Culture Creators: An Interview with Dr. O. Alan Noble

One of my favorite ongoing blog series is LifeHackers' How I Work. Simple questions about how people in a variety of workplaces get stuff done. As I read more and more of these, I kept thinking about wondering about creative people I know and what their answers might be. That got me thinking. Why not host an interview series at my own blog with Christians who are working with excellence, who I admire, and who do creative stuff? I was concerned about getting enough people to host a meaningful series, but the yeses kept rolling in. So here we are.

Who is Dr. O. Alan Noble: Dr. O. Alan Noble is an Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, the Managing Editor and Co-Founder of Christ and Pop Culture, and a Freelance writer for The Atlantic. He earned his PhD in Contemporary American Literature at Baylor University in 2013, writing on manifestations of transcendence in twentieth-century American literature. His wife, Brittany, currently teaches in the Math Department at OBU whiling finishing her Master’s in Economics at Baylor. They have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2.5-year-old son.

Mathew B. Sims: What kind of computer do you write on?

Dr. O. Alan Noble: MacBook Pro

MBS: What’s your writing application of choice?

OAN: This depends on the genre. For online pieces, I use Word or Wordpress or GoogleDocs. For longer works I use Scrivener.

MBS: One word to describe your workspace?

OAN: Unergonomic

MBS: What music do you listen to while working?

OAN: It’s very difficult for me to write and listen to anything. I need to concentrate fully. But if I’m in a noisy area and want to write, I’ll listen to Sun Kil Moon’s album Ghosts Of the Great Highway or maybe some Explosions in the Sky.

MBS: What’s your best creativity hack?

OAN: Sweeping the floors of my house while talking through my subject. This keeps my mind focused on the topic and relaxes me somewhat.

MBS: What are you currently reading?

OAN: James K. A. Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom

MBS: Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

OAN: Both. I need privacy to work and think deeply, but I need interactions with other people or I get depressed. When I can interact in person, I at least try to come up with puns for twitter. My terrible puns help me get through the day.

MBS: What’s the best pun you’ve ever made?

OAN: During a bible study, to illustrate a somber spiritual point, a friend told the story of a convent during a war. A group of the nuns felt called by God to leave on an errand. When they returned the convent had been destroyed. My friend paused for dramatic effect, at which time I said, “I guess nun survived.”

That made me happy.

MBS: What tools are invaluable for you?

OAN: Twitter, Facebook, and Instapaper. My philosophy of writing online is to write what I believe will edify my readers, and to discover what those topics might be, I follow many different people and groups on social media and save articles to read later on Instapaper.

MBS: What’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?

OAN: My Starbucks pour-over coffee.

MBS: What makes a good cultural consumer in one sentence?

OAN: The simultaneous ability to delight in and discern cultural works.

MBS: What current projects are you working on?

OAN: A couple book proposals, some CaPC article revisions, and always managing Christ and Pop Culture.

MBS: Early bird or night owl?

OAN: Night owl.

MBS: How does reading good literature help us grow as people?

OAN: Literature offers readers an embodied worldview. To read good literature well is to exercise empathy.

MBS: What are the biggest mistakes young writers make?

OAN: To get defensive of their writing. Always write with confidence and accept criticism with confidence.

MBS: What popular cultural argument makes you cringe?

OAN: “X has a pagan/secular/evil beginning, therefore X is bad.” This argument is used to condemn everything from Christmas to backbeat music.

MBS: What’s the greatest advantage/disadvantage of social media?

OAN: Greatest advantage is the ability to communicate with people outside your social circle. Every time Tim Keller responds to some joke I tweet at him it makes me love twitter a little bit more.

The greatest disadvantage is the distraction and the exaggerated sense of significance we feel about our posts.

MBS: What drives your work at Christ and Pop Culture?

OAN: A desire to edify the Church and witness to the world, a confidence that our work is valuable, an awareness that we aren’t nearly the quality publication we should be, and the knowledge that CaPC could bless the church and run as a full-time publication if given the support.

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