The “God Writes Through Me” Thing

Okay, this is why you don't want to channel Satan when you write.

In yesterday’s By All Means, Try to Stop ThruWay Christians, I referred to God writing “through” me. I got a couple of emails and comments to the effect that saying that sort of officially makes me crazy.

A couple of years back I wrote a post called, “How to Write in Tandem with the Holy Spirit.” It was part of a series of blog posts I eventually collected into How to Make a Living Writing. Though it has more to do with creative writing generally than specifically with channeling God, or whatever, it says enough on the subject to, I thought, warrant reprinting here. So here it is:

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.

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!

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  • Patrice Wassmann

    write on brother John! (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!)

  • What a wonderful way to put it, John. It is awesome when you hear that train whistle blow.

  • Audra

    Thank you for this. I’ve stopped myself from writing for years for the very reasons you listed. My relationship with God is new, I only became Christian about a year ago, but the idea that like everything else I need to surrender the process and the outcome of my writing to God hadn’t occured to me. This isn’t an excuse like writers block or not having the time “right now” it’s a support. Thank you!

  • Meg

    Great post, John.

  • Suz

    As soon as I read it, I figured you could expect a few comments from newer readers, and I’m fairly new myself. Then I thought, “They’ll learn, and it won’t take long.” I’m still making my way through you back-posts, and frankly, this whole blog would make a good book, comments included. It’s a very interesting journey. I’m new to blogland, and I already follow over 60 blogs; your readers are BY FAR the most intelligent, balanced, and compassionate I’ve seen. With a newly minted Marine in the family, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership in recent weeks. I’m curious (and slightly awestruck) about the qualities in you that attract such a following. Strengths and weakness combined, I suspect you’re an extraordinary man.

  • Suz

    p. s. No, I’m not fawning. I have a reputation for saying what I think, bad AND good, and it’s nice to have a forum where I can’t see people looking at me like I have two heads when I say something nice.

  • JoAnn Mitchell

    This morning I opened the door to a snowy white world; no darkness today; glowing sun upon my face. Then, I heard a bird chirp; Spring entered my soul for a brief moment .

    Oh, Life. Oh, God. What are us humans to do. We all look into the well of our own belief system and say “I know you.”

    We do our best when the Spirit thus calls; to speak of your love; to answer the call. Yet, in our limited human state; we know we are only seeing a reflection of grace. So, words are offered the best we can.

    To tell the human race about the Son of Man.

    As you are probably beginning to tell. I write from my heart like John Shore does. Is it prefection; God, I hope not. But, poetry in motion as I trod upon this land. Oh, speak upon what you have learned along the way. Tell your story for others to hear. Words written from a loving place will always carry the sound of grace.

    Blessings John and everyone else! Oh, to have the confidence John has; so needed if you truly want to be a shepherd; leader; writer. I appreciate John’s ability to have confidence in the Spirit; in his writing skills; in life to leave written words to be embraced.

    Jo (grandma loves)

  • Mary G

    Beautiful, just beautiful. You are to writing what one of my favorite musicians is to music. You might enjoy listening to his song that expresses similar thoughts about his performing. It’s a beautiful, haunting tune:

  • Tim

    Nothing better than the effect of a new relationship. You hear quite a bit about, “returning to your first love”, in the Scriptures. As a person who has walked for nearly 30 years with Christ, like with any relationship, we tend to become jaded and fall into ruts as we begin to take that relationship for granted. If you’ve ever read S.E. Hinton, the character Pony Boy is a writer who is doing his best, amid the tragedies of life,, to stay gold. To maintain that freshness of spirit and seeing things with new eyes, no matter how old they grow, is no simple task. John certainly does inspire, yet I realize it’s not him, as much as the talent that’s been given. God uses his humor and personality, but the gravitas, the meaty truths of what get put down into words, comes from the source of all truth. We just have to pray and take care not to get in the way. As children, we do have a tendency to get under foot.

    Blessings, Audra.

  • Well said, John. I know I have the most fun every November when NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) comes around, and I just write. No worries about the end result, just enjoying the process.

    And the creation process is simply phenomenal.

  • Mindy

    I needed to read this today. As always, you make the point so well. Altho’ I can think of a couple of bosses who deserve the stapler in the elevator. Thank God for my everyday brain, quirky as it may be sometimes . . . ;->

  • Christie

    I luuuurve me some NaNoWriMo 🙂

  • Have you ever gone back over something you’ve written – perhaps re-reading something for editing, or just going back over some part of something and found a sentence or a passage you’d forgotten or half-forgotten, re-read it and went:

    “That was actually kind of briliant. I wrote that?”


    “No, really, I wrote that? I have no business writing something that beautiful. How did that happen?”

    Happens to me quite a lot.

    Maybe that’s just my ego. I don’t know. I just find myself surprised by stuff I’ve written all the time.

  • Been thinking about this lately.

    Is the Spirit who inspired the Bible writers the same Spirit who inspired Mozart, Beethoven, and G. F. Handel? When I see a piece of art or listen to music that moves me, it expresses some eternal truth inexpressible in words. It may leave another cold. The same can be said of the Bible.

    Just wonderin’ what you think.

  • David

    Hey John,

    Always love your stuff. I was going to write a very complimentary tweet about you, realized I didn’t follow you, and tried to add you. When I tried, Twitter said “Could not follow user: You have been blocked from following this account at the request of the user.”

    What gives?



  • I have no idea. I don’t think I’d know how to block anyone on Twitter if I tried.

  • Lisabella

    by Linda M. Isabella

    What’s that stirring through the morning
    Like the winds in winter blow
    Through the branches and the briars,
    Through my day like swirling snow?
    Are my prayers heard up through chaos,
    Through the multitude of pleas,
    Are they filtered through the trivial,
    Are they worthy such as these?
    Does a spirit storm come gusting
    And disturb some tidy chart?
    Does it alter chronicles of time
    And sanctify the heart?
    Or does it whisper like a flutter,
    A magic answer in a dream,
    Leaving subtle signs so gentle
    That it’s not what it may seem?
    Would it really make a difference?
    Would it matter if I prayed?
    Would my day be quite misguided
    Without my humble heart’s crusade?
    Will my prayer float up to Heaven
    To an angel’s waiting hands?
    Or be placed in back of others
    More desperate in demands?
    In any case this morning
    I’ll give the clouds more than a glance
    With a prayer that fuels a hopeful heart
    And deserves a fighting chance.
    Perhaps this morning’s stirrings
    Is God’s breath upon my day,
    A reminder that He’s listening
    When I pause in time to pray.