Tips for Writers: ‘When you spend it now, you trust that more will come when you need it.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the most prolific writers we publish is George A. Mason whose hundreds of weekly sermons over many decades have been followed by thousands of men and women nationwide. We are honored to publish some of his greatest messages in The Word Made Fresh. And, even though he is officially retired and is “emeritus” at his church in Dallas, George continues to coach writers, preachers and community leaders nationwide. The theme he explores in this brief column echoes the advice our publishing house editors have shared with authors since our founding in 2007—so we had to share it with you all this week.

Spend it all!


When I was learning to preach, I kept a file for illustrations. It was filled with random clippings of things I found in newspapers or magazines and note cards on which I had scribbled stories or quotations I discovered in books or films. As technology evolved, I used the computer word processor to store sermon items or ideas on a floppy disk. I tried in vain to label them topically with what we now call hashtags.

Inevitably, I would rummage through the files to find inspiration only to realize that whatever struck me about these saved bits at the time no longer seemed fresh.

A passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life helped me understand why. The process of sermon preparation, like the construction of a poem or the writing of a book, is an act of faith that trusts the Revealer to show us what we need when we need it. It’s up to us to cultivate an open heart, an attentive mind, and a receptive spirit to the givenness of a pulsing creation and the ever-readiness of showy reality that surrounds us at all times and offers itself to us when we least expect it.

Once we become aware of something that comes to us, we should use it as soon as possible.

Spend it all.

Don’t try to save it for later.

When you spend it now, you trust that more will come when you need it. 

And it will! As Gerard Manley Hopkins put it in one of my favorite lines of verse:

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.


Care to read more? Here is the entire Hopkins verse: God’s Grandeur.

(A version of this column originally appeared on George’s own website.)

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