How To Write in Tandem with God/Holy Spirit

I get a fair amount of questions/input around the dynamic of writing in conjunction with God. So I thought I’d burble out a little sumpin’ sumpin’ about that particular phenomenon.

First of all, if you’re trying to do any sort of creative work, do you have any choice but to access and stay with the divine within you? All creativity is born of the Great Power, however you personally understand or conceive of that. Being Christian, I say that in order to do my best creative work I must tap into and let flow through me the Holy Spirit; I assume if I were a Muslim I’d say the same thing about the spirit of Allah. However you personally understand The Great Being or Divine Power Within, you’d better connect to it, and let it work through you, if you hope to write anything more interesting or substantial than whatever you could scrape together with your normal, everyday brain.

Your everyday brain is great for doing taxes, returning DVD’s on time, and remembering why you shouldn’t attack your boss in an elevator with a stapler. It’s generally useless, though, when it comes to creative work. For creative work, you’ve got to get down and give it up for the source of all creativity.

The key to successfully doing that — to truly divesting yourself of what really does amount to all control over your writing — is trust. You have to trust in the quality of whatever God produces through you. The thing that most often causes writers to choke is thinking too much about the end result of their work: they wonder if it will be good enough, smart enough, clever enough, engaging enough. But thinking about all that sort of stuff is like taking a boat out into the water and then shooting a hole through its floor. You’re sunk before any of the fun can even begin.

Writing has to be about the process of writing, not its end result. And the key to experiencing a truly rewarding writing process is not worrying at all. You can’t create if you’re worrying about being creative. You aren’t creative. God is creative. The creative spirit residing within you is creative. You aren’t: You can barely tie your shoes without accidentally snagging your thumb in a tourniquet. So let God/The Great Creative Power use you to do his/her/its thing. All you have to do is ride the train of that blessed phenomenon to wherever in the heck it takes you.

The key is to trust that train will take you somewhere new, good, and exciting. Do not worry about the “quality” of what you’re writing: that kind of concern is for pursed-lipped Church Lady types. Worrying about the quality of creative work is the mortal enemy of creative work. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t do it to the creative spirit within you. It can’t be anything but a waste of time.

When you want to write, poise yourself with your pen in hand (or keyboard beneath your fingers), close your eyes, open your heart, and wait.

Pretty soon you’ll hear that distant train whistle blow. Then you’ll hear the train coming closer.

Then it will be upon you. Hop aboard.

See where it takes you!

If hell is real, then love has no meaning
Goodbye, family that takes my brother's side, despite what he did to me
As Jesus said: "Family, Schmamily. As long as there's pie."
To the Dickens with me this year
About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is the executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • morningjoy

    Ahh, there's a huge difference between my subconscious and the Holy Spirit. John, I like your line: "Don’t worry about the results of what you write: that kind of evaluation is for uptight teachers, loser supervisors, pursed-lipped Church Lady types." You are so right. Relax and let it flow; amazingly it does!

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    >The creative spirit residing within you is creative. You aren’t: You can >barely tie your shoes without accidentally snagging your thumb in a >tourniquet.

    John that's why I keep telling you…. VELCRO shoes are the answer to all the world's problems.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Guys: Relative to the phenomenon of the creative imperative, I'm about as good with "subconcious" as I am with "God." Either one'll get you Total Results.

    Brian: I'm convinced. Velcro it is.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    John: Didn't mean to start anything. Just figured that you didn't have to be a believer to take some wisdom from your blog post, is all. Glad I was right.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    No, I think it's safe to say you don't have to be a Christian to produce exceptional literature.

  • arlywn

    that actually makes a lot of sense, and I had forgotten that writing is simply to write- not… everything else.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Cheers. I actually agree with you 100% here John.

    I, of course, would call it ‘the subconscious’ as opposed to ‘God’, but why quibble about definitions?

    Now if only my subconscious were interesting. ;)

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    '…purse-lipped Church Lady' types!!!?? ….. quite a metaphor! Lucky for you that I happen to like you!

  • gothiquefae

    Alright so here's a question for you, what if you've managed to let the creative spirit (God for me) flow through you long enough to produce something…creative and when you go to see what has been created it's dark and sinister and scares the crap out of you? Or has elements that seem heretical?

    How then would you reconcile that with the Divine?

    G

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    If it came from God–and you know that, you felt that surety while you were doing it–then why would it scare you? I'm not meaning to in any way say that what happened to you DIDN'T happen to you; I'm saying that, for me, if I knew God had basically directed me to write something, I wouldn't care what it was.

    If I found the result of God writing through me to be something "dark and sinister," I would think, "Oh. I wonder why God wanted me to write something dark and sinister?" And then I'd think/feel my way through that. I guess I'd assume there was something there God wanted me to LEARN, and probably about myself–or perhaps about evil generally. But whatever it was, I'd know it was good.

    So, honestly, I'd have to know something more about your particular … experience. But something's … off about it. Either that wasn't God talking to you, or … well, I guess that's the only thing. If it WAS God, you wouldn't be afraid of the results.

  • http://www.boredquiz.com The Quiz

    I am too humble to consider any of my literature divine and contradict myself if I try otherwise. I feel the closest to my creator by interpreting scripture.

  • http://www.boredquiz.com The Quiz

    I am too humble to consider any of my literature divine and contradict myself if I try otherwise. I feel the closest to my creator by interpreting scripture.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    You don't just READ Scripture? You INTERPRET it? So … wow. Doesn't sound like anything to be humble about. Sounds like a major, intellectually creative endeavor.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    You don't just READ Scripture? You INTERPRET it? So … wow. Doesn't sound like anything to be humble about. Sounds like a major, intellectually creative endeavor.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    John, in the mid-'80's I was too busy being 'religious' to watch Saturday Night live……besides, we were resting up for the Lord's Day!…..(christian bigots that we were). Yep! times they 'have- a -changed.' Funny thing, though…it's saturday night, and if Saturday Night Live was still Alive now, I would be watching it.

    Seriously . . . I loved this blog of yours today. Nothing beats inspiration. And you just know that you know, when what you put on a page is inspired.

    It is humbling…..and freeing…..what else could one say about it.

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta

    John, in the mid-'80's I was too busy being 'religious' to watch Saturday Night live……besides, we were resting up for the Lord's Day!…..(christian bigots that we were). Yep! times they 'have- a -changed.' Funny thing, though…it's saturday night, and if Saturday Night Live was still Alive now, I would be watching it.

    Seriously . . . I loved this blog of yours today. Nothing beats inspiration. And you just know that you know, when what you put on a page is inspired.

    It is humbling…..and freeing…..what else could one say about it.

  • http://heaven4earth.wordpress.com John Senin

    Cool site- I just popped in after seeing you on WordPress category front page.

  • gothiquefae

    I'm not sure if dark and sinister was the right way to describe it, but I find that a lot of the stories that come out of me are darker. If you want an example of what I mean on my blog under the stories tab there are two stories that are good examples "the prison" and "rainy day." They don't scare me like I'm afraid to turn the lights out, it's just that when I sit back and reflect on what I've written I'm astounded by what has come out of my head. And I wonder what the stories are telling people about me (or themselves).

    Part of this comes from my mother who is incredibly perceptive and has told me that when she reads books she can sometimes read between the lines and learn about the author.

    But you do make a good point in your second paragraph that it could be a way for God to teach me (and potentially others) something about evil. Because I firmly believe that since God is the center of me than He can't help but influence each and every story. In case you couldn't tell I've gone over these questions in my own mind before.

    Of course this could all also be simply me being my overly analytical self, it happens. Anyway thank you for your posts on writing they are very good and it is helpful to learn about the business from one who is in the business.

    G

  • gothiquefae

    I'm not sure if dark and sinister was the right way to describe it, but I find that a lot of the stories that come out of me are darker. If you want an example of what I mean on my blog under the stories tab there are two stories that are good examples "the prison" and "rainy day." They don't scare me like I'm afraid to turn the lights out, it's just that when I sit back and reflect on what I've written I'm astounded by what has come out of my head. And I wonder what the stories are telling people about me (or themselves).

    Part of this comes from my mother who is incredibly perceptive and has told me that when she reads books she can sometimes read between the lines and learn about the author.

    But you do make a good point in your second paragraph that it could be a way for God to teach me (and potentially others) something about evil. Because I firmly believe that since God is the center of me than He can't help but influence each and every story. In case you couldn't tell I've gone over these questions in my own mind before.

    Of course this could all also be simply me being my overly analytical self, it happens. Anyway thank you for your posts on writing they are very good and it is helpful to learn about the business from one who is in the business.

    G

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    See now, Greta–you’re how old, now? About 130, right? 140? And you live where? In Greenland or something like that, right? So it’s just POSSIBLE that you aren’t familiar with The Church Lady, a very funny, very popular character from the mid-80 American comedy television show, Saturday Night Live.

    Dana Carvey is the brilliant comedian who, in drag, portrayed the hyper-uptight Church Lady? I wish I could find a clip of him doing The Church Lady online, but … I can’t!

    Anyway, THAT’S what I was talking about. LOVE!

  • Lynn W.

    From a fairly new, wanna-be christian writer's perspective…you hit the nail on the head John. There are many excellent/dynamic writings out there…but how much more (:) awesome is it to have the Holy Spirit's influence on the work! May God's Spirit lead you in an even greater way this year.

    Thanks,

    Lynn

  • Lynn W.

    From a fairly new, wanna-be christian writer's perspective…you hit the nail on the head John. There are many excellent/dynamic writings out there…but how much more (:) awesome is it to have the Holy Spirit's influence on the work! May God's Spirit lead you in an even greater way this year.

    Thanks,

    Lynn

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    Another hip post from a real gone cat.

    Thanks, man, gotta' catch that train.

    (Why do I want to go read the Wikipedia entry for "Howl" all of a sudden?)

    To continue to rail, gothiquefae, some of the Bible's best parts are "dark and sinister."

    Like Psalm 23, where the protagonist perambulates down a deadly, dark and putrid path and finds the Lord still shepherding him.

    -Sam

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    Another hip post from a real gone cat.

    Thanks, man, gotta' catch that train.

    (Why do I want to go read the Wikipedia entry for "Howl" all of a sudden?)

    To continue to rail, gothiquefae, some of the Bible's best parts are "dark and sinister."

    Like Psalm 23, where the protagonist perambulates down a deadly, dark and putrid path and finds the Lord still shepherding him.

    -Sam

  • TJ

    Hi John,

    Great article on Writing with the Holy Spirit. I myself am a writer (not professionally), just journalling and writing devotionals for my church. I found your article very helpful and relevant. I'm always looking at wasy of inproving my writing style and ensuring that I'm engaging my audience and making the message clear. I too am on agreenace with you that without the Creator's (God's) input, then my work then well let's just say, isn't that creative. You're right in saying that the Holy Spirit is the true writer as this is how the Bible was written, by ordinary people (like us) yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All wisdom and good ideas come from God and so do all skills and talents. It's great to see you using your God-given talents to glorify the Lord. Bless you.

  • TJ

    Hi John,

    Great article on Writing with the Holy Spirit. I myself am a writer (not professionally), just journalling and writing devotionals for my church. I found your article very helpful and relevant. I'm always looking at wasy of inproving my writing style and ensuring that I'm engaging my audience and making the message clear. I too am on agreenace with you that without the Creator's (God's) input, then my work then well let's just say, isn't that creative. You're right in saying that the Holy Spirit is the true writer as this is how the Bible was written, by ordinary people (like us) yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All wisdom and good ideas come from God and so do all skills and talents. It's great to see you using your God-given talents to glorify the Lord. Bless you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks, TJ, Sam, Lynn. I really appreciate these warm and encouraging comments. And thanks to you to, Goth. It's clear you'll figure this all out, or have already. Sweet.

  • http://www.grace-gracetoday.blogspot.com Grace

    Good stuff. The post and the comments.

    Isn't Christian-Horror the new wave of Christian fiction?
    :)

  • http://www.grace-gracetoday.blogspot.com Grace

    Good stuff. The post and the comments.

    Isn't Christian-Horror the new wave of Christian fiction?
    :)

  • http://brewright.blogspot.com Brad Wright

    This is a very helpful post… thank you! I spend several hours a day writing (academic stuff), and have for some time, and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't really grappled with this issue. Now I can start!

  • http://brewright.blogspot.com Brad Wright

    This is a very helpful post… thank you! I spend several hours a day writing (academic stuff), and have for some time, and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't really grappled with this issue. Now I can start!

  • gothiquefae

    Thanks to you all for the encouragement!

    G

  • http://urbizzness.com/ George

    Well, I am starting a blog. I see that you get a zillion comments under your rather humorous writing style. Perhaps you have something here. You are creative enough to draw a fair sized audience.

    On creativity itself…Creativity IS from the Holy Spirit, if anyone has any questions about that – perhaps they need to ask how all those many different Biblical authors stayed on topic, in so many different ways, and have all their Biblical work survive all these….umm thousands of years.

  • http://urbizzness.com/ George

    Well, I am starting a blog. I see that you get a zillion comments under your rather humorous writing style. Perhaps you have something here. You are creative enough to draw a fair sized audience.

    On creativity itself…Creativity IS from the Holy Spirit, if anyone has any questions about that – perhaps they need to ask how all those many different Biblical authors stayed on topic, in so many different ways, and have all their Biblical work survive all these….umm thousands of years.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brad: Exciting! I'm very glad for you! Good times ahead for you!


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