I’ve been blogging for four years now. Compared to many writers, four years isn’t a long time. But when I think about where I began, four years feels big.
Starting a blog can easily intimidate an aspiring writer. You feel a rush of excitement when you sign up for an account and see your page for the first time. Then you notice how empty the page feels. You think about the blogs you follow that seem to have hundreds upon hundreds of posts and a seemingly endless flow of new content, and your blank page can seem insignificant. So you start to write. But then you find that the words don’t flow like you expected them to. You end up rambling more than you expected, or you run out of ideas in your first post, or you catch yourself resorting to cliches. You may start to feel like this whole endeavor into the world of writing was a mistake.
I’ve been there, and in some ways, I’m still there. I know how difficult it can be to start writing and then to keep writing. But I want to encourage you to write, especially if you’re wrestling with fears and doubts about the work. I want to hear from you, to read your perspective, to learn from you as you share what God is teaching you. To that end, I want to share some things I’ve learned over the last few years that I think might help you if you’re getting started. And I want to start by focusing on the importance of time.
Good writing takes time. I didn’t learn this lesson well until recently. In college, I would regularly crank out my English lit papers a day or two before due dates, turning in work that resembled first drafts more than final products. At the time, I wrote for a grade, and as long as my work earned a good grade, I didn’t worry much about the quality of the work. But something changed when I began to write for peers. I started to care about grammar, syntax, and voice. I began to value well-written sentences and well-organized thoughts. In short, I began to value quality in writing, seeing writing as a ministry done for others as unto the Lord (see Colossians 3:23-24). And the more I write, the more convinced I become that quality writing is largely a result of time. It takes time for a writer to develop a voice, to figure out how best to share thoughts and feelings. It takes time to strengthen one’s writing, to iron out grammatical errors and syntactical bad habits for the purpose of clear communication. It takes time to know what works and what doesn’t. Even natural talent needs to be sharpened, honed, and strengthened by hard work over time.
How much time is needed for quality writing? I’ve found that it typically takes longer than I expect. My current schedule calls for two blog posts of new content each week, one article on Monday and one poem on Friday. I’ve followed this schedule fairly consistently for a couple of years, giving me time to play around with weekly writing schedules and habits. Time spent with a schedule has proven to be a good challenge, sharpening me in ways I hadn’t expected when I was writing and posting sporadically. I’m beginning to see improvements in some areas and to spot weaknesses in others, revealing that the continued effort is having a positive effect. But a steady schedule also sharpens my weekly approach.
I typically try to write articles on Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons during a weekly time of rest. I try to have an idea in mind already, preferably one I’ve given thought to throughout the week, so that I can jump right in with a few ideas when I begin writing. And while I can sometimes get my thoughts out in an hour or two, I usually need more time than I initially assume to process, to organize, and to work out my ideas before I feel good about posting them. I’ll devote a few hours to writing if possible, usually editing a bit as I go, until I get a first draft. Then, if possible, I’ll set the draft aside until the next day, where I’ll return to the document with fresh eyes. Taking some time away, even if only for a few hours, can provide the perspective necessary to spot weak points or to catch errors. Perspective helps me to see more clearly as I work through final edits before posting. The post you read is hopefully (but not always) the result of hours of writing, reading, editing, and praying. The post you read, in other words, is the result of time devoted to the craft.
Today, I simply want to encourage you to set aside time to write. If you feel called to write, to articulate truth in fresh ways for the glory of God and for the good of his people, I pray you’d take up the pen and the page (or the laptop and the word document) and would begin to share. Plan a little time each week to work, carving out a time that works best for your schedule, then write. And when you write, send me your blogs and your articles and your books. I look forward to learning from you as we learn to walk after our Lord together.
Thanks to Joe Fontenot for suggesting the idea for today’s post.