Getting Published, Shipping Work

Seth Godin has a new book out, called The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. I have always found Godin’s work to be exceedingly helpful (though I haven’t read The Practice yet).

I bring up Seth Godin’s new book because Daniel, a reader of The Habit Weekly, wrote to me about it a few days ago. Danile felt that Godin was encouraging in a specific area where I had been discouraging:
[The first line of The Practice] is, “Shipping — because it doesn’t count if you don’t share it.”

This line brought be back to a newsletter of yours that has always bothered me — the one about your advice to the woman who wanted to get published. In the end you walked away sad because you did not think publishing should have been her primary goal.

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S2: Ep45: Charlotte Donlon Knows What Loneliness Is Good For

In this week’s episode of The Habit Podcast, I speak with Charlotte Donlon, author of The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other and host of the Hope for the Lonely podcast.

We discuss the two-way street between loneliness and belonging, the power of stories to de-stigmatize our loneliness, and the crucial difference between loving someone and understanding them.

A Friendship to Give You Hope and Courage

I’m a huge fan of the Trinity Forum, a Washington DC-based organization that seeks to “connect thinking leaders with leading thinkers in engaging the big questions of life and coming to better know the Author of the answers.” In the last few months they’ve been knocking it out of the park with a series of weekly online events with some of the best thinkers and culture-makers out there, including Alan Jacobs, Karen Swallow Prior, Dana Gioia, Tish Harrison Warren, John Lennox, Marilynne Robinson, Makoto Fujimura, James K.A. Smith, Marilyn McEntyre, and Arthur Brooks. That’s a partial list, and just since March! Their YouTube page goes back several years and can keep you busy for a very long time.

It’s Election Day 2020. If you’re feeling pessimistic about the state of American culture and public discourse, I commend the work of the Trinity Forum to you. It will give you reason for hope, as well as a model for ways to contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways.

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S2: Ep44: Dane Ortlund Cultivates Surprise

This summer I started hearing about a new book called Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, by Dane Ortlund. Sam Allberry called it a book “that astonishes us with the sheer abundance and capacity of Christ’s love for us. 

I read the book, and it was as good as I had heard. I very happy when Dane Ortlund agreed to be on this week’s episode of The Habit Podcast. We talk about beauty, theological correctness, and the importance of surprise in the spiritual life.

A Note to Mothers

In my job as proprietor of The Habit Membership, I hear from a lot of mothers who find it exceedingly hard to get creative work done. This is a letter of encouragement to those mothers. (If you aren’t a mother, feel free to read anyway; you might even pass this letter on to a mother in your life.) I don’t wish to mansplain or make assumptions about other people’s assumptions. I’m just saying that I know of mothers who want to write or paint or do other creative work, but feel guilty about taking time away from domestic duties to pursue such “self-focused” interests. If you are among those mothers, this letter is for you.

A Word About Selflessness
Somehow we have gotten it in our heads that creative work is selfish. And selfishness, of course, is incommensurate with the selflessness that we associate with motherhood. I will grant that Picasso and Ernest Hemingway seemed to be spectacularly lacking in maternal instincts. But the creative people I know—many of them mothers—strike me as less selfish than the usual run of people.

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S2: Ep43: Andy Lepeau Wants You to Write Better

This week on The Habit Podcast, I speak with Andrew T. Le Peau, former Associate Publisher at InterVarsity Press, blogger, and author of Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality.

We discuss the simple power of physical exercise to generate creative ideas, as well as the things that get in the way of the writer’s voice. Also, we go back and forth on the constructive tension between my own emphasis on self-forgetfulness in writing and Andrew’s claim that all writing is autobiographical.

The Get-Well Card

In elementary school I had a friend named Donny—a small, double-jointed fellow who smelled of peanut butter. I remember him as having a fuzz-stache for as long as I knew him, but I’m probably just extrapolating back from junior high. Surely he didn’t have a fuzz-stache in second grade, when this story takes place. In the fall of that year, Donny caught a bad case of pneumonia and was hospitalized for a few days.

“Pneumonia,” one of my classmates intoned, shaking her head gravely. “Your lungs fill up. You drown from the inside out.”

“Your lungs fill up?” one of the boys asked. “With what?”

I didn’t have to ask. I knew what Donny’s lungs would fill up with. Peanut butter. I pictured him in his hospital bed gasping for breath, every wheezing exhalation filling the room with the smell of sorrow and peanut butter.

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S2: Ep42: Anne Snyder Loves Institutions

Anne Snyder is editor-in-chief of Comment Magazine. In this week’s episode of The Habit Podcast, Anne and I discuss our culture’s antipathy towards institutions, the role of theological reflection during a time of crisis, and her work with Comment Magazine to serve both readers and writers in uniting thought and action.

Cunning and Prudence: Some Thoughts on Persuasion

Through language we are able to create realities. We do it every day. Persuading, encouraging, fear-mongering, story-telling, teaching, selling, insulting, begging—these are just a small sampling of the ways we create and/or rearrange inward realities in other people.

The Puritan John Flavel (quoted in Marilynne Robinson’s What Are We Doing Here) had this to say on the subject:

Other creatures have apt and elegant organs: birds can modulate the air, and form it into sweet, delicious notes and charming sounds; but no creature, except man, whose soul is of an heavenly nature and extraction, can articulate the sound, and form it into words, by which the notions and sentiments of the soul are in a noble, apt, and expeditious manner conveyed to the understanding of another soul.

It truly is a remarkable thing that by moving air through your larynx and simultaneously moving your mouth and tongue around, or by making marks on a page, you can manipulate the movements of a human soul. It’s not a thing to be taken lightly.

What’s more, to change inward realities is also to change outward realities. Persuasion elects leaders, creates laws, preserves peace, starts wars. Persuasion builds interstates, bridges, prisons, parks. Persuasion builds whole societies and cultures.

And yet…

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S2: Ep41: Brown Bannister Says “There You Are!”

In this week’s episode of The Habit Podcast, I talk with music industry legend Brown Bannister about the difference between “Here I am” and “There you are” personalities, the similarities between producing a record and teaching students, and how Brown has avoided cynicism over his long career.

This episode was recorded for last weekend’s Hutchmoot:Homebound conference, where it aired as a video.

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