Journal Week 21: Starting to Write

As I've mentioned here on the blog and on podcasts, my next book with Fortress Press is a book about Johnny Cash. The working title is Trains, Murder, & Jesus: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash. The publisher has always changed my working titles, so we'll see if that sticks.

I was a bit worried about this book. For the book to work I have to be a biographer, narrating much of the story of Johnny Cash, not just to make theological connections, but for readers who know very little about him. Having never done biographical writing before, I was anxious about pulling that off. But over the last two weeks I've finally gotten down to writing and the chapters are coming together well. I'm excited about the book!

People ask me a lot about my writing routine. I don't really have one. It's mainly a two part process. The first part is that I think and think until I have the book in my head. During this time I sketch out in my notebook various chapter ideas and outlines. Eventually the book comes into focus. Once it's in my head, I then, in whatever gaps I have during the day, start to write. I write in the morning. I write before bed. I write in a spare hour I have. There's just an intense month or so where I write the book during all the scraps of time I have. There isn't any routine or set writing time. Just a paragraph here, a page there, until it's all done. Since I have the book in my head, I can pick it up and lay it down as the day demands.

That said, the writing period is a pretty focused time. Jana knows when I've started to write because, suddenly, every spare second I'm intensely typing. She can always tell when I've hit the writing phase because my focus and intensity at the keyboard varies from surfing the Internet, to writing a blog post, to writing a book.

The big spiritual issue for me during the writing period is to not let my focus get in the way of being present and responsive as a husband and father. That's hard, because when I get focused I can shut the world out, even when sitting in the same room with you. That's a blessing in many ways, as I don't have to leave home to write. I don't need time away or a sabbatical. I can write in the middle of noise and chaos. But it does mean I can be physically but not mentally present. That is something I'm working on.

All that to say, I've started writing my Johnny Cash book. It's due to the publisher by January 1. So I should get back to that.

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