Writing from the Spirit isn’t effortless. In fact, the opposite is true. To write from the Spirit, you have to master two languages – the language in which you’re writing and the language in which God speaks.
Today, let’s look at the challenge that seems the less spiritual of the two: mastering the language in which you write. In my case, and perhaps in yours, that’s English.
Writing from the Spirit is not a euphemism for “writing badly and blaming it on God.” Editors in Christian circles regularly receive submissions with poor grammar, typos and punctuation errors – submissions that say nothing remarkable and don’t even say that well – accompanied by cover letters declaring, “God told me to write this. Don’t change a word.”
You may think that, if you write from the spirit, you’re not responsible for whatever form it takes in English. You just let it flow, sort of like vomit, and then send it out to be read.
“Just letting it flow” is a good technique for journaling. It’s a great way to turn an empty page into a rough draft. But that technique, by itself, will not produce written words that others find valuable and that highly honor God.
Writing from the Spirit includes doing the hard work of learning to write well. Granted, you have a head start if you’re writing in your mother tongue. But just because you’ve spoken English all your life doesn’t mean you’re fully equipped to write well.
Written words must communicate without gestures, body language or eye contact. They must speak to readers who may never have seen your face or heard your voice. The words must intrigue readers enough that they keep on reading, ignoring a host of loud voices calling them to other pursuits.
In conversations, people may stand and listen longer than they want, just to be polite. When it comes to reading what you’ve written, people can close the book, skip the article, or click over to another blog any second, without worrying about being rude.
Written words stand alone. Poorly written words offer potential readers a built-in early warning system: “The writer didn’t put much effort into writing this. So why would you care at all about reading it?”
Writing from the Spirit takes work – as does any assignment in which we cooperate with God. It’s not the forced striving of the flesh, but it’s not effortless, either. Paul articulated this paradox in Colossians 1:29. He wrote:
“That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (NLT). Or, in the Amplified Bible: “For this I labor [unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me.”
For a writer, mastering the language in which you write is an ongoing assignment. To continue in it:
- Be teachable. Know there’s always more to learn. Take advantage of the excellent writing helps available. Use a thesaurus and a dictionary. Accept valid critiques. Learn where you’re weak and pay attention to people or resources that can strengthen you in those areas.
- Be diligent. Practice writing and rewriting and rewriting. Write when it flows – and keep writing when it involves struggle and work. When you think you’re done with a piece, leave it for a while and then come back to it fresh. That helps ensure that you don’t send it out until you’ve said it with excellence.
- Be being filled with the Spirit. God the Spirit will faithfully pinpoint those writing helps that will benefit you most. God the Spirit will himself guide you in the masterful use of words. He will move in and through you so that, even when you’re laboring unto weariness, you’re not doing it in your own strength, but rather in “all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles.”
Don’t count this aspect of writing as less than spiritual – or anything less than crucial. Work hard to master the English language, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within you.