My Writing Process

If you're a writer by any definition, I wonder if we can stand in solidarity with one another? This season of life has included a lot of speaking for me. I've done this speaking stuff now for my entire adult life, but nowadays the content, circumstances, audiences, and number of people is different. I'm exercising and growing some new muscles these days.

This week I had a couple writing deadlines for upcoming speaking gigs. I was writing, re-writing, and editing three versions of the same talk (all centered around the vision of my book) and I found myself in my typical "process"...<that's a loosely used term>. I wonder if you can relate to my actions and inner conversations?

It's finally time to sit down and write a talk.

  1. Check email and Facebook ... just in case anything life-changing has happened in the past 30 seconds that I must know about.
  2. Clean up the kitchen. I mean, how can you actually be virtually productive when your real kitchen is a mess???
  3. Start the dishwasher. Maybe the white noise will tune out my racing thoughts.
  4. Vigorously wipe off the counters.
  5. Make a cup of coffee. One must stay caffeinated while writing.
  6. Get a cup of water with a slice of lemon. One must stay hydrated, too.
  7. Open up the message on my computer and read through what I've done so far. Is that really all I have done? Mercy.
  8. Go to the bathroom.
  9. Check email and Facebook again. Cuz, it's been about 10 minutes. You never know.
  10. Sit down in my most productive writing chair and take a sip of coffee. There is hope.
  11. Stare at my computer screen. Stupid blinking cursor.
  12. Beg God to let the words pour off my fingers and onto the page.
  13. Wonder why the organizers at this event have even asked me to come. Clearly, I'm a mess.
  14. Become overwhelmed at choosing between all the things I will NOT say and the few things I MUST say. Jesus, help!
  15. Check email and Facebook again. Message prep is just too hard.
  16. Check to see if the mail is in the mailbox. I wish I didn't have ADD.
  17. Focus on the talk for about 15 minutes and I'm actually making headway! God DOES love me.
  18. Crap, the kids woke up from their naps. Guess writing time is over. Only an hour nap?!?!
  19. Scold myself for not using nap time more effectively. I know better. #fail
  20. Pray like crazy...and stress some too. John 3:30...maybe a little outta context.

...this is real, folks. It all JUST happened this week.

And then I show up and give the talk. And God does his part (it's questionable if I've really done all of my part) and it's awesome. Preaching and teaching God's Word is an absolute privilege. Speaking on behalf of Kingdom issues is an honor.

When I'm not at my worst, a healthier writing process includes the following practices:

  • Not Procrastinating. Yes, there are real limits and time constraints that don't always allow me to work far in advance. But not writing at the 11th hour is always best. The ability to continually pray through a message, research the text or topic, discuss ideas with counsel, winnow out ideas and illustrations, and re-work a talk is always beneficial for the audience.
  • Set an Appointment. Writing is one of those "important not urgent" tasks, (unless you procrastinate, then it's urgent). Therefore, emails and dirty kitchens will always mentally trump the writing process, unless you determine a meeting time. Treat that time like an actual meeting. You wouldn't NOT show up to a real life meeting. People are depending on you to show up. The same is true for writing, except the people are invisible until you preach it.
  • No Fear in Love. Some of the best counsel I've ever received about speaking is that perfect love casts out fear. Love for the audience casts out any self-absorbed fear. Love also honors the listener and may change the way you talk to them.
  • Create the Environment. Coffee and water do help my process. Depending on the message, being alone in a quiet space is best. Other times, going to Starbucks is the best space to create. The key is knowing your content and knowing yourself. Then, make it happen.
  • Clear the Clutter. There is something very real about clearing the clutter from my brain and my writing space. Sometimes that means wiping down the counters. Other times it involves responding to a pressing email (not ALL emails!). Most of the time, it involves some prayer and meditation to get centered and clear the flow of conversation with God.

What are your writing struggles and best practices? Let's stand in solidarity with each other - not just in our craziness but also in our healthiest. Preach on, brothers and sisters.