Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Must Christian poets and writers study?

Recently I asked our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook their thoughts on preparing to write.

QUESTION: God calls us to write. God gives us the talent and/or ministry gift. Besides choosing to respond to this call, do you believe you need to study your writing genre, your potential readers, and the possibilities in publishing? Why or why not?

Soldierone As we were formed in the womb, He placed in us talent and made us stewards as to how it shall be nurtured and to what purpose it shall be put. If we do not care for it, it will perish. If we nurture it, then we give honor to Him. He does not leave us to walk alone, but the greater the challenge we overcome in His name, the more we demonstrate our love and passion for Him. If we put our talent to worldly pursuits, it will yield only worldly fruit, but if we put it to His purpose, we become participants in sowing the fruits of His kingdom.

Nellie Some of us come into our own talents and gifts later than others. A few days before I retired, the idea to have a try at publishing my work popped into my head. With the help of a dear friend, I was able to pursue that path. I would answer yes to all your questions because I believe God has given me things to say that will help others in their faith journey. Praise The Lord for giving me the gift of thoughts to share through my writing.

Katharine We are to study to show ourselves approved. However, sometimes God takes us, as in the case of Moses, into areas where we are not strong, and He supplies our need. There is something awe-inspiring about a worker who is not skilled, and yet draws more to Christ than others, simply because God chooses to work with that one. The best preparation happens in the heart, I think, but it's good to be as strong as possible too. It's a lot according to who says "yes" to God. There is that saying that God does not always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.

Antoinette Studying to sharpen your skills is always best. You can also do this in the process of writing vs. always waiting until the perfect time. God meets us where we are. If you're called to write, then write and learn along the way. If you strongly feel like you immediately need additional guidance, heed that nudging/prompting. Iron sharpens iron, and always seeking wisdom is key – also, having faith that our prayers are answered and moving our feet!

Adeline Good challenge for those who think the gift will do all the work! I believe writing is like any other gift we're given: 10% gift – 90 % sweat in the form of prayers, network, education, courses, audience research. I was told successful bloggers who believes they have a passionate message to share spend as much time or more evaluating and getting the message out there as the time it took to write the article. Whitfield revivals harvested many souls, and John Wesley's structural and organizational wisdom founded the Methodist church which stands to this day. Can't get around the homework. I'm still pregnant with my first book though. So appreciate all the learnings from others.

Antoinette BRAVO at being pregnant with your first book! I'm publishing my 3rd collaboration book this year. In fact, I just did a call for submissions. I'm totally humbled as it's the first of its kind – a business devotional book for leaders and business owners.

Stan All I can say, for myself, is that God puts upon my heart what to write. Sometimes, in Dream/Visions, He tells me, and I will wake up, no matter what time of night, and write. These are the kinds of poems that seemingly flow though my fingertips. I have been on a "writing tear," these last 3 months, writing about 60 poems, (25 so far this month). Enlarging my audience and getting access to as many people as possible is the biggest challenge. I find inspiration from the Bible, Sunday School Bible Studies, a phrase I hear, practically anything. As far as learning how to write poems, I have been writing poetry for almost 40 years, so I have my own style, and since it works for me, I don't plan on changing it. I have been praying on how to use my poems in my Church. After all, this is One of my Spiritual Gifts, so using it for my home Church just makes sense.

Karin I think it's important to read articles and books or take classes about the kind of writing you are engaged in. I think doing this fans the flames so to speak. It's also important to study potential readers because if there isn't an audience, there is no point in writing in that genre. I personally haven't researched publishing possibilities because I self-publish.

Ashley For all who think the gift will do the work…. Yes, we have to work at it too.

Patti Everyone has valid points. I am sad when embarrassed by poor writing quality, sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc.! It's like I want to holler, "Come on, people! This is for JESUS! Let's do it well and better than the world!" But sometimes writers’ egos get rather large, and they won't listen or even try.

Edie I concede that there may, indeed, be situations in which a person has a story that demands telling before that person has acquired the skills, and God may provide the skilled ghostwriter to help achieve the dissemination of that story. Beyond that, I think it would be ludicrous to imagine that God would not want us to use every tool at our disposal to make the best possible use of the gift he has given us. I can't imagine that the carpenter Jesus used a dull saw and didn't take the time to sharpen or hammer in bent nails without straightening them first.

Mary I'm with you all on honoring our God-given gifts and treating our work with respect by studying, practicing, and learning all we can to improve our writings. That used to be the standard for all poets and writers until the ease of self-publishing changed that, but I believe in bringing our best for THE Best.

Marcie I've always loved to sing and I grew up singing in church and doing solos. I never felt the need to get vocal lessons because I felt my voice was good and people never complained about what they heard. Besides, didn't the Psalmist write to play an instrument skillfully? As an adult I was told I had pitch problems and needed some lessons. It wasn't until I began taking lessons that my teacher explained to me how my voice is an instrument, and, if not used properly, I could damage it. Well, that put a different spin on the Psalmist words!

How does this apply to writing? In 1 Corinthians Paul writes whatever we do, we need to do it to the glory of God. So my question then becomes, how do I glorify God and make my writing the best it can be if I don't learn to use it correctly? And just because we are poets and not novelist does not mean we should just run with it. I've learned a lot about the world of poetry the last few years being back in school and not only should we make sure the grammar and punctuation is done well, we should also learn how the craft of poetry really works, so we can put the best possible poems out there to reach the world for Christ. I also believe we should pray about what we write, how we write, and to whom we are writing, and ask for God to speak through us.

Katharine I was remembering the head elder at our church, who barely reads, yet creates PowerPoint Bible studies for us every week. He cannot do this, but he does. In history there have been men called to preach who could not read, but when they opened the Bible, they could read it and not any other book. Moses was not a good speaker, but I think God sometimes chooses the one who is not naturally gifted because that person will be on his knees, convinced he cannot do this unless God intervenes.

And there was the time I was coerced into singing when I had a bad cold, and someone in the congregation was so totally touched – not by my croaking, but by God. She broke into tears and received a huge blessing. It wasn't me. Sometimes that is the way God prefers it. No one can boast! Although I do totally believe in being ready and waiting for God to give us work, I also believe He chooses to work outside the box and I love that.

Karin I cringe when I see misspelled words on advertisements around the city or anywhere else for that fact. Christians should strive for excellence in all they do. Poor grammar, misspelled words are a poor reflection.

Wanda I simply write what God lays upon my heart to write. I send it to whomever He directs me to, and I leave the rest up to God. However, I do study the scriptures and apply them to my writings. I have even supplied where scriptures can be found to support my poems in my Christian children's books.

Lynda The gift to be a writer is a gift God formed at the moment of conception. It is a blessing from God. We need to acknowledge this gift and follow through. We need to use this gift to spread God's love and salvation by using this blessing God has given us.

Wanda Am I missing something here? Are you referring to grammar and spelling?

Annie My initial call is to preach the Gospel, Luke 4:18-19. The writing is a talent that God has given for His glory and purpose as He directs. If the Holy Spirit directs me to study genre, look at my potential readers, and look at my possibilities of publishing, I would trust Him to do this by guiding me to the right individuals or places to do so. To this day, the only thing I have looked at is my publishing options. Now if God has something to say/write through me, He has the genre and the readers prepared already. By faith I trust Him to do this and enable me to do my part with ALL His grace and help. I have days and moments where the Spirit of God is working in me to write, and so I yield. Other times when I am asked to write something for an occasion, I will pray and ask The Father in Jesus' name to enable me to write something that will minister to the spirits that will read it or hear it. If my writing entails various scriptures from the Word of God, I will add them at the bottom of the writing. Or I may not add any scriptures. It just depends on how I am being led by the Holy Spirit.

Katharine You know, we've been posting a lot about sharpening writing skills, but the question pointed to analyzing our audience, genre, and marketing. I cannot believe I missed that, but I did.

I do believe we should make an attempt at it, although I also believe in listening to God for guidance during this analysis is of prime importance. For instance, I am writing a Bible study for emotionally hurting women. These women often do not have money, do not have self-control, do not have support. I believe if I reflect on my real audience, I will discover that, although I should market to women as a group and although someone might find life in Christ reading my study, my main market is with leaders, with pastors, with event planners. In this way, more attention and more access will be created for the truth these women need. I have been marketing to women all along but need to add at least an alternative market: pastors of women.

Annie Amen!

Mary To respond to an earlier question, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax are our tools for writing in English, and it's up to us to develop our skill in using these language tools. In the original question though, I was thinking more in terms of reading books in our writing genre, studying, and learning what works and what does not in writing a manuscript or poem. It's like in the beginning before sin: God created a gorgeous garden then involved humankind in gardening to "subdue" or bring peace to any potential havoc. The more we know about writing well, the less havoc our writing wreaks.

Judy When God calls us He equips us to move forward in this calling. He directs us on what we need to fulfill this calling. I know from experience, I had to go college, get a degree in Theology, attend writer conferences each year for many years, and endure much criticism and rejections. But after 30 years of writing ministry, many articles and devotionals published and 12 books, it was worth it all! God is so good!

Toni Absolutely we need to study. Why would writing be any different than any other thing we seek to do with excellence? It is hard for me as a Christian writer to think about my "spiritual" writing in terms of marketing. It all sounds so "fleshly," but then I realized that if I have a God-given message and no one reads it, what good has it done? If you want the message to "hit home" you have to not only know the heart of your reader, but what you hope they will take away from what they've read.

Every year for the past 3 years I have attended a Christian writer's conference. They cover fiction, non-fiction, blogging, poetry, and lyric writing. They teach you how to develop your writing to be more concise, engaging, and powerful. You meet other writers, as well as editors, publishers, agents. You hear about their struggles and triumphs, you learn you are not alone in your doubts, but you also learn how to overcome them or how to discern if this is indeed your calling. Can you tell I feel strongly that we need to study our craft?

Anita Interesting. When I am over my head in busyness, I just write. When I have time (which is usually) I read critically. At the moment, I am in a writing season, writing a book, but when I finish, yes, I will explore the publishing scene, asking God to guide me to do so effectively.

Wendy I truly think we need to study. I prayed on what to do and God sent me back to college. I am amazed at all I have learned over the summer in regards to His word as well as writing and research. It’s been a lot, but its been a lot of fun as well!

Deborah I am constantly in a state of studying and learning. Besides studying God's Word and sharing it daily on my blog, I also am consistently studying how to be a better writer, how to work more efficiently online, and how to get the word out about my books and many other things. I think life is a constant state of learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing, spiritually and mentally.

Mary Excellent comments from you all. Deborah, your statement "When we stop learning, we stop growing, spiritually and mentally" made me think about what happens next – basically, stagnation!

Linda In my experience, being inspired by the Lord to write and design does not mean holding a quill pen over a sheet of parchment while the Holy Spirit moves it to inscribe perfect prose, poetry, and art. God gives me the ideas, the unrelenting itch to develop them, and the means to complete the job. He opens doors to bring the piece to His intended audience, which may or may not include publication. For my part, I have to act upon the ideas, do the hard work of writing and editing and marketing. Studying craft and marketing techniques is essential to that.

However, you can easily spend so much time reading and studying that you fail to write what He wants written or live the life He wants you to live. So listening to the Holy Spirit's guidance in all those matters is essential too.

Mamie Even though you may perceive writing as your special talent, you are still obliged to study the writing genre, industry, etc.. Prayer is a powerful tool, so pray and get direction.

Mary Thank you all for your insightful responses. May God continue to guide us and our writing in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, interviewer, wrote 26 traditionally published books then self-published 3 Kindle e-books for other poets and writers: the Christian Writers’ Guide e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book, and the Poetry Dictionary For Children & For Fun.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Revision: It’s A Treasure Hunt! | Linda S. Clare

[Note from Mary: Looking for The word or right-on phrase can bring forth treasure as you revise!]

Revision: It’s A Treasure Hunt! | Linda S. Clare


The Write Stuff: What Does It Take to be a Writer?

[Note from Mary: Poets and writers in all genres will want to read this post!]

The Write Stuff: What Does It Take to be a Writer? by Eileen Rife


Stop Planning for the Future - Through a Glass, Darkly

[Note from Mary: This post reminds us to let go of worries and live in the Now!]

Stop Planning for the Future - Through a Glass, Darkly by Jaime Meeks


Road Signs for Living: Proclaim God's Word

[Note from Mary: Praise God, as Christian poets and writers, we can be missionaries from our own homes!]

Road Signs for Living: Proclaim God's Word by Joyce Powell


Bible Prayers: Prayer as blessing

[Note from Mary: God gave Moses a blessing to give to Aaron to give to the people of God. Through Christ, that priestly prayer blessing from Numbers 6 includes and covers us too.]

Bible Prayers: Prayer as blessing


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Can Someone Guide Me, To A Seat? | Inspiration Point

[Note from Mary: May God help us to be sensitive to one another in the Body of Christ and have the words and levity to ask "Would you give me a hand?" when we need help and no one seems to notice.]

Can Someone Guide Me, To A Seat? | Inspiration Point by Barry Brindisi


The Writing on the Wall: This Little Light of Mine

[Note from Mary: As literature throughout history shows us, the most prolific and renowned of all poets and writers is Anonymous. This post profiles that thought as we write in the light of God's gifts to ignite our readers and re-unite the church in Jesus' Name.]

The Writing on the Wall: This Little Light of Mine by Vicky Kaseorg - Author

Bible Prayers: The Lord’s Prayer after the resurrection

[When Jesus’ followers asked Him to teach us to pray, He gave us the Lord’s Prayer also known as the Our Father, but then Jesus also told us, “I and the Father are One” (John  10:30.) Thinking about that this morning, a prayer-a-phrase of Jesus’ prayer came to mind, so I hurried to write it down for us to pray together today and, Lord willing, beyond.]

Bible Prayers: The Lord’s Prayer after the resurrection by Mary Sayler


Friday, September 12, 2014

9 Ways to Encourage the Parents of Prodigals - Pastors and Christian Leadership Resources (Full Article)

[Note from Mary: Whether you have concerns as a parent or concerned interest as a poet or writer writing for parents, this article will help.]

9 Ways to Encourage the Parents of Prodigals - Pastors and Christian Leadership Resources (Full Article) by Ava Pennington


Blessed To Be A Blessing | justathoughtdevotionals

[Note from Mary: Blessed thinking for us to remember as we write and live our Christian writing life.]

Blessed To Be A Blessing | justathoughtdevotionals


Words of Joy: Dying to live

[Note from Mary: As always, these poetic words from Joy inspire, uplift, and help us to examine our priorities as we write in all genres in Jesus' Name.]

Words of Joy: Dying to live by Joy Lenton


Thursday, September 11, 2014

More EZ Scene Writing Tips | Linda S. Clare

[Note from Mary: If you're writing a story with flashbacks, think about those movies that flashed so often you got lost, and read these tips to keep the present plot from getting cold.]

More EZ Scene Writing Tips | Linda S. Clare


The Man and The Wall: Mr. Perfect

[Note from Mary: Christian poets and writers aim to write, market, do readings, or teach workshops as well as possible, but interruptions come, deadlines pressure, and obligations increase until we feel overwhelmed! Who but God would think of that as being the perfect play time!]

The Man and The Wall: Mr. Perfect by Dan Stombaugh


In Spirit and In Truth!: Meditating on God's Word

[Note from Mary: Want a highly successful day? Here's a blessed way to successfully connect with our Most High God.]

In Spirit and In Truth!: Meditating on God's Word by Dawn Freeman


15 Tips for Writing Believable Kids’ Dialogue | Write2Ignite! Conference

[Note from Mary: Children are the future, and these excellent tips help us to connect with them as we write in all genres for kids of all ages.]

15 Tips for Writing Believable Kids’ Dialogue | Write2Ignite! Conference


What the Bible Says about Love: God’s Love cannot be shaken

[Note from Mary: On this 9/11 day of remembrance, let’s rest in the assurance that, no matter what has happened or what will happen, God’s love for us has not and will not be shaken.]

What the Bible Says about Love: God’s Love cannot be shaken


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Are you keeping it simple or stressing out?

[Note from Mary: This good word helps us to consider our priorities and get in touch with God and ourselves - a must before we help our readers do the same!]

Are you keeping it simple or stressing out? by Kurt Bubna


Monday, September 8, 2014

3 EZ Scene Writing Tips | Linda S. Clare

[Note from Mary: Good tips on writing fiction!]

3 EZ Scene Writing Tips | Linda S. Clare


Lessons I learned from a fortune cookie | Jeff K. Clarke

[Note from Mary: Feel like giving up on your writing? Don't! Read this post instead.]

Lessons I learned from a fortune cookie | Jeff K. Clarke


Spiritual Disciplines | Dawn Freeman

[Note from Mary: As Christian poets and writers, we need quiet times of contemplation and meditation when we listen for God's word to us as Joy discussed in the post previously highlighted. This post takes us into action as we develop good habits that draw us closer to Christ.]

Spiritual Disciplines | Dawn Freeman


A soft whisper | Poetry Joy

[Note from Mary: Before we get into the clamor of a new week, this post reminds us to get quiet before the Lord.]

A soft whisper | Poetry Joy by Joy Lenton


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Evelyn Bence « Upper Room Books

[Note from Mary: Christian Poets & Writers will surely want to read this lovely interview with one of our members Evelyn Bence!]

Evelyn Bence « Upper Room Books


Friday, September 5, 2014

Broken Psalms : Why is Waiting on God a Way of Life?

[Note from Mary: If there's one thing we all have in common as Christian Poets & Writers, it's waiting! Waiting for that first line of a poem.... Waiting for the next book idea to come.... Waiting to hear clearly what God wants us to do. Then, when we write and submit our best work to Christian publishers, we wait to find out if that manuscript will be accepted or not. Meanwhile, we wait for the first line of a poem... We wait for the next idea to come.... Thanks, Alice, for easing our wait with your fresh perspective.]

Broken Psalms : Why is Waiting on God a Way of Life? by Alice Jay Wisler