Deep Word #04: Sitting in the Common Space, Staring at Markings on a Whiteboard

Deep Word Writing Project Template
Title: Sitting in the Common Space, Staring at Markings on a Whiteboard

Quote: During these years, I shared a graduate student office down the hall from a MacArthur “genius grant” winner—a professor who was hired at MIT before he was old enough to legally drink. It wasn’t uncommon to find this theoretician sitting in the common space, staring at markings on a whiteboard, with a group of visiting scholars arrayed around him, also sitting quietly and staring. This could go on for hours. I’d go to lunch; I’d come back—still staring. This particular professor is hard to reach. He’s not on Twitter and if he doesn’t know you, he’s unlikely to respond to your e-mail. Last year he published sixteen papers. This type of fierce concentration permeated the atmosphere during my student years. Not surprisingly, I soon developed a similar commitment to depth. [1]

Note: [under construction!]

In pastoral ministry, what is my whiteboard? the blank page that I stare at for hours trying to understand a problem and then demonstrating the proof of a solution that works. local church ministry is not rocket science, and it’s hard for me to find my whiteboard. 

 I find it hard to imagine a task or a project which is not made up of simple clear specific tasks which need to be done.  

Everything seems obvious to me, and perhaps that’s a result of my education, training and job experience. there is usually one simple obvious way to accomplish any particular thing that must be done.

What gets your attention?
What human needs or problems are addressed?
What questions do you have?
What solution or hope does it offer?

What does it say that we need to obey?
What would a camera see if this happened?
Who needs to hear this?
What are the actual steps that I would take?

SOURCE – Footnotes:

[1]  Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016),


This post, and others in this series, are based on the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), and as a group are a review of the important ideas and of the entire book. I was also privileged to take the online course Life of Focus Standard Edition [CN040]taught by Cal Newport and Scott Young and presented through, which enhanced my understanding of the subject which I am now applying to my own profession, the work of the local church pastor.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Key: Deep_Word_#04  Last Revision: 10/06/2020

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