Dan Darling’s Friday Five are one of the blogging community’s most interesting features.  Dan’s a great questioner, and he always seems to find folks who have interesting things to say.

For instance, my friend Joe Carter, who gave the following advice to folks like me:

5) Lastly, what is one piece of advice would you give an aspiring young Christian author/blogger/communicator?

This is the best piece of advice I could give an aspiring young communicator: Locate a multi-year calendar and find a date exactly ten years from now. Hone your communication skills for at least ten hours a week for that entire period. At the tend of the ten years make a mark on the calendar noting that you’ve reached the halfway point to becoming an effective communicator. Then buy another calendar and start the process all over again.

While I don’t know if the 10,000 hour theory—the idea that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice can make you an expert in a field—is applicable in all areas of life, I think it is necessary for developing communication skills. I only started honing my writing skills in 2002, so I’m just now nearing my ten-year mark. I think I’m nearing the point where I can honestly assess my skills as being somewhere between passable and competent. With ten more years of serious effort, though, I think I can become a skilled writer

I suspect that the goal of most young writers, though, is not to become a skilled communicator but rather to get published. That’s a more achievable goal. If that’s what you’re aiming for then do whatever it takes to scratch that itch (e.g., write a book, send an essay to a magazine) so you’ll get it out of your system. Once you realize that it’s not that satisfying, you’ll be able to move on to more fulfilling ventures.

But if what they want is to use their skills for the glory of God, then they need to work hard and pray for patience. To become an accomplished writer, you need both.

Dan recently had me on the show, where we had the following exchange:

Lastly, I appreciate the lack of straw men in your writing. You really aim to present both sides of an argument fairly in a way I don’t often see even in people whose arguments I agre with. Has this always been a feature of your writing? 

Well, that’s very kind of you to say.  I don’t know if it’s always been a feature of my writing, but I’ve always tried to make it one.  It’s a practice I take very seriously.  My motivation has two sides to it.  On the one hand, I want to be charitable to people, to represent them at their best because that’s what I want for my own work.  But on the other hand, if we’re going to ultimately disagree on something, I want to really disagree–fairly, honestly, out in the open, and preferably over a good meal that you’re buying.  It’s no fun having arguments when one side has been misrepresented:  it’s a lot more fun when the disagreement’s over the substance of things, and that’s always the level to which I’m trying to reach.

At any rate, read the whole thing.  And thanks for a really fun week.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Comment

  1. That’s a horribly intimidating, yet extremely wise piece of advice from Joe Carter. Patience and discipline are difficult to cultivate but are essential for almost any practice, especially writing. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

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