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Your First Writing Assignment
12/20/2017 9:00:00 AM by: Bob Hostetler

If your writing doesn’t start with this practice, you’re cheating yourself.

Lauren Winner, author of the wonderful memoirs, Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath,  tells about an experience she had when a writing student of hers showed her part of a memoir that was astounding, far better than this student’s usual writing. Winner asked the student what had transformed her writing over the course of just a few months.

The student said she’d gotten stuck on a major piece she was writing and told her priest about it. The priest said, “Have you prayed about this?”

She hadn’t.

So she did.

And the quality of her writing soared.

Winner says, before that experience, and before saw with her own eyes the transformation in that student’s writing, “It never occurred to me . . . that there might be a connection” between prayer and writing. But there totally is.

Fifteen or so years ago, I thought I was totally spent as a writer. I’d been through a three-year process of revision and revulsion on one book that had left me doubting my ability, and drained of all enthusiasm for writing.

So I prayed.

I do that when I get desperate and there’s nothing good on T.V.

And God sent me manna from heaven—in the form of an assignment to work on a project called The Prayer Bible. For the next couple months, I spent my workdays praying through the second half of the Old Testament and recording many of those prayers as prayer prompts for that Bible’s marginalia. It was a process that not only revived me, and stoked my prayer life; I believe it saved my writing ministry. It also changed the writing process for me. It made prayer an indispensable part of the process for me—so much so that I don’t know how I ever wrote a thing before I came to see the absolute connectedness between prayer and writing.

God was talking about writing as much as anything when he spoke to Zerubbabel through Zechariah: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6, NIV). If I truly believed that, why would I try to write anything in my own strength, apart from prayerful dependence on God? I pray before I write. I pray while I write. And then I pray after I write that God will even further transform my offering through the work of godly publishers, editors, designers, artists, and so on. I pray, not to change God or others but to change me. I pray for wisdom to manage my time wisely, for discipline to apply my mind to my writing and my butt to the chair. I pray for my memory (at least until I forget). For some writing projects, I’ve assembled a prayer team to support my writing with their prayers, and I’ve tried to keep them up-to-date via email.

If you are at least as wise as me (which is not a high bar at all), you will make prayer your first writing assignment every day. Before you sharpen your pencil or turn on your computer, before you outline, before you jump into a writing exercise or research task, pray. Pray before you write, as you write, after you write. Pray for self-awareness, for focus, for inspiration, for protection. Pray to hear God clearly and to respond to him fully. Pray (as I often do) to write better than you are capable of writing.

Ways to Help You Remember to Pray:

  • Put a Post-It note reminder on your computer screen.
  • Set a reminder on your phone.
  • Enlist a prayer partner. A prayer team, even.
  • You might want to journal your prayers.

You might learn to pray God’s Word, the process that rescued my writing. Whatever it takes, if prayer is not your first writing assignment every day, then please believe me when I say you’re cheating yourself, your readers, your editors, and even God, who will partner with you in your writing…for the asking.

 

This article was first appeared on the Steve Laube Agency blog. 

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning author, literary agent, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His fifty books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, have sold millions of copies. Bob is also the executive director of the Christian Writers Institute (christianwritersinstitute.com). He and his wife, the lovely Robin, have been married for forty years. They have two children and five grandchildren. 

 

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Comments

Manuela From Germany At 12/28/2017 6:15:10 PM

Excellent word! Amen!

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1/13/2016 7:15:06 PM  by: Tina Yeager

Thoughts on being a Submissive Writer
1/9/2016 8:23:46 AM  by: Edie Melson

How Fast Should Your Blog Grow?
1/6/2016 12:04:56 PM  by: Edie Melson

The ART of Exceptional Editing
1/4/2016 12:00:01 AM  by: Deb Haggerty

Happy New Year
1/1/2016 12:00:01 AM  by: Andy Lee

Finding Your Strengths and Weaknesses
12/28/2015 11:29:31 AM  by: Mary Keeley

Do Writers Need a Blog or Website?
12/22/2015 11:21:19 AM  by: Edie Melson

"Second-Fiddle" Characters Play an Important Role
12/16/2015 12:57:39 PM  by: Tom Morrisey

Let Them Eat Bread: An Editor's Thoughts on FCWC
12/14/2015 3:04:39 PM  by: Jesse Florea

Preparing for Promotion
12/10/2015 12:59:44 PM  by: Michelle Medlock Adams

Jesus Believed in the Power of Story
12/7/2015 10:02:07 AM  by: Dan Walsh

How to Use Hashtags in Social Media
12/4/2015 5:34:23 PM  by: Edie Melson

Where Writer Conference Connections Can Take You
12/2/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Lindsey Brackett

Why Should I Attend a Writers Conference?
11/30/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Andy Lee

How to Fight Discouragement... as a Writer
11/23/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Andy Lee

An Interview with Acclaimed Author, Robert Benson
11/18/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Eva Marie Everson

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Nonfiction Book
11/14/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Kristin Stieffel

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel
11/9/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Kristin Stieffel

Let God Define You
11/4/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Michelle Medlock Adams

10 Clues that You Are a Fiction Writer
10/31/2015 10:30:07 AM  by: Taryn Souders

The Basics of a Book Proposal
10/27/2015 3:12:39 PM  by: Kristin Stieffel

What To Wear at FCWC
10/23/2015 12:28:32 PM  by: Eva Marie Everson

The Skinny on Business Cards
10/15/2015 11:14:47 AM  by: Andy Lee

Just Do Your Part
10/12/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Michelle Medlock Adams

A Sneak Peek into a New Class at FCWC 2016
10/2/2015 12:00:01 AM  by: Shellie Arnold

50 Reasons Why You Should Never Write
9/28/2015 3:14:22 PM  by: Pro Krasta Nation Publishers

The Best First Step on Your Journey to Published
9/21/2015 2:40:54 PM  by: Eva Marie Everson

10 "Not-So-Secret" Secrets for a Great Writers Conference
2/10/2015 11:40:12 AM  by: Bethany Jett

Go Where God Leads
2/1/2015 4:24:15 PM  by: Allison Bottke

Moving From Passion to Process
1/27/2015 7:08:31 PM  by: Ava Pennington

Your Last First Conference
1/19/2015 11:57:13 AM  by: Kristen Hogrefe

What Is Compel Training?
1/9/2015 12:36:27 PM  by: Suzie Eller

That Agent Meeting
1/3/2015 7:44:41 AM  by: Tamela Hancock Murray

Three Problems with Point of View
12/21/2014 9:21:59 PM  by: Kristen Stieffel

How to Evaluate Your Options
12/5/2014 3:23:10 PM  by: Cheri Cowell

Writing Effective Book Proposals
11/29/2014 9:37:42 AM  by: Jim Watkins

Do the Math
11/21/2014 7:49:46 AM  by: Marti Pieper

Becoming More Media Savvy
11/15/2014 11:12:20 AM  by: Natalie Gillespie

The Perfect Book Pitch
11/8/2014 6:04:14 PM  by: Dawn Anderson

Moved With Compassion
10/20/2014 8:26:14 PM  by: Diana Flegal

Splickety In A Flash
10/9/2014 1:30:56 PM  by: Ben Wolf

Look into Their Eyes: Why Editors Go to Writers Conferences
9/29/2014 12:00:01 AM  by: Ramona Richards

A Writer's Life
2/21/2014 1:32:01 PM  by: Dan Walsh

The Good, The Bad, and The Gutless
2/20/2014 10:16:18 AM  by: DiAnn Mills

I Want 2 Write 4 Teens
2/13/2014 11:32:07 AM  by: Marti Pieper

6 Things Writers Should NOT Say to Editors or Agents
2/12/2014 9:03:54 AM  by: Jevon Bolden

Don't Be Labeled "Dead On Arrival"
1/30/2014 10:59:22 AM  by: Eddie Jones

Imagine. Create. For a More Confident Faith
1/28/2014 9:19:18 AM  by: Lora Zill

Burnout or Balance
1/21/2014 6:42:50 AM  by: DiAnn Mills

Money Workouts for Writers
1/18/2014 8:20:49 AM  by: Ellie Kay

The Tale of Three Authors
1/10/2014 9:27:11 AM  by: Cheri Cowell

Three Questions, Three Answers
1/7/2014 3:44:05 PM  by: B.J. Taylor

The Introvert's Guide to the Writers Conference
1/2/2014 8:11:05 PM  by: Marti Pieper

After Your Meeting with an Editor or Agent
2/23/2013 8:09:52 AM  by: Blythe Daniel

It's Headed Right Towards Us
2/16/2013 2:53:05 PM  by: Amber Weigand-Buckley

So, Tell Me About Your Platform
2/11/2013 8:44:17 AM  by: Cheri Cowell

How Will Readers Find Your Book...
2/1/2013 9:07:24 AM  by: Eddie Jones

Tips For Coming to the FCWC From a Floridian
1/26/2013 9:45:40 PM  by: Cheri Cowell

How to Write For Kids When ...
1/23/2013 4:06:57 PM  by: Michelle Medlock Adams

Why Take the Chance?
1/7/2013 8:43:58 AM  by: Fay Lamb

Having a Positive Influence
1/4/2013 11:55:00 AM  by: Deborah Raney

Managing Your Time
12/29/2012 10:20:26 AM  by: Rusty Wright

Are You Ready for the Conference?
12/26/2012 8:45:52 PM  by: W. Terry Whalin

Devoted to Devotions
12/21/2012 9:04:49 AM  by: Ava Pennington

A Different View of Story
12/18/2012 10:31:31 PM  by: Steven James