Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reflection on Scot McKnight's Recent Blog "Writing--On the Side"

My colleague Scot McKnight has written an extremely insightful blog, "Writing--On the Side" at Jesus Creed. I think Mike Bird my friend and fellow-blogger is an example of a young scholar who exemplifies what Scot is suggesting. I am always amazed at how much writing Mike produces.

However, I struggle to write. It doesn't come easy for me. I don't wake up in the morning thinking about what I will reflect on in writing today. There are people who have this kind of mind and a gift for ideas. I don't feel that I fit into that category. Still I have learned an important lesson although I don't practice it as I should.

I have learned that even ideas come best through the process of writing. Often us young guys feel we don't have any thing to write about; we don't have any ideas to develop in writing. Yet, there is a kind of writing that is called "generative writing" that gives space to think and even develop ideas. This kind of writing is messy writing, like writing in a journal. There are little tricks that can be done to force this kind of writing. One technique I use is timed writing. I have a timer on my wrist watch that I set for five minutes. I write as much as I can on a particular issue for five minutes not being concerned about grammar or spelling. The only requirement is that I write sentences. I usually am able to write between 200 and 300 words. If I do these timed writings three or four times I have written nearly 1000 words. This can be a very positive thing for those of us for whom writing is difficult. Within just 2o minutes you have nearly 1000 words. Often in this group of words there are some real gems to develop in more refined writing.

The only real condition of this kind of writing is that one disciplines oneself to write daily. As you know from my contribution to this blog, I don't practice this as often as I should--especially as I am in the throws of my first semester of teaching. Surely this predicament is a legitimate excuse for not writing much.


Volker said...

Hi Joel,
thanks for your honest thoughts.
I think one thing that is missing in the post and comments on McKnight's blog is the question of motivation. Or put more sharply: the ethics of writing. Do you really help or influence people by writing yet another article on a topic that has usually been treated lots of times before, or do you not make much more "profit" by doing exactly what you are doing at the moment: investing into the lives of the students that you are engaged with on a regular basis.
What is the reason for writing - is it just career, in the sense of "publish or perish"? Then, okay, there is a point to it. But if one looks at this issue with Christian values, perhaps the emphasis should not be on writing for the sake of it but on investing in people. Of course, these things are by no means exclusive of one another (cf. the apostle Paul). But while making the desk the major focus of one's life may be the vocation of some, I doubt that it is good to pronounce this as an universal value.

Greetings to you from Tuebingen! How are you enjoying your new job (congratulations!)? And greetings too to Stephen Chester who is your colleague, right (I met him a couple of times at the BNTCs)?

Anonymous said...


I agree with your last paragraph. Christian writing (or scholarship) should have an ultimate aim, mainly the glory of God and the edification of God's people, the church.

Scot McKnight said...

And I agree too: write for the church, and that means lay folks. It'll show real fast whether or not you have anything to say.