbies today!- OK, they split the series and had lost 8 straight at Wrigley before today), but 3 hours a day is a lot of time to indulge as a fan. Do you multi-task when you watch/listen to baseball or do you mainly read about the games later? I have many more things I’d like to accomplish every day (including writing) than I have time for, and feel kind of frustrated by it.
Doug



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RJS

posted April 16, 2009 at 10:05 am


Scot,
I’ve been listening to a lecture by NT Wright at Fuller earlier this year on Christian Virtue. In this lecture he emphasizes intentional preparation and discipline as Christian virtue. I think that this meshes well with your discussion here – and your intent. We need pacing and a recognition of what is important. Anyway – still food for thought.



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Literacygirl

posted April 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm


I think you should write a book on rhythms, your own personal, or family….



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