One of our favorite parts of the day is reading the emails you write us here at Kindred Grace. Sometimes, you’re writing with prayer requests or to share a story close to your heart. Other times, you’re writing with a question, a plea for help. And one of the most common themes to your questions is writing. You want to know everything from how to learn to write well to how in the world we have time to get so much writing done.
This month we decided to get together and share our most practical writing tips. Here you’ll find some of our methods, some of our secrets on the creative art of writing. We hope they are an encouragement and inspiration to your own writing!
Elisabeth Allen: take the time to write
Creativity is a wonderful gift, but sometimes it needs a little bit of help. Discover what recharges your creative batteries for writing. For me, that’s baking, crocheting or taking a country walk and noticing the beauties and changes of the seasons in the countryside. Take the time to recharge your creative batteries when you feel that you’re running short of creativity … and words.
Make a note of your ideas for articles, stories and poems, and keep them in a safe place. You might use a notebook. I use a file. Or, rather, I use a collection of files. I try to write my ideas on pieces of lined, punched paper ready for slipping into a file. I usually scribble my ideas on scraps of paper! It’s hard to keep track of them, but worth the effort so that I don’t lose a lot of ideas.
Write something every day. This isn’t an original thought. All the books and posts that tell you to write every day are right. It gets you into the habit of expressing your thoughts in words and polishing them so that others will enjoy reading them too.
Write good words. I, personally, try not to write anything that I would want to burn before I died. Seriously. So many people in history burned their diaries before they died. I’m trying to save myself that trouble by not writing anything that I would want to burn! If you’re writing for publication, check that you’re happy for what you’re sharing to be read by strangers in years to come if they stumble on an article, story or poem in an old magazine or blog archive. Write words that are beautiful, hopeful and full of life.
Try to enjoy the process of writing. To be sure, there are serious elements, like meeting deadlines and writing because you said you would, even when you don’t feel inspired. But writing is fun! Enjoy brainstorming ideas and writing diaries and letters, articles and stories, poems and posts. Have fun crafting words into pieces of writing that will bless you and others.
Jeannie Pederson: on being good enough
The advice I wish I could give everyone who is interested in writing is: Try it! Don’t wait until you feel you’re “good enough” at writing. If you have something to say, put it on paper. At first, you will probably struggle over every paragraph, but it does get easier with practice. When you think it gets your message across, don’t stick it in a drawer and forget about it – find an outlet. Publish it somewhere! As your writing improves, you may cringe at your first attempts, but just remember that you can’t get better without those first steps.
I’d also like to encourage you to be yourself. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style, or it will end up sounding stilted and forced. Personally, I love my friend Lanier’s writing – it’s lovely and elegant – but I can’t write like her! I think it’s because writing is an expression of our personality, and God made us gloriously different. Don’t fight it – develop your own style.
Having someone critique your writing can be very helpful. My parents were excellent at this when I was younger! Other people are able to spot inconsistencies, redundant passages, and undeveloped ideas. They can point out things like pet words or phrases (one of mine is “actually” – I take it out so often it’s not even funny!). Most importantly, they can help you stay “on track” spiritually, making sure that you don’t lead anyone astray, even unintentionally.
The world needs more people who write for God’s glory. By all means, write!
Chantel Brankshire: on the writer’s bank
I have this problem. Ideas, words, and poems–they all come to me at the worst possible times. When I’m driving. When I’m elbow deep in garden dirt. When I’m in bed, supposed to be asleep. It’s not very often that I have the idea and the time to write at the same moment. Those posts I write in my head all the time? The poems that never make it to paper? Sometimes they all feel a little bit wasted when I sit down (finally!) to write and have nothing but a perfect blank where the perfect words to express myself had been not so long ago.
Well, I haven’t found a real cure for writer’s block. And the closest I get to capturing some of the flow of words is voice-to-text on my phone. But I have found a way that helps me capture the ideas. And sometimes, that’s enough to bring back the words.
I use to keep a notebook I called my “Writer’s Bank.” Now it’s a draft in my inbox or a note on my phone–something I can carry in my pocket or have by my bed for late-night brainstorms. And it really does help.
So while you are out living your real life, when inspiration strikes and you can’t find a keyboard, try creating a writer’s bank. Next time you find yourself in the middle of writer’s block, pull it out and see what it does for you.
Gretchen Louise: on getting the ideas out into words
In theory, all my post ideas are duly noted in an Evernote Notebook specifically for that purpose. In reality, most of them bounce around in my head until I start writing the main points into a blog post. (But the prospective subjects that do make it into Evernote make my notes the perfect place to turn when writer’s block hits!)
I write all my posts mentally first. While I’m doing dishes, I string the words together this way and that until they sound right. While I’m in the shower, I test out the sound of the sentences. While I’m folding clothes, I compose my main points. Then, when I wake up before anyone else or there’s actually a naptime that everyone is asleep at the same time, I can capitalize on those few concentrated, quiet moments. When I finally sit down to type, it’s like opening up a dam–the words literally spill out of me. And since I’ve already formed them and reorganized them in my head, the first typed version is more like a semi-coherent second draft. And once that draft is put in a file? I can edit it amidst the noise and the snuggles and the “Mommy, I’m hungry!” I just need the quiet moments of dishes to formulate my initial thoughts, and the concentration of sitting down to focus on writing rather than work to get it all out into readable form.
Work out your ideas in your head. You’ll be amazed at how much further along you are when you sit down to type.
Emily Gardner: on not letting good words go bad
Writing is about the process just as much as it is about the end result. I sift my thoughts about life through words, my sentences and paragraphs making what’s in my heart readable. For that reason, writing is a slow craft. I will sit with a thought formulating for hours or days before it makes its way into a blog post or into my journal. Like Gretchen, I compose things in my head while in the shower, doing dishes, or lying in bed. However, if I don’t write them down right away, I don’t remember them. I’ve written beautiful things while falling asleep at night, only to wake up with only a vague outline left in my brain.
I keep a note pad in my purse and utilize the Notes app on my phone to jot down ideas and sentences as they pop into my mind. I’m a much happier writer when good words don’t get lost because I haven’t been diligent about recording them. When all my thoughts are on paper (or in a draft on my computer) I can sift and rearrange to my heart’s content.
Jenni Marie: things I’ve learned about writing
Write from experience, but not during the experience. Emotion is a powerful motivator and conduit of inspiration, but it can also blind your perspective and judgment.
Jessiqua Wittman: on the difference between private writing and public posting
For me, there are two different kinds of writing: the stuff that’s private and the stuff that’s public. Since I write on a consistent, daily basis, everything that happens to me usually goes through the filter of words. If a notable event occurs in my life, then I unavoidably imagine what it would be like written out in a narrative. I’m also a very open and blunt person, so no subject is taboo in my “mental adventures”. However, I obviously shouldn’t publicly post all those thoughts and events and feelings. It’s okay to vent and work through things with words and writing, but I limit myself on how much I share abroad. Much of it wouldn’t be interesting to most people anyway.
Therefore, I have a rule for myself. Whatever I privately write is between me and my Maker. But whatever I post publicly needs to both have a point and be edifying.
Be real. But be the kind of real that glorifies God.
Callie Mitchell: how to get off a Soapbox, and into the Spirit
Nothing kills artistry like a preachy soapbox. And really, the only people who like a soapbox are the people up there with you! Sometimes truth is hard, so how does a writer impart wisdom from scripture, from God’s heart, but still remain in a humble posture, with a gentle tone?
I brought my question to the Lord one day while working on a difficult piece. I didn’t want my tone to turn off others who might not share my perspective. He asked, “Who are you writing for?” I went through and made a mental list of who might be in my audience, but the Lord in His kindness, gave me some clarity. “Write for Me,” He said. I sat down and re-visualized my article as a love letter to the Lord. This is most often the approach I now take. I write Him a story, and explain to Him how I saw Him move. Since this isn’t an actual letter to Him, I have to go in and make sure pronouns and tenses are correct, of course, so it makes linguistic sense to all of you!
Over time, I have found that this approach gets me out of my head, out of my judgmental nature, and into an anointing that will provide revelation of God’s profound love. At least, I hope so. It is not something I can expect to happen if I’m not spending time in scripture. To fill up on truth, means truth flows out of my typing fingers!
Rachelle Rea Cobb: start with a story
Start with a story, sisters. How do you do that, you ask? Begin with those classic journalist-ese questions of who, what, where, when, and leave the why for later. Tell me who you were when you began to think about Jesus and life and beauty differently. What were you doing? Folding laundry? Where were you? Don’t discount the ordinary place, for we can all relate to being on the highway or in the kitchen. When was it? Yesterday or two years ago? Finally, tell me why this is burdening your heart so that you just have to write it out. Tell me a story.
Lanier Ivester: feed yourself on the works of the great writers
Write. That seems so trite, but it’s really the most important thing. Every day, if possible. Keep a detailed journal and use it to hone your skills. Record your impressions of the world around you, conversations you’ve overheard or were a part of (great practice for dialogue!), descriptions of places or people. It is an easy mistake to read about writing and talk about writing and never actually write. Put away your self-consciousness and fear of mediocrity and just get started.
Another essential thing is to read. Feed yourself on the works of the great writers, especially those that you particularly admire. Their influence is huge—hobnobbing with excellence can only enrich your vocabulary and broaden your perceptions of what good writing really is. Don’t waste time on drivel—read the good stuff. And your writing will reflect it.
Caroline Rose Kraft: on finding inspiration
I have had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes I have to write when I’m feeling uninspired, but there’s a little trick I know about that! If you make yourself start writing, the inspiration will likely come along the way.
“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.”
My biggest piece of advice is probably to simply begin. However, the more inspired you are, the more inspiring your writing will be.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
To get ideas and writing motivation, first I just live my life. If I’m not doing anything, I have nothing to write about. Even though I rarely blog an account of my day, the events and interactions of my days inspire my writing. Conversation is a huge inspiring factor for me. I am a person who has to “talk things out” often, so my siblings, parents, and friends are my constant sounding boards.
Secondly, I read for writing inspiration. If you don’t read, you may still write, but I cannot imagine it will be very good. Read, read, and then read some more. I am a slow reader, so I often feel left behind in the literary world or too busy to get in any significant amount of book time. This is not true! I have found that I can read while the oven pre-heats or my brother gets his braces tightened. I even bought a larger purse so books can be easily toted to the coffee shop or work. Read books that are on “your topics” and anything you’re curious about. Read non-fiction (I love Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle and Rumours of Water by L. L. Barkat!) and fiction!
“Nonfiction tells the truth. Fiction tells a story, and the reader discerns the truth.”
–Jacey at The Balanced Wife
Want more tips?
Don’t miss Vicki’s post: 5 Steps from Aspiring to Author. And check out our page filled with our favorite resources on the art and craft of writing.
We’d love to have you comment and share your best tips for becoming a better writer, too!
Photo Credit: Jenni Marie Photography