The Spiritual Journey of Writing

November 11, 2020
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The first book that I published, Live Like Jesus, was a real learning journey for me. Growing up, English was always my hardest class. Most subjects made some natural sense to me and if I put in the work I could do rather well, but English always mystified me. I could never get the hang of identifying themes & motifs or learn to write effective essays. Every year I would start the school year with enthusiasm and vision; perhaps this would be the year that I would crack the nut and this subject would make sense to me. I would double-down, working twice as hard as any other subject, and I just couldn't get it to work. It didn't seem to matter what I did; my English grade would come up substantially lower than any other one.

My lack of confidence was compounded by the fact that all along the way, my dad was working as a publisher and editor - and I had his help when I asked for it. If you can't figure it out with professional in-house assistance, what hope do you have?

So when God began to call me to write, it wasn't at all a comfortable thought. I was so glad when I finally left activities like writing behind and I could zero in on the mathematics and science classes that I was good at; and now God is telling me to write? Here I am Lord, send someone else!!

In time, God had to take me through quite a journey of learning to see and understand writing from his side. He showed me that writing matters not because we think it's cool, but because God believes in it. I mean God wrote a book! Well...kind of a library of 66 books. He didn't produce a TV show or a podcast; he didn't leave behind other artistic achievements like paintings or sculptures; when it came time to create the record of his activities, he wrote them into the Bible. (This is not to demean other art forms or to suggest that they aren't ways God can speak, just noting something unique about writing here). When it comes down to it, God is more invested in writing than any of us are.

For the last few years, I've noticed God stirring something with writing in the body of Christ. I realize that my position with the subject has changed now that I've published a couple of books, but I'm shocked how frequently the Lord is bringing me across the path of people he is stirring to write. Over time, I've become convinced there is some kind of a release of writing happening across the body of Christ right now. Not sure what that means or where it heads, but it has been consistent enough that I'm pretty sure something is happening.

Having had a number of conversations about that lately, I've found some thoughts stirring lately about the spiritual journey of writing. Sometimes our focus can be on the practicals of the skills of the craft (which are necessary), but in this article I want to speak to what it means for writing to be a part of your pilgrimage with Jesus. The more I write, the more I'm convinced that this is a critical side that God is very invested in. Writing is not meant to just be a natural craft, it's meant to be a spiritual journey. What would it look like to meet Jesus in writing, and what would that result in? Here are my current thoughts:

Ask God for a revelation of the value of writing.

One of the mistakes we can make when we begin to gravitate towards writing is to not take the spiritual journey to make sure it's properly linked to our faith. I see this mistake in a lot of areas - where people try and engage with an area of culture because they are passionate about it, but they don't take the time to make sure that it is properly linked to their faith.

The fact is, I'm not sure the world needs more writing from authors that are writing because they're excited to write or because writing would be a cool thing to do. What the world is lacking is people who are writing because they have a burden for writing itself. People who have been gripped by the fact that God has breathed on the written word in a unique way and as such, writing can be a sacred and spiritual thing. It needs writing borne of prayer and the cry of our hearts to scribe something that has something of God caught up in its midst.

We need a burden for the content, but I think it will help us to have a burden for the medium as well. When we do, that links the act of writing itself to our spiritual journey and all the resources of our relationship with God can flow into writing itself. How do we get that? Talk with Jesus. He's the author and perfector of all of this.

Grow into your identity as an author.

When God calls us to a new assignment, that assignment comes with an identity journey built into it. If we are called to preach, God has for us a journey of growing into the identity of a preacher. If we are called to create music, along with it comes the journey of growing into an identity of a musician. With writing, comes the identity of an author, and God has a plan to take you on that journey.

If you don't take this journey, writing will quite likely trigger insecurities in you and it won't flow naturally. I found the more I wrote in more significant ways, the more this identity stuff interrupted me, until I was willing to settle it with the Lord. This isn't something to try and grit our teeth and push through, but a journey of growth to embrace. If we struggle to think of ourselves as an author, then perhaps the Father wants to let us know what he sees in us. Learning to call ourselves an author because that's God's opinion of us is the kind of growth journey that God is totally into.

Read a lot. Consistently.

If you want to be a good writer, I think a critical step is to become a good reader. Engaging with a lot of writing - and paying attention to it - becoming a student of the craft comes with the territory of writing. A famous quote from my Kung Fu days seems fitting here:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. - Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee understood how skill development worked: it works on depth of exposure, not breadth of exposure. Growing in anything requires diving deep; allowing the practice to begin to reshape the way our the neurons fire in our brain and coming to deeper and deeper layers of understanding and meaning. When it comes to writing, the tool we have in hand is language itself; and we need to be deeply exposed to how it can be used. The best way I've found for that is reading. I probably try and read 10-20x as much as I write (measured in words, not time), and that seems to work pretty well at this point. At the beginning it would probably be wise to have the ratio be even higher.

Write regularly.

The other side of developing the craft of language involves putting pen to paper (or these days, fingers to keyboard) and hammering out words and sentences. We need to study the way others use words, but we need to practice letting the words flow through us as well. I've found one of the most helpful ways to approach that is to create a rhythm of writing. I've found most modes of communication (preaching, teaching, writing, podcasts, shows) tend to have a flow to them, and if you can practice enough that you get comfortable with that flow, it makes a huge difference. If I'm writing every week my writing will develop a lot faster than if I try and cram writing into marathon writing sessions. It's about integrating the rhythm into our life and letting writing become a part of the way we "do life."

When I wrote Kingdom Impact, I knew I would have to be very purposeful to allocate the time to write. I was in a very busy season, so I blocked out 2-3 hours every Friday morning to write and I worked from our local library so I wouldn't have an distractions and I just got into a routine with it. Having a weekly time blocked out to write turned out to be an amazing way to approach it, and I've since adapted regular time-blocking to writing things like articles, messages, etc. The more regularly you write, the more natural writing will be.

Let God's grace fill it.

I'll close with this point: the experience of writing should be life-giving to us just as much as the end result of how writing my bless other people. In fact, my experience has been that most of the fruit of writing is probably hidden: the overwhelming number of people who have read my books or articles haven't told me anything about it! Most of the fruit we bear will go unseen by us, and I believe that's true whether we write books, blogs, poetry, or anything else. Because that is the case, I've shifted my expectation of where the reward should be: at this point, I'm not looking for a reward in the fruit in someone else's life, I'm looking for the fruit of the experience itself. I write to share ideas, but I also write to commune with God. As we grow in wiring together our spiritual walk and writing (points 1 & 2), and as we grow in the craft of writing itself (points 3 & 4), writing itself becomes an avenue for meeting God.

Sometimes when I finish an article or a chapter, I find myself feeling remarkably similar to how it feels to spend an extended period of time in prayer. I have been writing in the presence of God, carried along by the admixture of His words and mine. When that becomes our experience, the writing in itself becomes the vehicle for joy and satisfaction. We write because to write is to be ourselves and to be with God. We are loving the Lord with all our mind, and the words are just the vehicle to get it done. When writing becomes meditation with a pen (or keyboard), we have built a beautiful place for ourselves and God, and that wellspring is bound to bring great blessing to many others as well.

Putty Putman's Spirit-inspired innovative insights come from his wild journey with Jesus from physicist to pastor to entrepreneur to author and speaker. His three main passions are the Holy Spirit, effective communication, and journeying toward the future God has for the church and the world.

Putty founded the School of Kingdom Ministry and spent eleven years as a pastor on the staff team of The Vineyard Church of Central Illinois, followed by a year and a half as an interim pastor at The Chapel. In February 2023 he moved to Phoenix, Arizona to church pioneer by planting a new "kingdom ecosystem." Putty is the author of two books, and lives with his wife and three children in Tempe, AZ.

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