I just had a birthday. As with many milestones, I find myself taking stock. Because I know many people hope to write and leave something behind of their thoughts, analysis, beliefs, and feelings, I’m posting a personal inventory. Maybe it will give you a sense of the possibilities.
When I was just about thirty years old, almost two decades ago, I yearned to publish something and thought that if I were to die without writing a book, I would consider my life a failure. While I don’t encourage anyone to think of their lives in quite that way, such was my mind at the time. I still remember the day when I sent an email to the editor of American Spectator offering a correction on an article. He responded in such a friendly way, I suggested that I might write something for him. He agreed. I could almost see the new pathways opening in front of me. Here is a rough inventory of what I’ve had the privilege to do since that time:
The Online Work (some estimation involved)
American Spectator: 30 pieces plus maybe 100 or more blog items.
National Review Online: 25 pieces inclusive of articles and symposia
The Federalist: 17 pieces
First Things: One essay plus many blog items for First Thoughts
Public Discourse: One essay
Quillette: One essay
The American Interest: One essay
The Acton Institute: 12 pieces plus blog items
Christianity Today: 8 pieces online
American Greatness: One piece
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: One piece
Chattanooga Times-Free Press: Two pieces
Jackson Sun: Around 10-20 pieces (full archive unavailable online)
The Gospel Coalition: 5 pieces
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission: 4 pieces
Mere Comments (Touchstone): many blog items
RedState.com: various blog items
The Reform Club/hunterbaker.wordpress.com: hundreds of blog items
There are others that I can’t recall at this time.
Print Articles in Academic Journals: 6 articles for a variety of journals (Example: Journal of Law and Religion)
Print Articles in Intellectual Journals: 20 articles for a variety of journals (Example: Modern Age)
Book Chapters/Features/Forwards: 14
Books: 3 (The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student’s Guide, The System Has a Soul)
Book Reviews of which I’m most proud: Mike Potemra’s review of The End of Secularism for National Review, S.T. Karnick’s review of The End of Secularism for Books & Culture, and Andrew Klavan’s review of The End of Secularism for Pajamas Media.
Invited Lectures: 43 (So much of the real labor is here. When people invite you to speak, you tend to write something new for them, which you can find a way to work into an article, a book chapter, a book, etc.)
Now, why would this inspire you? It seems like an awful lot of work. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it was done over the course of about 15 years with regular effort. Nothing superhuman. Writing begets writing. If I recall, I may actually have had something ready to go the first time I corresponded with Wlady Pleszczynski at American Spectator. He published me. I’ve been going strong ever since. It seems to me that a big part of the reason some people write a lot is simply because they feel they have the opportunity to publish and have an audience.
I’m deeply thankful for that first opportunity and for everything that came after. But it is important to note that I’d been preparing for that opportunity with years of education, reading, thinking, analyzing, (and frankly praying for it), etc. If you have something good to offer, chances are you’ll be able to seize a moment.
Finding friends who write helps, too. We tend to engage in the activities our friends undertake. Writing is like that. Find a fellowship of writers. My fellowship started online, but I’ve met many of them over the years in real life and count some of them among my best friends today.