The only time you might possibly see me up before 5am is if my baby daughter is sick and can’t sleep, or if I’m interviewing Jon Acuff, the writer of the uber popular blog, Stuff Christians Like. As luck would have it, I was up at 3:30am with my daughter this morning and on the phone with Jon at 5am interviewing him about the upcoming Cultivate Conference, and picking his brain on writing and the creative process behind his new book Stuff Christians Like, which is set for release on April 1, 2010 (Jon, is there an April Fool’s joke coming with your book?). I first met Jon at the Los Angeles airport on September 10 as we waited to share a car ride together to the Christian Web Conference, and it was one of the most encouraging, insightful and funny car rides I have had. I was super impressed with Jon’s combination of witty, intelligent humor, and his humbleness.
So this morning as we talked on the phone there are a few things I wanted to pick his brain about:
Rhett: “Jon, tell me a little bit about your session that you are facilitating at the Cultivate Conference?”
Jon: “I’m doing a 10 minute segment about storytelling where I hope to plant an idea that will hinge both Cultivate and Story since most people are going to both conferences. What I want to talk about is one of the biggest challenges of storytelling.”
Rhett: “In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge of storytelling?”
Jon: “Being dishonest. Writing what you think you should write versus what’s in your heart.”
Rhett: “What drew you to participate at Cultivate?”
Jon: “I’m a big fan of Dawn Nicole Baldwin. Her and her husband do awesome stuff and have great hearts. I also started to see the people they were bringing together…a random assortment of awesome people…it’s interactive…in n’ out…surgical in nature.”
Rhett: “What would a successful outcome for Cultivate and your session look like?
Jon: “Conversation. Lots of conversation. Silence for me would be failure. Collectively the crowd is smarter and more interesting than I am.”
Rhett: “What are you most looking forward to at Cultivate?”
Jon: “To connect with other folks. There are a handful of people that I internet know, but don’t really know. I want to bridge those connections.”
Rhett: “Let’s talk about your new book, Stuff Christians Like. When is it coming out, and what are you most excited about?”
Jon: “It’s coming out in April of 2010. Zondervan has done a great job of bringing the book to life. I was worried that a big publisher might make me water it down, but Zondervan has really amplified it. I’m also hoping to really marry the print to the blog.”
Rhett: “Tell me a little bit about your writing process and what that looks like.”
Jon: “It begins with having the idea…so idea collection…I usually put the idea into my i-Phone, Moleskine or some type of notebook…Then I let it incubate in my head that night…I often then scribble some ideas on a piece of paper the next morning, on my way to work, etc…That’s followed by a half hour of writing as fast as I can…My draft is now done and a couple of days later I edit it…Then I post it on my blog where I will get an opportunity to take a look at it again for another edit. I don’t feel like writing most mornings, and I have a bad judgment of what is good, whether that’s the enemy attacking me, or low self-esteem…the challenge for Christian writers is in not discounting your own story…at times I felt like I had to have an altar call in every story…the writing needed to reflect who I was, and not who I should be…so that was a major shift in my writing.”
Rhett: “How long did the entire book writing process take?’
Jon: “Three months. That included some times over the Christmas holiday where I would write for 3-4 hours a day and crank out 5-6 essays in that time.”
Rhett: What books, resources, articles would you recommend to someone who was writing a book, or was doing something creative?”
Jon: “Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Her section on first drafts was great. War of Art by Steven Pressfield. That saved my book. Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk at TED on where creativity comes from.
I appreciate Jon taking time to chat with me this morning, and I look forward to reconnecting with him at Cultivate on October 27th. And speaking of Cultivate. The conference is already being offered at the really low price of $67.19. But now they are currently offering a $15.00 discount by going here and registering. Don’t wait. Register now and we hope to see you there.