Having published five books and taught writing for more years than I want to tot up at this moment, I had no idea I had so much to learn about writing until I undertook, for Lent, to post daily to my blog about following God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:7, which is about talking about scripture all the time: when you lie down and get up, when you walk down the road and when you sit in front of the computer.
It’s been tough going some days. One night, nigh on midnight, my brother—who has correspondingly committed to responding to my daily posts—sent me an email reminding me that I still hadn’t posted that day. Mostly, though, blogging about the Bible daily has proved a blessed Lenten entertainment—much more fun than giving something up—and taught me much about writing discipline.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- It is possible to write daily.
Or, so far it is, anyway. Previously I had doubted this.
I had the same revelation once about dieting and lost thirty pounds. The sad news is that, as with most of my spiritual revelations, I forgot what I had learned and gained a lot of it back.
(Note to self: After Lent, instead of blogging daily, you need to track what you eat.)
- One key to discipline in writing is writing on a set schedule.
I’ve found I have the best chance of getting my blogwork done if I do it first thing in the morning, before the day has the chance to talk me out of it. It’s the same way with my running: I either do it in the morning or I don’t do it at all. Similarly as with my twenty-one miles per week running commitment, the once-a-day blogging mandate has a sort of built-in incentive: incremental progress toward success. When I get done with my day’s post or run, accomplishment surges through my veins and arteries. Yes! I tell myself.
- Daily writing is easier if you follow a chronology of some sort.
This is by no means the first time I have tried to force myself to blog regularly, though in the past my goal has been to blog not daily but only (blush) weekly. I have never gotten very far with it. Even with a clear topical focus (which helps), eventually I just lose a sense of forward movement and stop.
This time around, though, I have not only a topic but a predetermined chronology: Jesus’ biographical development as presented in the four accounts of it in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I started—following a more occasional trajectory—back at Christmastime. Something about there being a passage of time in the material I’m reading and responding to flings me forward, I think, by providing me with an unknown element to look forward to. I wake up in the morning curious about what’s going to happen next in Jesus’ life—and how thinking about it might play out in mine.
- Blogging is work.
As pleasurable as it has been to read and think about and respond to scripture every morning, not very long after I committed to daily blogging I started to think of it as work. As, that is, something I was supposed to accomplish by the end of the day. A duty. At times a burden. And always, potentially, an additional stressor I don’t need in my life. This is a reality that I can’t afford to ignore.
- Time devoted to blogwork takes away from time devoted to other writing.
As with all work, every minute I spend blogging is a minute I’m not working on my other writing projects. This is another reality I can’t afford to ignore.
One of these days publishers will discover how blogging saps writing—or, that is, they will admit it to be true, having tried regular blogging themselves—and they will, I’m certain, start discouraging their authors from regular blogwork. (I am prophesying here.)
Before that happens, however, publishers may cease to exist. (Another prophecy.)
- Habitual blogwork on something different from your main writing project can help your creativity.
While blogging has cost me time I need for the novel I’m working on, allowing myself to concentrate on something else for a portion of my designated writing days has also unstopped the writer’s block I tend to have when writing fiction. This is partly so, I think, because I am, in essence, transferring some of the duty and burden of regular writing onto the blog and off of my novel, making the latter more of a place to just have fun.
It is important to note, too, that creativity studies consistently show that turning one’s attention to something else—something unrelated—invariably nurtures creativity.
- Having a dependable and responsive reader—or better yet, readers!—is a wonderful incentive to keep the words coming.
As I said at the start, when I committed to read scripture and blog about it daily, my brother committed to read and respond to what I wrote. Not only have these responses proved a lovely opportunity to interact daily with a faraway loved one, but my brother’s insights have grown me. Often, in fact, his responses have triggered the next day’s post. Best of all, we talk to each other daily about scripture, which was the goal of my blog in the first place: to be in conversation with others about scripture all the time.
I’m certain there are more things I will learn from my daily blogging commitment—and probably more things that I have learned already—but seven’s a good number, so I’ll let this be enough for now. I need to get on to daily blogging—and, after that, the novel!
So for now, happy Lent!