Writer’s Log: Stardate 30-1-12
Once upon a time, just over ten years ago, I had to seek out writing opportunities. Because I wanted to write I said “yes” to every opportunity. I reviewed books and wrote essays for journals with circulations measured in the hundreds; I wrote science columns for the local newspaper, and contributed to edited volumes that nobody was ever going to read. I wrote extended encyclopedia pieces for Salem Press, the only thing that actually paid. I remember getting my first check for $125 and wondering if that made me a professional writer.
I have to be more selective now, and I turn down a lot of writing opportunities today that I would have grabbed with enthusiasm 20 years ago.
This morning I finished a piece for Harvard's Icthyus magazine. This is a Christian journal that seems to be staffed by undergraduates. (I have a soft spot for undergraduates who work this hard.) They sent me a diplomatic inquiry and offered a lot of flexibility on my topic so I said yes, despite feeling too busy to take on more assignments. My piece was 3000 words long and distilled from a series of shorter pieces chronicling some of my adventures on the battlefields of science and religion. The extra length let me put a lot of things together in a fresh treatment that I hope they like. I took this assignment because of the audience, a consideration that I pay more attention to these days. I am hoping that this might build a bit of a bridge to Harvard. I have never been invited to speak there. And they turned me down when I applied for a job.
I have another assignment I am pondering. Christian Century has asked me to review Alvin Plantinga’s important new book: Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. I should accept this assignment but I am behind on my Adam book, so I am not sure. I have never done anything for Christian Century and it is always fun to have a new prestigious publication on your cv. I have written just one piece for the NY Times but that is enough to say on my bio that I have “written for many leading publications, including the NY Times.” I did turn down a book review for Christian Scholar’s Review last month. I did several things for them in the 90's.
Getting used to fielding these sorts of requests is a part of being a writer. I can’t accept every offer I get any more. I like this problem better than my old one--who can I write for?