Listening

Toward the end of the Year of Pretending to Write a Book, an interview on All Things Considered caught my attention. The man being interviewed was described as a consultant and counselor to creative people struggling with the Affliction That Must Not Be Named. He knew about this malady because he is a writer himself.

He talked about his work with musicians and screenwriters and novelists and painters. I was uncertain if he might have great wisdom to share with a butler and general yardman who was pretending to write a book, but I listened anyway. Listening to people talk about writing was as close as I cam to participating in the literary life in those days. Listening to someone talk about writing was the only thing that made me feel like a writer.

I sat down to listen on the cool hardwood floor outside the room where I was supposed to be writing.

– Robert Benson, from “Dancing on the Head of a Pen”

Searching for Home

by Frederick Buechner

I receive maybe three or four hundred letters a year from strangers who tell me that the books I have spent the better part of my life writing have one way or another saved their lives, in some cases literally. I am deeply embarrassed by such letters. I think, if they only knew that I am a person more often than not just as lost in the woods as they are, just as full of darkness, in just as desperate need. I think, if I only knew how to save my own life. They write to me as if I am a saint, and I wonder how I can make clear to them how wrong they are.

But what I am beginning to discover is that, in spite of all that, there is a sense in which they are also right. In my books, and sometimes even in real life, I have it in me at my best to be a saint to other people, and by saint I mean life-giver, someone who is able to bear to others something of the Holy Spirit, whom the creeds describe as the Lord and Giver of Life. Sometimes, by the grace of God, I have it in me to be Christ to other people. And so, of course, have we all-the life-giving, life-saving, and healing power to be saints, to be Christs, maybe at rare moments even to ourselves. I believe that it is when that power is alive in me and through me that I come closest to being truly home, come closest to finding or being found by that holiness that I may have glimpsed in the charity and justice and order and peace of other homes I have known, but that in its fullness was always missing. I cannot claim that I have found the home I long for every day of my life, not by a long shot, but I believe that in my heart I have found, and have maybe always known, the way that leads to it. I believe that George Buttrick was right and that the home we long for and belong to is finally where Christ is. I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it.

 

Finding a Writing Rhythm

– by Tony Jones

Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.”

I work best under deadline. A book I’m editing that is a tribute (aka, festschrift; aka liber amicorum) was due last Thursday. After putzing away at it here and there in the preceding months, I buckled down and worked on it night and day for the ten days prior to the deadline. And it got done — done well, I think.

There’s a certain kind of rush that comes when a deadline approaches. My creative adrenaline spikes. I become singularly focused on that project.

However, when the deadline is months away, there is no such adrenaline, no such focus. That’s especially true when the book manuscript is due over a year before the book will release, because I know that there’s lots and lots of time to edit the book, to fix mistakes, and to tighten up the prose.
So here are some things I do:

Schedule Writing: Mondays and Fridays and some weekend days (when we don’t have the kids), I write. It’s on my Google Calendar now, every Monday and Friday between here and Christmas: “7am – 2pm Write.”

Multi-Task: I don’t need to focus solely on writing when I’m this far out in from of a deadline. I’ve got to write 1000-2000 words per day. That’s not an overwhelming amount for me (my record is 19,000 words in 24 hours — that’s another story for another day). So, today as I’ve been writing, I’ve also been canning and baking. So far, I’ve canned four jars of dill pickles, and made bread dough, which is now proofing. The great thing about baking bread, for instance, is that it’s got to proof for at least 5 hours, which gives me plenty of time to write between tasks.
Set Artificial Deadlines: In order to hit word count thresholds, I set alternate deadlines for myself, in advance of the Big Hairy Deadline of January 1. For example, I bought a plane ticket to go see my editor early next month. I know that I’ll be terribly embarrassed if I don’t have ample progress to show him, so that meeting will spur me on to have the book at least 1/3 complete by September 9.

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