Writing Advice is Life Advice

One question tops all the other questions in my inbox. In fact, I was getting the question so often that I added a page to this site addressing an aspect of it. But I wanted to jot down a few more thoughts for those wondering about themselves. The question is always some variation of "In terms of quality and quantity in your writing, how did you get to where you are today?"

The answer is three-fold:

I write every day. And I haven't just written every day for a few months—I've written nearly every single day since 1999. I challenge myself to not just write about my feelings, but to write on issues facing the world and Church today. I write reflections, I write in response, I write reactions (though most people don't see these), I write reasons. No subject is too humble for words to describe it, and no issue is too great that it doesn't require me to do some critical thinking about it.

I read every day. My parents used to ground me from reading when I was a young teenager and not much has changed since then. I read articles, books, blogs, tweets, etc. I don't limit my reading to only one side of the discussion. I have an insatiable curiosity to see things from every angle. Many people seem to be encouraged by the level-headedness I might bring to an otherwise hot discussion—I attribute this to the Holy Spirit and to my desire to see things from every point of view.

The Lord. That might sound like a cop-out, but hear me out. I absolutely believe the Lord uniquely wires each of us differently. Some of you can pick up an instrument and where others can only pluck at it, you make it sing. Some see gorgeous photographs in every moment. I'm not sure why, but the Lord uniquely wired me to think quickly and articulately. My mind works fast, discerning light from darkness, good from evil, insight from observation, and then my mind pieces together words just as quickly. It's how the Lord wired me and, believe me, I have fought that call for many reasons and many years.

My challenge to those of you wanting to hone your craft is this:

First, ask the Lord what He wants to do with your skills. Perhaps He doesn't want you to blog voraciously, but wants you to pour your words out to Him like David did, in prayers and songs. Perhaps He didn't wire you to do what comes so naturally to others, but He did wire you to do something: what is it? No offering poured out to Him is wasted.

Second, read and write. Don't only read one sort of material or write in one sort of style. Push yourself to appreciate most genres, views, and voices. I say "most" because there's never been more garbage out there in terms of words.

Lastly, should you decide to blog, do not push for a platform right away. Do not try to go viral or allow any sort of publicity go to your head. Those who are given platforms quickly usually haven't done the work necessary to stand up there for very long. It can feel really good to have someone appreciate your words enough to give you a place to say them publicly, but remember Jesus worked for his earthly father for 30 years before His public ministry. Sweeping sawdust, serving his parents and siblings, growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with the Lord and man.

We would do well to do the same.


(Yes, my hair really is that nappy in the morning. Sue me.)

Some helpful resources for aspiring writers: Wordsmithy by Doug Wilson On Writing by Stephen King Elements of Style by Strunk & White The Bible