Home Row: Christian Writers on Writing
As with books, the number of podcasts abounds. There’s no point in even trying to listen to everything; we have to be selective.
If this blog post reads like an advertisement, I’m sorry, but I must tell you that my current favorite writing podcast is Home Row (iTunes, Soundcloud). It’s a podcast for “writers on writing” hosted by J.A. Medders.
Medders is a pastor in Texas at Redeemer Church. He’s also the author of Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life, and co-author of Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. He blogs at jamedders.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
One of the things I love about the interviews is the way Medders gives listeners a “backstage pass” to how the writing process happens for different authors. Writing is a solitary task; I know how I do it, but how does so-and-so create a blog post, or balance family and writing, or keep his heart passionate and undistracted? These very practical questions get discussed on Home Row.
I also found it interesting how—across all six episodes—many of the same authors and writing books were mentioned. Maybe only one show went by where Lewis or Chesterton weren’t mentioned, or the books Wordsmithy by Doug Wilson (the guest of Episode 6,) and On Writing by Stephen King.
My favorite part, however, is the closing 5-10 minutes of each interview. Here, Medders focuses his questions on advice to aspiring writers, and it’s here that my soul soars, like my “inner-writer” is on a zip line down Everest.
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Jared Wilson, Episode 1
Wilson is the author of many books. His most recent is Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes It Compelling. He was a local church pastor for twenty years, his blog, Gospel-Driven Church, is hosted on The Gospel Coalition’s website, and he now works for Midwestern Baptist Seminary and manages the website For The Church.
The other thing [to consider], especially for young, up-and-coming writers . . . [is the way our celebrity culture] short-circuits [their] the ability to think about having to “pay their dues,” having to put the work in. So I meet a lot of young guys (usually it’s young men) who almost want to be published more than they want to write; they want the short-track to having the book deal.
And it’s great when that can happen, and I certainly wish that I could have gotten a book deal on my first book, but usually you just have to put time in. You need to grow some. You need to become more mature. And do work and stick with it . . . I tell the aspiring writer to not shrink back from having to write a few books maybe before you have one that is published.
Tony Reinke, Episode 2
Reinke works for Desiring God. He’s the co-host of the popular “Ask Pastor John” podcast, and the author of several books, including Lit!; Mom Enough (editor); The Joy Project; and Newton on the Christian Life, which I’ve reviewed here, here, here, and here (respectively).
When you are called to write, you are able to use words in a way that persuades others towards biblical truth, toward biblical reality. And that’s what, [as an aspiring writer], you want to see. You want to publish things, you want to write things, but you want to watch the effect of your writings on your readers. Do they view this as just self-expression? Or are you changing minds, are you persuading people?
If you are, [then] in some small way, that’s likely pointing you to the idea that God has a calling on your life. . . . And even before this [idea of “calling”] is settled, you should be doing a lot of writing. Write as much as you can. It doesn’t mean publish a lot; but you should be writing a lot.
Barnabas Piper, Episode 3
If you want to write like C.S. Lewis, you have to go read the classics, you have to read George McDonald. You have to read all these people that came before him. . . .
People who read my dad, for example, and want to write like John Piper are missing the fact that he’s read every word that the Puritans have written and every word that Jonathan Edwards has written. And he’s read the complete works of C.S. Lewis. Those are the guys to start with. And then you might end up writing like John Piper, or you might discover your own voice that is more effective for you anyway.
Tim Challies, Episode 4
Challies is the author of several books, including Sexual Detox and Do More Better (see my review, here). But he’s best known for his popular blog, Challies.com. The below quote from Challies is just a short one, but he put into words something I have been feeling for the last several months: it’s hard to spread creative energy across multiple projects.
I don’t find that those two [blogging and writing books] work very well together. My creative energy can go to one direction or the other, but rarely to two.
Trevin Wax, Episode 5
Wax works for Lifeway books as the managing editor of the very popular, The Gospel Project. His blog, Kingdom People, is also hosted on The Gospel Coalition’s website. He’s the author of several books, including Gospel-Centered Teaching, Counterfeit Gospels, and Clear Winter Nights.
The best advice I could give is to check your heart. Make sure your motivation is to serve people with your words, not simply to promote your own ideas. . . .
And the second piece of advice would be to write—a lot. Write even if no one is reading; write to get better at the craft. . . . I think there are a lot of people who are in the position of wanting to be an “aspiring writer” who are not necessarily disciplined enough to turn off the TV, turn off the distractions, not play that particular game, and really just sit down and actually do the work of writing.
Douglas Wilson, Episode 6
Wilson is the author of many, many books. Besides, Wordsmithy, which I mentioned above, two of his more popular books are Evangellyfish and Future Men, which I reviewed here. He’s been the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho for over 40 years. He blogs regularly, and with a lot of spunk, at DougWil.com.
[If a non-fiction writer won’t read fiction] basically you’re treating fiction as though it were a distraction, or cotton-candy. “I’m eating a steak here; I don’t have time for cotton-candy.”
But I would say that you have a misunderstanding of what fiction does. The Lord’s entire ministry was made up predominantly of telling fictional stories. So there must be some relationship between fiction/parables to the real world. There are things that you cannot understand in a book of theology . . . if all you read is theology.
[Picture by Luis Llerena / Unsplash]