BEN: I really enjoy your way with words. You write like a person who has had a good English lit degree, which I was fortunate enough to have in college. Tell us how you acquired, developed , learned this sort of winsome wordsmithing.
JACK: Thank you, Ben. An author-friend, David Laskin, once told me about his experience as an English lit major in college (which I was not). The professor told him that his prose should match the character of the topic. (His was some bawdy Tom Jones novel, I think, so there the analogy ends!) I try to make sure every word, every phrase, every paragraph honors the Holy Spirit, not only in content but in elegance or rhetorical punch.
There is no secret to my writing. (Again, thank you, Ben.) First, I write as often as time allows. I write regularly. I do not wait for inspiration.
Second, I learn. My writing comes from excitement over what I am learning. I’m keen, for example, on word searches, so my nose is nearly always in an Accordance. If I am learning, I can be excited about writing.
Third, I am passionate. I do not divide my intellect from my emotions, my scholarship from my faith. They are fused at my core, and I hope that my writing reflects this fusion.
Fourth, I read slowly. I observe. I note good writing. Turns of phrase. Stimulating ideas. I allow other authors to mentor me by how they write. I love a well-written book, and I drink deeply of them, often marking in the text or margins instances of great writing.
Fifth, I revise. And revise. And revise. Endlessly. I probably spend as much time—or more—revising as I do writing. An editor once told me, “An author does not write. An author revises.” This is true. And in that revision, I don’t always follow, though I try, the adage, “Murder your darlings.” If something is too cute—it’s called a conceit, interestingly enough—it has to go.
Sixth, I write what I want to write, on the whole, rather than what others want me to write. What biblical scholar, in her right mind, would spend a lifetime with the Holy Spirit? It sets me outside the mainstream of scholarship. But I love it. I’m passionate about the Holy Spirit. Priscilla and I told both our kids in college, “Follow your passion.” I do. I have. I will.