August 9, 2014
How do Christian poets and writers get prepared to write?
Recently I asked members of our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook how they go about preparing for the writing God has given them to do, and within a week or so, we had the following responses collected here for you to read and recollect as needed:
QUESTION: How do you prepare for the writing God has called you to do?
Henry: (I) pray and listen for the direction to go, then do the research necessary.
Jaime: Sometimes I start by arguing with Him honestly. A lot of times God asks me to write things that are very uncomfortable for me, but I think my arguing or questioning opens the dialogue for God to show me why I need to write what He tells me to. I also spend a lot of quiet time really thinking through whatever the topic is then making sure it's covered from all angles.
Nellie: Two words: Pray and Listen.
Sharon: I pray and take time to listen before I write anything. I often consult with others and listen to their words, knowing He is guiding that too. Over the years I am learning the importance of writing over (revising) a piece.
Joy: (I) pray and write my heart out!
Danielle: (I) pray and read the Word.
Karin: I study the Bible and pray. I also listen to what others have to say, conversations that give me a clue as to what people are dealing with and going through.
Cathy: Same as above, pray, listen, write, rewrite. And read!
Art and Teresa: I start reading and writing down every thought that comes to mind. Pretty soon a bunch of fragmented thoughts come together to form a theme. With prayer and searching out scriptures related to the theme, a message forms.
Mary Ann: I read Psalms, think on them, and write.
Dawn: I pray and ask God for wisdom and inspiration. When I have a direction on what I'm going to write, I research the subject. Then I do an outline and start writing.
Bill: I pray, and then if nothing pulls at my heart strings within thirty seconds, I'm tempted to start smacking myself in the noggin with a frying pan! (But) I sit still for awhile. Then I start writing.
Patti: (After praying, thinking, researching, talking) the biggest prep I could make would be to get my rear in that chair and begin again!
Terry: Listening to Him...
Stacey: Prayer, the Word, and sitting still to hear and receive. I then put my fingers to the keyboard and let the Holy Spirit take over.
Lindabelle: (I) seek God in earnest prayer, then write whatever He puts in my mind and heart. (I’m) praying my stories will inspire and encourage those who read them.
Rebecca: Be diligent to keep writing time as a holy commitment.
Neil: I have gotten adamant about writing down every idea, title, or phrase that comes to mind, saving it for future development. No more mental notes! I've found those are written in disappearing ink. As quickly as an idea slips into my mind, it slips out again. I've said, "Oh, I'll remember later," then I promptly forgot!
Mary Ann: I know what you mean, Neil; my mental notes disappear too. I'm learning now to jot down in a journal.
Neil: Also, I've begun praying for the ones who will need to hear what I'm writing to meet a need or provide direction in their lives. I don't know the needs or the individuals, but God does. So, instead of assuming that people will come across it randomly and benefit, or “if you write it, they will come," I'm praying for the ones it is for, even before putting pen to paper, and asking God to guide my thoughts to meet the needs of specific people He knows who will read it a year or two from now. It's an “only God" thing: only God could do it!
Linda: I keep it a priority to open my head to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and work them ASAP. That might mean hopping out of bed to work all the way through a new hymn text, or just jotting down a few phrases for future development. Everything He gives me goes into a PC file, so it doesn't get forgotten. Then I rely on the Holy Spirit to direct which piece to work on and where/when to submit or publish. Meanwhile, I prepare technically by studying craft and attending conferences. If you think God is calling you to share your writing through publication, you'll want to learn more and get a knowledgeable support/critique group.
Rodney: I gather inspiration from reading other books - the Bible included, praying for clarity, and… listening to people talk in all realms of life…. God uses people, places, and things to speak to me.
TK: I settle my spirit and await further instructions. Before writing I commune with the Lord for the direction and purpose of that particular project. All of my books can be the essence of the divine scriptures with one or two in particular. As a Christian fictional author, I utilize my experiences to help create a fictitious reality with a subliminal gospel message.
Barbara: I've only written one book, and that took me 17 years…. Much prayer precedes everything. Then I wait. I pray again. I start typing whatever comes out. I walk around. Pray some more. Cry, if needed. Moan. Perhaps start over. I go through this because I am afraid to write something that He would disapprove. Sigh.
Ashley: Lately, God has been asking me to write on some topics/issues I'm not 100% wanting to write about and I often find myself going back and forth before writing it. However, when we obey, it's very rewarding. (Also) I think reading the Word is very important for Christian writers. How can we teach and share the Word if we don't know it?
Linda: Please don't let fear of God's or anyone's disapproval deter you. Think of God as your writing partner, your co-creator, your collaborator, not as the divine writing judge. Go ahead and write whatever comes into your head that you know to be true to your experience of Him. Then the Holy Spirit can guide you to edit it. Maybe in that process you'll end up with something very different from what you started with. That's okay! That's the Holy Spirit at work. I think never trying would disappoint the Lord more than the poorest quality work, because he has someone waiting to be touched by what He wants to say through you.
Even for us Christian writers, inspiration is just the start. You have to be willing to do the work. Accept knowledgeable critique humbly; remember, your words aren't sacred scripture that can never be revised. Be patient when it takes more time and effort than you thought. And leave the outcome …to God's intention and timing without comparing your success to anyone else's… If you accomplish the Lord's plan for your work, you are a SUCCESS, even if you never sell a single book!
Connie: I don't think I have what it takes to write, for I am my worse critic. I pray for encouragement and boldness. I am not one who feels the need to write all the time, (and so) with that, I feel I must not be a true writer.
Linda: I just took up writing again after years of doing God's will in other ways. Does that stop me from being a "true" writer. No! No! and No! Be a writer who is true to the Lord's calling…. You can do it!
Connie: Thank you Linda, for your words of encouragement. I want to please the Lord in all that I do. Thank you.
Eileen: Pray first. (I) ask God for the story concept He wants me to present. Then I quiet my mind so the ideas can begin to form. When ideas come, I mull them over for a few weeks, arranging and rearranging the plot in my mind before my fingers hit the keys or the notebook. Then off I go, developing an outline/scenes, one-liner, two-paragraph summary, etc. After that, the actual writing begins.
Joyce: I spend a lot of time in God's Word and prayer. I have found if I do not allow God to fill me, I have nothing of spiritual significance to write.
Mary: You all are mentioning what I believe is most important too: Praying, listening to God, and studying the Bible. But what about studying your craft, experimenting with forms, playing with words, and reading poems, stories, articles, essays, books, etc. in the same genre you want to write? How important are those to you?
Joyce: I believe that whatever we do for the LORD should be done skillfully. Studying our craft and reading books written by successful authors, studying marketing skills, and belonging to a writer's group are a few of the ways I try to improve – after I have prayed and studied the Word of God, of course. I am also a songwriter and have bitten my tongue on more than one occasion as I heard a songwriter say "God, gave it to me this way and I'm not changing it!"…I'm afraid Christians too often confuse inspiration and perspiration. Excellence takes both.
Michael: Thank you all! This is inspiring me to keep going.
Robin: I have been writing poetry for over 30 years and no one has ever given me encouragement or invited me to join a writers group/attend conferences until this past year. A personal friend and accomplished author read some of my poetry and invited me to do both. I entered my very first writing competition and attended a writers conference... The poem I entered did not place this year… Yet the most exciting thing is that the judge who critiqued my work compared it to Robert Frost! She …said to study his work because I have meter much like his. I love that she said to study and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite and enter the same poem in next year's contest! So to those of you…who are concerned that your writing is not good enough or that you don't know where to begin, may I offer this bit of advice and encouragement: DO NOT GIVE UP! Stay teachable, flexible….
Brian: Some poems bubble out with little immediate preparations. Others are based on study and thinking. Some are motivated by my experience or reaction to events, and some were written to influence or persuade….Some poems are the result of hard work on the theme of the poem or the poetics -- structure, meter, and rhythm.
Anita: Pray, read, go to writing conferences, meditate on the Word of God!
Barbara: As I pray and study, I listen to Christian music or fellowship with friends on the things of God, (then) thoughts, phrases, visions, and inspiration sometimes floods my being…. Descriptive Words formulate and begin to flow like water.
Rodney: For me and some of us…, it's a difficult assignment to be able to hear from God …or speak words of life, listen clearly to the Spirit, and work diligently and effectively where the environment is dysfunctional…. Clear this space for Jesus!
Mary: Yes. Writing what God has given us to write needs to be a top priority even when it's hard and we have to let some things go until later…. For freelance writers in general, the biggest obstacle is not writing! When I began freelancing about 30 years ago, I had to establish a routine and find ways to handle – or preferably, avoid – interruptions, and that's still true even now. As with any job, my family comes first, but otherwise, I go to work every day at my desk at home.
Judy: Pray daily seeking His will! (Also) I have been to…writer conferences through the years, learning from some of the best Christian editors and publishers. And, I enjoy this group!
Songaye: (My preparation for writing involves) praying, reading, writing, praying for wisdom and guidance, rereading, rewriting, praying….
Nellie: I get very calm and quiet. I open my iPad and start typing. If I start feeling an agitation, I take a deep breath and ask God to give me a clear mind and calm spirit.
Robin: I agree 100%. I am listening and learning – implementing things I learn from people in this group. And I agree with Judy. This… is a wonderful and very enjoyable group of people to learn from and grow as a writer!
Annie: Oh, my wonderful sisters and brothers, I enjoyed everything each one of you had to say. It was simply enriching. Why? God deals differently with each one of us and we get the assignment done according to His plan and will and He gets the Glory!
Linda: How wonderful that the Lord works within each of us in a unique fashion! Each is valid for that individual.
Mamie: You may not know you're called until you actually began to write naturally. I noticed I started that way--writing technically first, and then many other kinds of writings afterwards. Finally, I began to write poems and fiction about 20 years ago. So, you may not start out writing the things God has called you to write, but one thing is sure. You will start out writing little by little with the anointing of the Lord, writing something that pertains to the divine things of God.
Linda: I cut my teeth on technical writing, too. I figure that was all part of the call, because I was storing up skills and observations for the day when the Lord invited me to write for Him instead of an employer. Drama scripts and hymns are a far cry from training materials and case analysis documents, but it was all grist for the mental mill.
Miisrael: I believe true preparation for writing what God has for me is with trust and obedience to God. He gives me what to write. With trust He guides, with trust He delivers, with trust He directs (my) writings with the Word. All the trust I have (comes) with dedication and the commitment of loving Him. With obedience I become united with Him.
Mary: Thank you all for your responses! Not only have your words blessed one another, your thoughts will help other communicators for Christ who stop by here to read. May God continue to guide and empower each of us to write as we’ve been called in Jesus’ Name.
© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler placed 26 books in all genres with Christian and educational publishers then wrote the Christian Writer's Guide e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun e-book, and the Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry e-book on Kindle. She also founded the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook where this discussion began.