Daniel Darling is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, and iFaith. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, Pray!, Relevant, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He has been profiled by The Chicago Tribune. Daniel is a contributing writer to Zondervan’s Couples Devotional Bible. Publisher’s Weekly called his writing style “substantive and punchy.” Dan is a contributing writer to Christian Today‘s online magazine, Kyriaas well as Lifeway’s men’s devotional, Stand Firm. He also maintains a blog at patheos.com, entitled, The Friday Five, where he interviews leading evangelicals.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
I worked on staff at a large Christian organization as a writer and editor for about 5-6 years before I began putting my toe in the “freelance” waters. Ironically, it was easier for me to write the more I got published. Perhaps it was just having someone professional affirm that I had some talent. And the more of my work that is published, the more I want to write.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from a variety of places. In the shower. In the middle of a movie. I get a ton of ideas from listening to sermons. I podcast guys from all over the country. I also read quite a bit. And then I like to stroll through a Christian bookstore from time to time just to imbibe the latest in talented writers and editors.
What advice would you give young writers?
I would give three pieces of advice. First, start writing now. Launch a blog, volunteer to write for your church’s newsletter or bulletin, put together a community bulletin, write book reviews. But start writing now. Secondly, I would say to “not despise small things.” Many writers start off wanting to publish their magnum opus, a New York Times bestseller. They’d be better off starting with smaller, but achievable goals like articles, devotionals, and other stuff. Third, and this is vital, get critical and professional feedback. This means you should invest time in a good writer’s conference and also work hard to get to know professional writers, one or two, willing to mentor you and offer real honest feedback. You’re mom is great, but her smiley stickers won’t get you published.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Ironically from a movie, Finding Forester. Sean Connery’s character, William Forester tells his young protégé, Jamal Wallace to “write the first draft with your heart and the second draft with your head.”
How many words do you write each day?
I’m not a word-limit guy, which makes me a bit unusual. I crank out a ton of words each week between sermon manuscripts, blog posts, columns, devotionals, articles and book chapters. But I stopped beating myself up for not being the 5,000-words by noon guy. I write best when I’m sweating a deadline, which has been the story of my life the last ten years or so.
Outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I outline. Mainly because I feel it gets some of the heavy lifting done. For instance, since I write mostly nonfiction, I feel the chapter outline is some of the hardest work of a book project. I feel it gives me direction. Now, of course, I’m always free to tweak it as I begin working on the project. But I’m an outline freak.
When are you the most productive?
Since I have a demanding job (pastor) and a growing family of three (with one on the way), I find the best time to write a big-time project is at night, say between 10 am and 2pm. But I also find other pockets of time to write as well.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I’ve found music and a good book do the trick. I’m constantly reading. I feel if I’m not filling my head with good content that I’ll have a shallow well from which to draw. And then there are times I need to completely relax, which was what ESPN and couches were invented to do! A good movie doesn’t hurt either.
Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress?
I get my work as good as I can get it at that moment (something my mentor Cec Murphey taught me) and then I send to a few top-notch editors and readers I know will beat it up. I actually like the critiquing. I long for it, because I know I can only get a project so far, then I need some pruning to pull out the additional fruit.
Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?
I’d like to have a body of work. I’d like to write as many books as I can and leave a spiritual legacy. Hopefully among those is maybe a memorable classic or two. But I can only do my best. God does the increase.
Do you write with music playing?
Absolutely. Pandora and iTunes Genius. I’ve found Andrew Peterson, Chris Rice, Fernando Ortega great for writing.
What initially drew you to writing?
When I was in high-school in a Christian school, I had a teacher who looked at my work and said, “Dan you’ve got some talent, you should pursue this.” I’ve loved it ever since.
Describe your dream vacation.
I’m with my wife and children. It’s a tropical Island. I’ve got a stack of great books, I’m sitting by the pool. And somebody has stolen my iPhone so I can’t possibly be reached. Oh, and there is plenty of Mexican food available.