The other night, I was wrestling with a troublesome social justice issue in the manuscript for my crime novel set on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The research my scientist was undertaking didn’t lead his conflict with another character in the right direction, and it was subtly affecting the book as a whole.
I was about to send my manuscript out to beta readers, and I wanted this particular glitch solved before I sent it, so I was working under a sense of stress.
After ruminating and googling and rewriting for a while, I said to myself: well Belinda, you’re supposed to be a Gracewriter – why aren’t you praying about it?
I am sometimes reluctant to bother God with my writing, especially my mainstream writing, because it seems trivial. He’s got so much else to do. (Especially right now.)
Does God care about my writing?
Psalm 139:2-5 says:
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me. (NIV)
And James 1:5 says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV)
And we’re told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so surely our first response in any problem should be to communicate with God BEFORE we explore all the other potential sources of wisdom?
So I prayed…
I prayed. I asked God for solutions.
And then I kind of waited for inspiration to arrive on a platter from heaven, possibly with flashing lights.
I grumbled a little, and ruminated and googled and tried some more rewrites. And I prayed again, and kept asking for help.
At some point it occurred to me that I possibly should pray in a more focused way, instead of just shooting up “help me” arrow prayers… not because that might be the trick that finally unlocked the answered-prayer vending machine, but because it had dawned on me that if I really did believe this book was God’s, I needed to act like I believed it.
It turned into a two-hour wrestling match of prayer and research and rewriting.
A character I’m much more at peace with.
A deeper relationship with God as the Lord of my creative work.
And a challenge to rethink how I interact with God when I write.
A military metaphor
This writing episode followed hard on the heels of another Aha moment during church last Sunday (live-streamed service).
My minister mentioned his time in the military and how he’d had to train even in minutiae such as how to make a bed the military way. He applied the concept to the skills needed for living the Christian life, from the spectacular to the mundane and boring.
Military metaphors are plentiful in the Bible, of course – one of the most well-known from Ephesians 6 is about putting on God’s armour, which we discussed a few weeks ago.
Though we can’t see it and don’t always think about it, our writing is part of a spiritual battle.
It got me thinking: in light of that battle, what training do we need to grow as Gracewriters? (Gracewriters are Christians who write to change popular culture.)
Training as a Gracewriter
I thought of two key skills (there would be more) that we Gracewriters need for our particular role:
- Writing technique
- Spiritual strength.
When I teased that apart using the military metaphor, I discovered that the battle matters more than the book. (Or the blog or poem or song or ad copy or social media post, or whatever we are Gracewriting.)
- Training in writing technique is a discipline which might be similar to how a soldier needs physical fitness training (perhaps similar to training that grows a writer’s creative muscle) and making a bed (perhaps similar to learning grammar).
- Training for spiritual strength in writing would be similar to developing actual battle skills.
I hadn’t thought about it like that before.
I’ve had it upside down – in practice if not in conscious thought – treating the spiritual element of my mainstream writing almost as a bolted-on addition.
(When I wrote Christian devotionals, I was much more constantly and deliberately prayerful during each writing session.)
To summarise what I learned
What I’ve learned this week is that, if we’re focusing on the spiritual battle with our Gracewriting…
- Writing technique would be the supporting skill.
- Spiritual strength would be the core Gracewriting skill.
Some questions for YOU
I’m challenged to find new ways to make spiritual strength the highest priority in my own growth as a Gracewriter.
Do you agree that spiritual training is a core priority in your Gracewriting task?
What has helped you build spiritual strength for Gracewriting? What didn’t help so much? Have your choices and actions changed over time?