Imitating the illimitable and illustrative (i.e., learning to write)

Zinsser says, “If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”

Obvious but good advice. I would also add that ones ability to write increases with consumption of actual books rather than blogs. I am learning to turn off that thing in my brain that says I need to speed-read everything that comes across my plate. When it comes to productive reading which is meant to shape, change, convict and conform it has been better for me to read and digest before moving on. Also, all those stories that we hear about our theological heroes (both ancient and contemporary) and “how many books they read” everyday or every week are not helping anyone. Should the measure of a man really be how many ideas he has read or how he has been shaped by a few of those ideas? It seems that the latter of the two usually have more to say and if they write, their books seem to have a more lasting value.

And another thing, I love to peruse second-hand book stores. You may have noticed like I have that many of the same old books appear in these stores (I’m thinking of their theology/religion sections). It’s as if there were some books that were meant to only be sold at dusty little stores in downtown areas. Have you ever wondered why this is the case? My theory is that folks want to get rid of bad books and tend to hold on to works that have made a lasting contribution. This is why finding good books in these stores can be quite a chore yet rubbish is plentiful. It also should be a warning to every would be writer to try and write something that won’t be relegated to the dusty shelves of the Booklegger in Huntsville, AL or Books on Brand in Glendale, CA.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Ah, the beloved Booklegger. Nothing better than some Ding How and a trip to the far side (religion section) of the Legger, where if you stood for more than an hour you were likely to see another pastor you knew. Do they still stock a nearly-infinite supply of Eerdmans’ overstock? I began my Churchill fascination through reasonably priced Legger offerings.

  2. I first hear year ago, Charles “T” Jones say, “You are what you are reading in the last five years.” And he is right

    “How many ideas he has read or how he has been shaped by a few of those ideas?” Is a great statement. I read the books that I believe will shape by theology and thinking.

    I constantly listen to sermons or read the sermons to try to discover how they came up with that point or position, or even how they are framing their ideas.

    We are not an island unto our self in this matter of preaching or even the art of writing a message.

    By the way I enjoyed your church’s website. I am saying, “How did they fleshing out their ministry statement, for example ”Our Children’s ministry exists to assist parents in bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So not only in books but on web sites.

    I love reading but better learning what I am reading.


  3. Posted by Rich Ryan on September 20, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    Hey, where was Books on Brand? I ate lunch on Brand just about every week for four years but I don’t remember seeing this place.

    If we ever get to the Shep Conf together I’ll have to take you to Raffi’s on Broadway. Outstanding Armenian food. Coming from a Calvinist, that’s saying something.

  4. I’m reminded of a quote by Spurgeon,

    “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”

  5. Scott,

    The place of choice when shopping the Book Legger is now Beauregard’s which is right next door (the best hot wings around) or Tim’s Cajun Kitchen across the street.


    Thanks for the encouragement, there’s never enough of that to go around so keep it coming.


    We lived in Montrose, CA which is a suburb of Glendale and I remember there being about four good book shops on Brand Blvd. I’m not sure if they’re all still there. Probably 800 or so of my books came from stores on Brand and of course the Archives in Pasadena.


    Great quote, pure gold!

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