I was a pastor for fifteen years (yes, I was a pastor before I was a bartender). During that period I wrote and preached almost 400 sermons. At the time, I had no idea how well that prepared me to write a novel.
Here’s are some of the lessons I learned:
I learned the habit of writing on a regular basis.
I learned I couldn’t wait for the muse to show up, I had to write whether I felt like it or not.
I learned that my first draft was always crap and always made me feel like crap.
(I’m not exaggerating about that last one. I’m pretty sure that after every single first draft, I felt like a loser who should be put out of his misery. But by the time Sunday came, I always had something I was excited to share. The crappy “first draft” feelings still haven’t gone away. I’ve just learned to laugh at them.)
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000 Hours Rule” – gaining mastery in any endeavor requires approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice. Rough math tells me my sermon writing got me about half the way there.
I’d hardly say I’ve mastered writing, but I’m convinced that the thousands of hours I spent writing sermons were the reason my very first book was picked up by a traditional publisher, without the help of an agent.
What if you never had an outlet like preaching to help you accumulate “time in the saddle”?
There’s a fair chance you’ve been doing something else that has contributed to your writing hours. My wife, for instance, has literally hundreds of pages of journaling to her name. You better believe that counts.
Putting everything I’ve said in the past couple posts together: if writing is important to you, you absolutely must set time aside to write regularly. That may require certain sacrifices. It may require creative scheduling. It will certainly require learning your own rhythms and what works best for you.
Okay, I think these four posts have laid out the fundamentals as I see them:
1. Know that writing is a craft that is learned.
2. Evaluate your reasons for writing and how much you are willing to sacrifice.
3. Read a lot.
4. Write a lot.
From here, I think my posts will be a bit more eclectic.
In the meantime, what are some unexpected ways you’ve been able to practice the craft of writing? How do you get your writing time in?
About Josh Kelley: I’ve written a spiritual living book, Radically Normal (published by Harvest House). My current project is a general market novel, Double Vodka. I’m also a writing coach that specializes in helping writers see the big picture of their strengths and weaknesses, offering an affordable one-session model.