Not infrequently I’ve been asked, how (and why) I have written so many books. I wish I had known the warning of Edna St. Vincent Millay earlier in my publishing career. “A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down…If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.” (cited in Cliff Black’s new volume on the Gospel of Mark, p. 76— to be reviewed later in June).
The answer as to how I’ve written so many books is in part simple— I began being published before I left high school and have been writing ever since then. I wrote for the Daily Tar Heel when at Carolina and then at GCTS, and then I ran off to England and did my dissertation, which amazingly resulted in 3 books. And it was the latter event which really propelled me into academic publishing on a large scale. But behind all the happenstance, there was my personality. I am the opposite of an introvert, to such a degree that I have to externalize what I am thinking by writing it down, and repeatedly people have said— well that’s worth giving a larger audience to. And so I have been fortunate enough to have many wonderful publishers keen to help me do that. I do not view the publishing enterprise as an exercise in trying to be perfect in print. I view it as an opportunity to explore important things in an inevitably imperfect way and form. But I must credit Geneva Highfill and her grammar and syntax drills in the 10th grade for pounding a decent English style of writing into my brain. And most importantly, I see publishing as a way of not merely advancing the discussion about all things Biblical, I see it as an opportunity in a small way to advance the Kingdom, the cause of Christ. And lastly, I love doing it.
Many of you will know already the now famous anecdote told about my friend Tom Wright— namely that someone once called him while he was a prof at St. Andrews (and I was still on their emeritus faculty list) and asked to speak to him. The secretary said she was ever so sorry but he’s busy writing a book. To which the caller quipped ‘I’ll hold’. This same anecdote has also been told about me. I guess the truth is the Lord has just given me the kind of brain that can think, process, and write quickly, and usually quite readably. Some have said I have a photographic memory. If so, much of the film is over-exposed, and some of it is under-developed. But in truth, I love what I do, and count a blessing to still be able to do it past 70 years of age, while my brain has still not yet gone off the boil. Praise God for the gift of writing and sharing it with others. See my little book. Is There a Doctor in the House? to talk more about this whole process.