A Peek Inside Max Lucado’s Writing Process

Writing is lonely but fascinating work. That’s why I love talking to other writers, especially accomplished ones like my good friend, Max Lucado. I had the privilege of being his publisher for many years.

As you probably know, Max is the author of almost 100 books with more than 80 million copies in print. There are probably less than five authors in the world who are that prolific—or that successful. It’s mind-boggling.

A while back I had the opportunity to sit down with Max and talk about his writing process. In this five-minute interview, he shares:

  • His two biggest fears as a writer.
  • Why he dreads the editing process—but is ultimately grateful for it.
  • How he discovers new insights about his topic in the process of writing.
  • What it’s like to enjoy a “good writing day” when the words flow and his fingers dance on the keyboard.
  • The writing quote he has hanging in his office. (It contains the secret for overcoming distraction and making progress as a writer.)
  • How he balances creating new content with building his platform.
  • The one thing he finds more even scary than criticism.

If you enjoyed this interview, you’ll want to check out Max’s newest book, You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times (Thomas Nelson, 2013). He uses the story of the Jewish Patriarch Joseph to demonstrate that God is with us, even in the most difficult experiences of life.

Question: What did Max say that resonated with you the most? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

    Oh the love of a good writing day, where the words flow, and the ideas come freely. I wish there was a secret formula for setting them up. Unfortunately, I haven’t found one.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I heard someone say this, and I think it’s true: Preparing yourself and sitting in your seat makes it a good writing day more likely to happen. It’s not a guarantee, but it increases the probability. Conversely, if I don’t prepare and don’t sit myself down to write, I am guaranteed to have a bad day.

      • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

        For me, sitting down at my desk, turning of distractions, and setting a timer for 48 minutes is my closest thing to a writing formula. This almost always results in words on paper and just the act of writing usually gets the flow going.

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        Would be interesting to hear what successful authors say is the best way to make a good writing day, what they feel makes it more likely to happen on a regular basis.

        • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

          I’ve read quite a few books on writing from different famous authors and the consistent message is…. writing is hard. I’ve certainly found this to be the case. Some days, no matter what I try, the words are stuck like molasses.

          • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

            I have said many times that my thoughts feel like they are wading through mud. Recently, though, I have lots of thoughts, but organization of those thoughts – connections among them – see to be eluding me.

          • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

            For me just free writing seems to release those stubborn thoughts that stand in the door of my mind refusing to budge. When I try to engage my critical side so I write and judge as I write I can be certain they will hold their ground inside. But if I just let the words come, even if they are the words, “I don’t know what to write.” or This is stupid…” Those words loosen their grip and come tumbling out. The sorting can happen later. I’m just glad they are here. Learned a lot through Jeff Goins’s course.

          • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

            Free writing is a very helpful habit for me too. I also took Jeff’s course and found it very useful.

      • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

        “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” – Picasso

    • http://lucychenfineart.com/ Lucy Chen

      John, I think consistency and persistence is key. If you write every day, you substantially increase the probability of “getting in the flow”, just like Michael says :)

      • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

        So true, Lucy. During the week, I try to write consistently for a few hours each day. This is especially helpful with fiction as it keeps my head in the story. Unfortunately, certain parts of a book are harder than others. Getting through the middle is the hardest part for me. From what I’ve read from other authors, I would say this is common. The first few chapters roar like a lion, then things slow down. Having a good outline helps, but it’s just the nature of most plot structures that some parts of the book are not as exciting as others. Butt in seat seems to be the best answer to those days…

        • http://lucychenfineart.com/ Lucy Chen

          I can understand, John. I’m a painter, and what you are saying here is describing some of my days LOL

  • davidewhite

    Great interview with helpful encouragement! Thanks Michael! My editor added a comment that may resonate – “Any good editor can edit a page full of words – no one can edit a blank page!”

  • http://www.tracyline.com/ Tracy L

    Loved this interview. So much wisdom conveyed in just a 5 minute interview. It’s interesting to me that every writer, even very accomplished writers, struggle with the same things new writers struggle with-fear, discipline, etc. Very inspiring, thanks!

    • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

      Read your comment before making my own, and then decided I didn’t need to leave my own because you said exactly what I wanted to say. This was definitely an encouraging interview.

      • http://www.tracyline.com/ Tracy L

        Ha,that is funny. Well Kari, I guess great minds think alike! :)

  • http://lucychenfineart.com/ Lucy Chen

    Thank you, Michael and Max, I really enjoyed your interview and I wish it was longer:

    As a figurative artist, and a beginner writer, I can so resonate with everything you said!

  • luke martin

    Max is like the fountain of words. He pulls out words that match perfectly. He wrote a book about being fearless one-time, really good.

  • Pam H.

    Thanks so much for this one, Michael. It’s so encouraging to see just how “normal” someone like Max Lucado is – or maybe just how “normal” I might be after all.

    • Jim Voigt

      Isn’t it funny how we assume we’re the ones who are odd, outside the box, etc? I agree that it is so nice to see “wow, he’s just like me”. Well… except for the millions of books, etc. I’m working on it. :)

  • http://metalmotivation.com/ C. J. – The Metal Motivator

    Good job, Michael. Can’t help but love Max!

    I’ve always found it helpful to remind myself of why I write and speak. This would be my professional “thesis,” or “that thing which I’m seeking to establish.” Am I here just to “be a writer or speaker?” Not at all. Those are simply tools for reaching people.

    I get a little weary of the advertisements that promise “Earn Six-Figures as a Speaker” or “Become a Writer!” I don’t speak to earn six-figures. I speak to empower and equip. The same goes for writing.

    Reviews and critics lose their bite when you’re driven by a thesis or chief aim. What matters is that you’re seeing the results in the lives and/or businesses of your target audience. Granted, it’s only human to want to be accepted and celebrated, but God told Jeremiah and Ezekiel to NOT look at the brows and foreheads of them that heard them.

    Writing and speaking are means to an end and not ends in themselves, and whenever we confuse means and ends, we frustrate our progress.

  • Kristi Ross

    Michael, this was such a great 5 minutes! I am always blown away at the incredible content and guidance you give us in such short time frames. And both of your honesty about the emotions and concerns that you experience even as accomplished writers was exactly what I needed to hear today, no everyday! So inspiring! Thank you both!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, for your kind words, Kristi!

      • Kristi Ross

        So sorry I didn’t see this before. You are most welcome!

  • http://sheridanvoysey.com/ Sheridan Voysey

    Great thoughts from a great writer and gracious follower of Jesus. I once asked Max in a radio interview what was his one essential writing tip. ‘Rewriting,’ he said. ‘A lot of books out there could’ve done with a second draft.’ Just so true.

    • http://suwandytjin.com/ Suwandy Tjin

      @sheridanvoysey:disqus you are one special man, I have enjoyed your radio interviews as well as your book about “Unseen Footprints”. It was also one of the inspiration for me to write books. That I can inspire others as you have me. I cannot tell you how much I miss your radio interviews on Hope radio channel. I hope you could continue to write more =)

      • http://sheridanvoysey.com/ Sheridan Voysey

        Thanks so much Suwandy. What an encouragement.

  • http://zechariahnewman.com/ Zech Newman

    One of the most inspiring short interviews. Thank you. Nice to know and a little scary that all the feelings I struggle with will not go away. Thank you Michael and Max.

  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for sharing this interview. It’s reassuring to know that even successful authors struggle with some of the same things as those of us who are fairly new at the process. I just watched Max on TV yesterday. Blessings to the both of you.
    Deborah H. Bateman

  • Jim Voigt

    As someone who has yet to go through the dreaded editing process I am taking these words to heart: Even the best of the best stress about it but value it. Thanks for this great interview. It is always nice to hear honest discussion between two leaders in an industry I’m trying to break into. Have a great day.

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Great interview Michael! It’s interesting to hear that he plans his writing year and blocks out weeks at at a time. I only hope to block out a few hours every week and even that can be difficult.

  • http://www.robinleehatcher.com/ Robin Lee Hatcher

    Hey, Michael. I’m a huge fan of Max Lucado’s and his works have great value, to me and to countless others.

    Still, I couldn’t let that “less than five authors in the world” comment go without a response. Here http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=556 is a list of 15 RWA members who received the Centennial Award upon the release of their 100th novel.

    Nora Roberts is over 200 novels released with sales over 400 million. Debbie Macomber is over 150 books released and sales over 170 million.

    Just thought you might want to know.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. Robin. I was really referring to the combination of number of books plus overall sales. I didn’t see sales in the link you provided. Maybe there are authors with collectively more sales than Max, but I don’t know of many. I was just guessing. If you know of a definitive source, I’d be happy to reference it. Thanks.

  • http://www.jasonjnicholas.com/ Jason J Nicholas

    Insightful video. It’s refreshing to see that even seasoned authors have times where it’s hard to find the words to write. Gives hope for newbies like myself that I can too be an amazing author one day. What I find intriguing is the question of “how do you write and capture such a huge following/audience” part of the equation that greats such as Max Lucado have done.

  • http://rebeccarenejones.com/ Rebecca Rene Jones

    Thanks for posting this! I didn’t realize he had written nearly 100 books!

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Great interview. It was a chance to see a side of him I was not aware of. Thanks Michael. I also liked hearing how he has to guard his writing times. That he feels that sense of responsibility.

  • http://www.ernestbarbaric.com/ Ernest Barbaric

    Thanks for sharing this Michael – I really enjoyed the insights you and Max shared!

    I’ve experienced “flow” a few times when writing, but it’s very sporadic and inconsistent – still haven’t figured out the magic ingredients are. However, one of my best takeaways from this video is definitely blocking out the writing time first, then arranging life around it.

    Thanks again,

    – ernest.

  • http://www.kevinspear.com/ Kevin Spear

    What reassured me is that Max gets the same feelings all of us do. It IS hard work and we frequently don’t know how people will react. We wonder if we will run out of things to say. Editing can be difficult, especially when you already felt you’ve done the best you can.

    This was a good reminder to me that everyone experiences these feelings, including the successful, prolific authors.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That is refreshing and reassuring to hear. No one is immune to the fear of putting yourself out there. How can you put that knowledge to good use in your life?

  • http://www.myaspergers.net/ steveborgman

    Michael, thanks so much for going behind the scenes to help us see how human authors are. As if I expected anything different, right? :) It comes down to hard work, consistency, and seating my butt in that chair. Of course, learning better writing habits is a must as I go along, but those fundamental ingredients will go a long way to help me get to where I need to go.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      They’re really no different than you or I Steve. There’s always some kind of fear, even with successful men like Max.

  • http://www.jesuscoffeebreak.com/ Norman

    It is always amazing to me how sometimes you complete an article in one hour an other times it takes an entire day. It seems to me we are just called for different reasons. Good interview and God bless.

  • http://www.healingbywriting.wordpress.com/ Sherrey Meyer

    Consistently fighting the social media buzz surrounding building a platform, Max’s words about “blocking out his writing weeks” in order to protect his writing time made me stop and think. Perhaps I’m not selfish enough with what should be my writing time and perhaps I should block out writing days or maybe even a week here and there. To be able to devote that kind of time to writing would be heavenly!

  • J Poland

    It was very helpful to hear from such a seasoned and inventive write like Max. Thank you Michael for bringing me into the room with warm interview style. What I learned from Max is the published play a major role in driving production from their authors (sounds like a personal trainer of sorts). His tip of blocking time is great!


  • http://suwandytjin.com/ Suwandy Tjin

    Michael, as a reader and follower of your blog for almost one year now, I have taken loads and loads of advice from you, including setting up my self-hosted wordpress blog and beginning a blog. You have become an inspiration for me to become an author. I find myself continually struggling in writing a blog and although I have plenty of ideas for book titles, I told myself that the secret to becoming big is starting small. Thus, I decided to slowly and gradually pour out the contents that will appear in my book into my blog. I am hoping that I could consolidate them all one day.

    What do you think about that? Your advice and inputs are greatly appreciated =)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words. Yes, that is a great strategy. Check out How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir.

      • Nina Amir

        Thanks so much for recommending my book, @mhyatt:disqus. I really appreciate it.

    • Nina Amir

      I hope your book is coming along well on your blog. Blogging a book is a super way to build platform and get your book written at the same time. The strategy I suggest involves planning out the book in post-sized bits, then writing over a period of time so you can build a readership. I hope that’s working for you. If it has been, write to me…I’m always looking for success stories to feature on my blog.