The time crunch

Nov. 18, 2015 | by Ken Walker

Having worked on writing projects with evangelists and pastors for more than 20 years, I am quite sensitive to the time pressures and seemingly endless demands for their attention. Since I seem to juggle a never-ending series of tasks on my “to do” list, I often wonder how they do it.

I say all that to say: I know you’re busy. But as I sit here wondering if a half-completed book with one pastor will ever resume and whether a new one will get off the ground in December as promised, I have an appreciation for the need—as Jesus would say—to “count the cost.”

When it comes to books, not enough people understand the investment of time, energy and emotion that comes with writing one.

Creating hours

During the years we lived in Louisville, Kentucky, I encountered two busy people at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who managed to write books despite their hectic schedules.

One was a professor who also served as an interim pastor at a country church. Yet he cranked out a couple of well-written novels for a major publisher. After the second one, I asked when he found the time to write amid class preparations, teaching time, pastoral duties, and the other minutiae of life. His reply: “I wrote from 6 to 8 a.m. six days a week.”

I nearly fell out of my chair. Back then, I had co-authored a couple of books myself, but I had worked them into the normal flow of projects that I handled during the day. One can’t appreciate how difficult it is to devote two solid hours to something—anything—six days a week until faced with the task.

I’m in the midst of crunch time editing a book for a major publisher, which has required similar disciplined effort. It can get quite tiring. You might imagine it’s easier to meet a book deadline than an article produced in a much shorter time frame. But if I take a break one day, that means having to finish twice as much the next. The pressure is different, but it’s still there.

Devotion plus

The other author was Thom Rainer, then dean of the missions school and now president of LifeWay Christian Resources. I sat next to him during a book signing with a couple of  other authors at the campus bookstore.

As we chatted during a slow period, I asked when he had found time to write his book (which he has since followed with many more). After all, at the time he still had a flock of children at home. He told me of writing between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. several nights a week.

I got tired just thinking about that. If I stay up late, I’m pretty groggy for half the next morning. Granted, I was a little younger then, but I still rarely stayed up past 11 p.m., when Rainer was just getting started on his writing.

Both these authors demonstrate the kind of energy, focus, and devotion it takes to write a book, a task that won’t necessarily be rewarded with great monetary returns or public acclaim (kind of like preaching a sermon).

Measured decision

I don’t want to discourage anyone who feels they have a story to tell, lessons to teach, or insights to convey from moving ahead with their project. Yet having too often experienced people whose book ideas were rooted more in daydreams than reality, a word to the wise is sufficient: have you considered what kind of time this will take?

Do yourself, and editors like me, a favor. Don’t start if you’re not committed to hacking through that jungle.


Topics: Leadership, Ministry, Vision



Ken Walker

An experienced freelance writer, co-author and book editor, Ken Walker edits blogs for several contributors to Church Central and has coached various bloggers for the site. A member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), he has co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 50 books. You can see samples of his work or ask about his services as a writing coach by going to http://www.KenWalkerWriter.com or by e-mailing kenwalker33@gmail.com.

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