All sorts of people want to write; few actually do. If this describes you, here are six tips for Christian writers to help you get started.
Tip #1 for Christian Writers: Determine your spiritual gifting.
Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) are? Maybe the Holy Spirit has gifted you with teaching and/or exhortation, which you can leverage through writing. Or, maybe He’s especially gifted you in the areas of giving, administration, service, or hospitality. Regardless, let your spiritual gifts inform how you write (or don’t write). Remember, no gift is superior to another.
Energetically use whatever gifts He’s given you to build up Christ’s body. If you don’t know what your gift(s) are, ask those around you what gifts they observe in you. Then, take a spiritual gifts assessment. (Email me if you want an excellent spiritual gifts test; I’ll send you a PDF.)
Tip #2: Don’t Wait for Inspiration; Just Write.
You know those daily memories that pop up when you log into Facebook? I often read those and grimace at how bad my writing was. It’s still not where I want it to be. Becoming a great writer will be a lifelong venture. Keep showing up. As my dear friend Maggie says,
“The best writing advice I ever heard was, ‘Sit your booty in the chair and just do it.’ No one else can write it for you. If you don’t do it, it’s not happening.” —Maggie Paulus, Author of Finding God at the Kitchen Sink: Search for Glory in the Everyday Grime
When it is time to write, shut off distractions and go deep. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. If you’re feeling uninspired, check out Abigail’s excellent advice:
“When you feel stuck in the writing process with no fresh words to say, press into what the Lord is doing in the stillness. Journal your questions and prayers, and keep living the life He’s set before you. The words will come!” –Abigail Dishner, Author of Claiming Beloved
Tip #3 for Christian Writers: Never Stop Studying the Craft.
Never stop learning, studying, practicing, and perfecting the craft. Even though I have a bachelor’s degree in print communication, I’ve continued to take classes online and in person. And not just from Christians. Here are a few ideas for where you might receive more training:
- A community college
- The YMCA
- Barnes & Noble
In addition to courses, study the craft by reading great books. Here are three of my faves:
- The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (Short, delightful essays based on this Pulitzer prize-winning author’s experiences)
- Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts (A behind-the-scenes fictional story of the making of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of author L. Frank Baum’s wife, Maud)
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (In addition to its phenomenal content, I’ve never encountered an author who writes as conversationally as Comer does.)
Tip #4: Listen More Than You Write.
Certainly, it’s a privilege to help people through the written word. One young woman just messaged me saying,
“Confessions of A Boy-Crazy Girl has been such a shoulder for me to lean on over the past several years.”
But there’s an equally–if not even more effective–way to help people: Listening over a meal, a walk, or a laundry basket. A new friend texted me recently,
“I’ve felt misunderstood by others when I’ve shared about our situation. Rather than interjecting or debating, you asked and then listened without making me feel judged. You didn’t make me feel like I had to defend our decisions, and that was really refreshing for me. Thanks for listening so empathetically. ❤️”
This week, instead of opening our mouths to share our opinions, let’s open our ears to listen (James 1:19). Little else is as powerful or loving in our loud, divided world.
I love Kim’s awareness of not preaching at others through her writing:
“I’ve found it helpful to read aloud what I’ve written, and listen as I read, to see if my writing voice matches my normal way of communicating to a friend. To write effectively, I need to dialogue with the reader, not preach at them.” —Kimberly Wagner, Author of Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior and Men Who Love Fierce Women: The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage (co-authored with her husband, Leroy)
(By the way, one way I try to listen well—even in my writing—is to regularly ask questions of my readers and pay careful attention to their responses.)
Tip #5 for Christian Writers: Write from Small to Big.
This is my writing goal for 2022: to write from small to big rather than big to small. I’d encourage you to do the same. Instead of shooting for a book:
- Journal daily. Sure, you can document your day if you want, but don’t miss using this space to courageously process your current pain with God. Never do away with this personal, private writing. Rather, let your public writing flow out of it.
- At some point, consider moving to social media or a personal website. When you do, tend well to your followers. Respond to their messages in a timely manner. Ask them what topic they’d like you to write about, and then follow through.
- If you want to write a book, write it for one particular friend or neighbor. Gift it to them and circle back to see what was helpful. If God opens doors in the future to share it with more people, great. If not, you’ll still have helped someone.
I love Kim’s advice:
“Honestly, the best things I’ve written were birthed from the moments I actually hadn’t planned to write—those times I’ve ran to God with life’s pain, or simply sat at His feet in delight. It is there, in the breathtaking glimpses of His goodness, that God has given me words worth sharing.” —Kim Jaggers, Author of Truth to Hold Onto
Tip #6: Prioritize Community.
In today’s celebrity culture, writing a book can seem sexy. In reality, it’s hard, lonely business. Which is why I love Sara’s advice:
“While writing may seem like the perfect occupation for the introverts and loners among us, don’t try to write in isolation. You need support and community. And then as you learn, you’re able to pour the same support back into others.” —Sara Barratt, Author of Stand Up, Stand Strong: A Call to Bold Faith in a Confused Culture and Love Riot: A Teenage Call to Live with Relentless Abandon for Christ
Tend to your souls, aspiring Christian writers. I know you have endless details to care for: designing images; marketing; watching your spelling, grammar, and punctuation; networking; and more. But nothing is more important than staying tethered to God and His people. May helpful writing pour forth from the abundance of your rich life lived in His–and others’–presence.
Which tip will you take to heart and begin practicing today?
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PPS: I hope you enjoyed and benefited from the writing tips interspersed throughout this article from other published authors on my email list. (If you’re a published author who receives my email newsletters and I overlooked you, please let me know. I’d love to include your advice and book link here.)
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Paula (Hendricks) Marsteller is a compassionate Christian communicator.