For Writers: Behind the Writing

Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!

What if we wrapped our writing process in the blanket of worship? This question swirls around in my mind each time I sit down to write.

As the sun peeks through the window, I pull back my sheets and crawl out of bed. I sit and stare at my screen for hours. I scroll through Facebook. I watch the birds outside the window, stumped on which extended metaphor to choose. I re-read each piece again and again and again to remove every be-verb possible. How do I transform the grueling details into worship?

The matter of our hearts determines the substance of our writing.

The central issue of every parable in the gospel wraps around the condition of the heart. The actions matter. But the motives that fuel our actions and works direct our path.

What motivates you to write? Do you invite your Creator into your writing time?

Peek into Luke 18:9–14. Jesus discusses the actions of the Pharisee and the tax collector. What concerns him the most? Does the discipline of the Pharisee impress him? Does the sin of the tax collector anger him? No, he smiles upon the humility of the tax collector.

Glance further down at Luke 18:19–23. The rich young ruler scrolls down his list of good deeds. One by one, he checks each deed off the list, bundling up in the warmth of his pride. Christ challenges him to take off the weight of his possessions and free himself. Yet the young ruler decides his riches, rather than Christ, keep him warm on sleepless and lonely nights. Once again, Jesus consumes himself in the root of the matter—our hearts.

What lies at the heart of your writing? Meditate on these two reflective questions. Examine your heart and create habits to turn work into worship.

Who do you think of when you write?  We write to process pain, events, thoughts, and life. And we write to inspire and encourage others. But even these good motives fall short if our writing doesn’t wrap itself in worship to our Creator.

What purpose lies behind the writing? Do you wrap your identity in your work? Do you need to prove something to yourself or to someone else? These piercing questions dig deep into our hearts and have the power to cleanse our motives of selfish ambition.

Self-examination benefits our writing life and our spiritual life. We need to let our faith fuel our creativity and cover every detail of our writing processes. Then and only then, does writing turn into worship.

For Writers: Be True

Below is a piece I wrote for Authenticity Book House and their Devotionals for Writers series. Enjoy!

Be true. I preach this to myself daily. Whether I grab coffee with a friend, get to know a co-worker, or write a book, I must stay true. I write raw and honest stories for those held captive to the lies and fears of the dark ruler of this world.

I am a soldier for Christ; therefore, I resolve to wear my imperfections as his armor protects me. When I embrace vulnerability, I write true so others might find freedom.

I ask myself—do I write to impress others, or do I write to love others well?

Write true to Christ, to his fight for the lost, to grace, to truth.

Let me challenge you—mirror the surrender of Christ to the Father and devote every book, paragraph, and comma to your Creator.

Write true.

It requires humility, courage, and boldness.

A humble stance.

Do not think so highly of yourself and so lowly of others. Write with the humility of Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Phil. 2:5–8).

In all his divinity, Christ took on the form of a servant. The President of Reflections Ministries, Dr. Boa, defines humility as “the strength and understanding of one’s great dignity and identity in Christ.”

What does a posture of humility look like in your writing? Do you write out of fear and control? Or do you write out of confidence in your identity in Christ? Remember who you are.

A commitment to courage.

Courage stands tall and peers into fear’s eyes, piercing the depth of its dark soul. Put on the courage of Moses as he freed his people from slavery and stood up to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:1).

What are you afraid to write? Take courage. Write the vulnerable story that leaves you shaking in the knees. What if it frees a reader from a fatal lie? Write for the flourishing of others. Usher in the abundant life Christ promises.

A bold spirit.

Do not give way to a spirit of timidity, but speak with boldness (2 Tim. 1:7). Put on the boldness of Paul who fought for the world to know the saving power of his Holy God. He fought to the point of imprisonment and even to his death (Acts 16:16–40, 23:23–35, 28:16).

Who do you need to be bold for? What has the Lord revealed to you that needs to be shared with others? Don’t succumb to timidity.

We write true to fight for others, out of a devotion to Christ. We take our pens, and we put to death the lies, fears, and sins that hold us captive. We fight for those who know not the comfort of the Father’s love. We challenge and strengthen the exhausted believers. We write for the hopeless. We write for those entangled in sin.

Be true.

For Writers: Take Note

Below is a brief post written for Authenticity Book House and their Devotional for Writers series. Enjoy!

A couple months ago I walked through a dry spell. I dragged my feet like a crippled zombie.

I worked 40+ hours during the week and plus some on the weekends. I slapped on my makeup and exhausted myself over trying to put together a cute outfit. The only place I saw my friends was during an hour in church on Sunday mornings and a couple hours at home group.

Busyness leaves my writing life and spiritual life as fertile as cracked soil of the Atacama Desert. I run dry on inspiration when I get caught up in my to-do list. But when I slow down, drop after drop of inspiration waters my mind.

After February ended with all the conferences, projects, and work deadlines, I resolved to water my soul and created some time of sacred silence.

I turned off my TV to read and spend time in the Word. I signed up for art classes, refused to check my inbox on weekends, and planted the herbs I’ve been wanting to try.

I had lost sight of the value of rest and community. The introvert, perfectionist, task-oriented side of me didn’t realize how much the weariness impacted me as a writer and follower of Christ.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we find references of Christ walking away from the crowds to be alone in prayer. Christ took note of the people around him, listening not to just their words, but the condition of their hearts. He dove deep into the well of people’s lives.

Christ accomplished much in his three-year ministry, not because he focused on the task at hand, but because he focused on His Father and the people.

Take note of the world around you. Don’t passively walk through the crowds; soak in the people you meet. Get to know your waiter. Talk with your co-workers. Take out the headphones and rest in the outdoors. Turn off Netflix and open the fresh pages of a book.

As writers, how can we love ourselves and people well? Take note of the moments around us. Check out these three suggestions below.

  1. Schedule a time of silence. Turn off the computer and TV. Put the phone on “Do not disturb” mode. Use this time to read a book, soak in the words of the Bible, and kneel in prayer.
  2. Keep a notebook on you. Take note of what you see, what people say, how they inspire you, challenge you and make you think. Whether you go on a walk, drive to work, or grab some food on lunch break, notice the moments around you. What do you see?
  3. Ask questions. Get to know the people around you. What’s the story of your desk mate at work? How well have you gotten to know the parents of the kids your children go to school with? What’s your barista’s name?

As you take note of the world around you, you become present in the moment. This is a challenge to be intentional, to engage others, to take care of yourself.

This frees you to flourish, not just as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. Taking note of the people around you and the moments that pass by spills into your writing life, allowing inspiration and stories to bloom.

The Power of Words by Paloma Douglas

My journey as a writer has taught me this—say something and say it well. In a time when excess extends to our speech, I constantly cut and edit. In high school, I received praise for my elaborate and erudite essays that used dumb words like erudite. I thought I was a good writer, but I realize now I was just sneaky and clever at working the educational system. “Don’t say just anything. Say something. Something has substance.”

Put the world on mute. Voices are eerily absent, only diegetic sounds remain—Starbucks espresso machine hissing, shoes clacking. The menu over the bar displays only photos and your computer screen blinks blank. Now un-mute. Language buzzes from above, below, and all sides. The girl in line tells her friend she’s angry they added whip when she said no whip. The man on his cell phone talks to an invisible person about “margins” and “ceilings” and other impersonal-sounding things. The list of ingredients on the biscotti wrapper informs you of exact caloric value, city of origin, and a frightening amount of  “-ogynated” ingredients. The open laptop spews news about “Kardashian Tweets You Missed This Week” next to a story about people burned alive in the Middle East. The levels of importance we assign these different stories begin to jumble.  

We reconstructed centuries of ancient societies from analyzing writing on square inches of clay chipped off pots. Two percent evidence, ninety-eight percent conjecture. “Obviously, by the way they used this tiny accent mark, we can tell this civilization really liked pizza.”

Two thousand years from today, people will know for a fact that we really really liked pizza, and not because of a scrap of pottery clay. They will uncover hard drives that show an Internet history of Domino’s online ordering. They will review our cell-phone records, watch our TV shows, read our diaries that speak of pizza-love. We now hold the award for the best-documented society, ever. Technology does this. It’s good and it’s bad. We have more posts than we ever wanted to read, more packaging. More accessibility and inevitably lesser quality. Words everywhere. Meaningless words, thoughtless words, just words. Think back to the coffee shop. Words, words, words.

Tiny symbols in the shapes of a, b, c alone mean absolutely nothing. But when strung together in meaningful ways, they can wage wars, inspire revolutions. We’ve seen it done in the past.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

“I have a dream.”

“Let there be light.”

I hope that when drones excavate my apartment in two thousand years, they’ll find more than pizza coupons. I hope they find words that moved people to love, compassion, and justice. I hope they find more thank-you letters than Instagram posts, more prayers for people than stupid texts. I hope I’ve said something, even in the smallest of ways.

By Paloma Douglas