Stephen Mansfield talked with me recently about many of the 20 books he’s written: That Q&A is in the current issue of WORLD. But students at Patrick Henry College were also curious about how he became an author and how he arranges his days to be productive.
You moved from pastoring to publishing. Was the transition to being an author traumatic? I pastored for 21 years and was convinced I wouldn’t pastor forever. Most pastors, once they’ve accepted the calling of being a pastor, think they’ll pastor forever, and that’s fine. But I think you need to know your seasons, and I always sensed that there would come a moment in my life where I would transition out of pastoring and step more fully into confrontation with the values and thoughts of this world. I do realize there may be a lot of people pastoring that don’t need to be, and maybe some folks not pastoring who do.
You’re a prolific author: What’s your workday like? I’m easily distracted, very visual, and I can’t do probably what other wonderful authors do: write for a few hours, go to lunch, come back, write for an hour, then take a meeting. My productivity is a result of tyrannically ruling my schedule. When a book comes up, I start blocking off entire days. When I write, I write for an entire day. Get up in the morning, work out, have breakfast with my wife, hide away and write all day. Probably 5 or 6 o’clock I smell dinner cooking and know that God is speaking—it’s time to stop.
Eight or so hours straight writing? So I’ll write eight, nine, 10 hours straight, for three or four days, then I get tired and go do something else. I’ll take a trip to speak, or do whatever work I need to do, and then I’ll come back around—three or four days altogether. That’s how it works for me. I know people who write in every possible way. Some write in bars. One of my favorite constitutional law professors writes naked on his back porch, at night.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that … I have to manhandle my schedule. I count words, count days, and get the book written. It’s that boring, but it works for me.
You didn’t write your book on Guinness brewing in a bar? I write almost all the words in an office, but on an airplane I’ll edit. When I wrote Killing Jesus, I could not bring myself to write in a nice overstuffed leather furniture kind of office—just couldn’t stay there and write the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, in this nice, brassy, office. So I wrote the entire Killing Jesus at Union Station in D.C., in a courthouse, in the synagogue, and on a hill in Jerusalem—3 feet from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, because he sat down in the chair next to me for some reason at the King David Hotel.