Among other things, I write. I have written countless college and seminary papers, a master’s thesis, a doctoral dissertation, dozens of articles and about 20 books. You may wonder why I do this. Why do I sit at a desk and write when I could be outside in playing in the sunshine, hiking in the mountains or driving one of my military jeeps? I have been wondering about this myself! Here are seven reasons that keep me at the keyboard. Perhaps they will encourage you to become a writer too!
- I have something to say. I will never forget the two weeks of summer vacation I devoted to writing my first book, The Divorce Myth (Bethany House Publishers). Studying the teachings of Jesus, I had come to a new understanding of God’s plan for marriage. It was different from what I had previously believed and from what most pastors preached. I felt that it needed to be shared. My research and study flowed from my mind to my fingertips as I wrote. I was on a roll! It was hard to stop for lunch or take breaks. For me, the desire to write comes from having something important to say.
- I like the challenge. Most of my writing has been related to my profession as a Bible teacher. I like the challenge of studying Scripture in order to understand the truth of a biblical text. Before writing, I dig into the original text, background, culture, history and geography of a biblical passage. Then, I work to identify the essential principles and applications. I especially enjoy working on interpretive problems which requires the examination of different views, weighing the evidence for each, and then coming to my own conclusions. Finally, I am faced with the challenge of presenting my interpretation in a clear and understandable way. This was my goal in writing Answers to Tough Questions from Every Book of the Bible (Wiph & Stock). How do you answer the question, “What is the unpardonable sin” in a couple of pages when you could write a book on the subject? It is an engaging challenge to write an answer to a tough question, clearly and concisely, in just a couple of pages.
- I enjoy the process. I have heard people say, “I hate writing.” I understand. Writing is one of the hardest things I do. But once I get started on a theme, an article or a book, I find myself compelled along by the shear enjoyment of the process! The process of writing is like building something that will be of lasting benefit to others. During my college days I worked for a construction company building streets. I enjoyed every step of the process—excavating, preparing the road bed with gravel, paving with asphalt, and then finishing the project for inspection. I was proud of the streets I had helped pave. Similarly, writing is the hard work you go through to gain a rewarding result. And I do the work with the hope that my efforts will bless and benefit my readers.
- It expands my teaching ministry. Writing gives me an opportunity to share my ideas with people I have never met. I am always honored when someone I don’t know buys one of my books, appreciates what I have written and tells me about it in person or with an email. This past summer I was visiting my daughter’s family in Idaho and joined them for Sunday church. There on the resource rack was a pamphlet on church discipline. I glanced at the bibliography and there was listed my book, Your Guide to Church Discipline (Bethany House)! It was a joy to meet the pastor who had not only read my book, but he quoted from it in his pamphlet. It is a privilege to contribute to God’s kingdom work through writing and publishing.
- I want to leave a legacy. I recently retired after forty wonderful years of teaching at Western Seminary. I don’t know how many more years of ministry are yet ahead, but I know that when I leave this earth for heaven, my books will still be on readers’ bookshelves around the country. It is encouraging to know that my family, friends and students will benefit from my books long after I am gone. An ancient Egyptian sage commented about the authors of books. He said, “Their mortuary service is gone; their tombstones are covered with dirt; and their graves are forgotten. But their names are still pronounced because of their books which they made, since they were good and the memory of him who made them lasts to the limits of eternity (J. Blenkinsopp, Wisdom and Law in the OT (Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 7).
- It’s easy to get published. Years ago, getting a book published was a difficult and drawn out process. You began by contacting a publisher and submitting a manuscript proposal. If the publisher expressed interest, you wrote and submitted the manuscript. Then you waited months (sometimes years) for their response. Next came the “rejection letter.” Not willing to give up, you repeated the process until you found an editor who believed your book could make the publisher money. Publishing has changed a great deal through modern technology. Now days, just about anyone can publish a book. There are lots of companies which will help you self-publish your book. My last four books were published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), a company associated with Amazon. To publish with KDP, you write and edit the manuscript, choose the title, create the cover, decide on the price and royalty, and select your channels for promotion and distribution. Kindle Direct Publishing will make your book available on Amazon. When someone buys your book, it is printed, packaged and shipped. And the royalty payment is promptly deposited in your bank account. Self-publishing is not just an easier process. It also benefits your readers. Because you are doing the editorial work yourself, rather than paying the publisher, self-publishing allows your book to be sold at a more reasonable price.
- I like sharing my books. It is a privilege to place into someone’s hands a book which you have labored over for years, knowing that what you have written will bless and benefit them. My books are sold on-line through Amazon, but I also make them available at speaking engagements. And I give lots of books away. I give books to friends, family members, students and others who might benefit from my writings. Kindle Direct Publishing allows authors to buy their books at cost. This enables authors to give someone a book for about the price of a Hallmark greeting card! And I think that a book will be on the recipient’s shelf longer than a pretty card.
At the end of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon offered a warning to writers and readers of books. He said, “The writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearing to the body” (Ecc. 12:12). So true! There is always another book to write and another book to read. Heeding Solomon’s warning, I’ll try to live my life with reasonable balance, both writing and reading books.