Apr 28, 2009

Writing With the Spirit

This weekend (while at the LDStorymaker’s Conference) I was sitting in my room with a couple of good friends, Karen Hoover and Becky Olsen, talking about our writing. Each gave me a great piece of advice. Karen said she always prays before she writes and Becky said she always reads the scriptures. Although I do pray often about my writing, I hadn’t considered doing it every time or diving into the scriptures beforehand so that I can have the spirit with me. That all changed today.

For several months I have been rewriting and editing my book in hopes it would soon be ready to send out to find representation by an agent, only to be frustrated, knowing all too well it was not all it could be. I sent it out to several writing friends who returned it with their loving comments and suggestions based on years of experience and education. About three weeks before conference I finished it. One more time, I read through the entire thing to make sure it was what I wanted and when I was done I had an overwhelming feeling of peace. I had never had that before. In my heart I was done.

Now fast forward to the conference, the first chapter contest and boot camp and I find myself once again doubting my writing skills and wondering if the book is ready. When I sat down at my computer this afternoon I pulled out the judges comments and, even though they were all positive and encouraging, they did make some suggestions that I thought I should consider. When I opened up the word document that is my manuscript, I struggled for over twenty minutes with what changes I could make to ensure my success, only to be struck with a feeling of dread. Every time I tried to rearrange something or rewrite my heart ached. Then I thought about the advice my friends gave me.

At first I just sat quietly and pondered exactly what I wanted to ask my Heavenly Father. Did I just want confirmation that my book was good enough or did I need help changing it? So many experienced authors had given great advice, how could I ignore it? Still sitting, not quite able to bring myself to pray, I caught my scripture bag out of the corner of my eye. They always sit on a file box next to my desk. I brought them to me, opened them and thumbed through the pages. Nothing stood out. Then I close the book, said a silent prayer and let the book fall open, thinking it would magically reveal itself to me. For the first time in my life, it did.

1 Timothy 3:14-16

14-Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

15 – Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

16 – Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Several things stuck out.

First, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee”. I should trust in my talent as a writer and in the spirit that whispers to me that all is well with it.

Second, “which was given thee . . . with the laying on of the hands…” My Patriarchal Blessing has given me great advice about my talents and even though I hadn’t read it for quite a while, there was a time at the conference that spoke to my spirit and made me think of the words contained there. When I got back to my room I pulled it out of my journal, read it and was overcome. I’ve spent all my life trying to “find” myself and to discover the meaning this blessing had. I know now the talent spoke of there is my writing. I no longer have the desire to search. I have found my place in this world and even if it takes me the rest of my life, I plan on fulfilling what the Lord expects of me.

Third, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” I not only need to keep my surroundings and myself clean so that the spirit can dwell here, but I need to meditate, pray, listen and then DO. I can’t just sit back and wait for someone else to do the work for me, but do everything in my power to make sure the Lord’s will is fulfilled. The benefits of that will be seen by others and hopefully influence them to do the same.

Fourth, “Take heed unto thyself . . .” I need to listen to that inner voice that’s telling me enough is enough. I realize that there will always be little things I can change and there may be some edits that will need to be made on my manuscript as it goes through the process of publication, but when the spirit whispers it’s time to stop, I need to listen.

And finally, “for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” I need to do more. I’ve spent the past year writing nothing but my book and I need to start branching out, submit to the church magazines, try my hand at other genres and practice my craft. Although I love my book, it is fantasy and I need to concentrate on writing about some of my life experiences, not only to save myself from the skeletons that rattle around in my closet, but also share what I’ve learned from the strength I’ve gained in recovering, no matter how difficult it may be.

So, what have I learned? Always approach your writing with humble prayer and scripture study. The inspiration you receive will not only improve your writing, but others will feel it as they read, giving them the confirmation of the spirit as it touches their hearts.


  1. Christine, thank you so much for sharing this experience and insight with us!

    I've felt for a long time that I should write a story that I knew was too big for me to write. And when I did feel the inspiration to start, I prayed and read my scriptures every time I went to sit down and write because I felt so inadequate.

    And then the First Chapter contest deadline approached and I started working faster to try and have something ready to submit in time.

    I'm glad I did get something ready because I got a lot of very helpful comments from the judges. But I'm also a little frustrated with myself because as I got under pressure, I relied more and more on myself to get it done, when it should have been the other way around.

    I'm going to start praying and reading my scriptures every time I go to write. Not just that project, but all of them. If I want to uplift and edify others through my writing, I can't neglect to have the spirit with me when I write it.

    Thanks for the reminder. And good luck with all your projects, past and future. :o) (By the way, it was great to hang out with you a little bit at the conference.)

  2. This is beautiful, Chrstine. I needed to hear this so much today. Thank you for sharing! Love you!

  3. What great thoughts, Christine! I've often found myself thinking "I've gotten this manuscript as far as I can on my own," and in the past that has always meant it was time to send it until critique partners (until I ran out of fresh critique partners, LOL). I'd never thought of praying about it before. I'll have to reread my patriarchal blessing, too.

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts!

  4. Wow! Thanks for the scripture, Christine. It's just what I needed, too. It's an obscure one, so I doubt I would have ever stumbled across it unless the spirit directed like it did you. I'm glad I stumbled across it in your blog post.

  5. Excellent post, Christine. It went straight to my heart and is going to stay there for a very, very long time. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Much love.

  6. What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing. I need to incorporate similar efforts into my own writing, and will!

  7. This is such a beautiful, thoughtful post, Christine. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Excellent post! I have felt the same about asking for help/guidance through prayer but haven't added scriptures to the mix.
    Thanks for sharing your personal story!

  9. Absolutely excellent. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Christine, this was absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing! How do I get in contact with you? I'm the founder of Mormon Mommy Writers and was wondering if you would be interested in posting for us on Saturdays. Our girl who does it now, has had to leave do to a very hectic (Two moves) summer ahead. Jenni James. Please contact me at jenniiyq2@yahoo.com

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this! I was in your bootcamp group at storymakers and I had many of the same experiences as you! working hard, feeling peace, then doubting myself again. I also discovered new meaning in my patriarchal blessing that referred to my talents as a writer - phrases that I never imagined referred to that specifically. I do frequently pray and study scriptures before I write and I am praying a lot right now to know what to do next with my manuscript. It is great to be strengthened by the faith of others in the power of prayer and scripture study. Heavenly Father does know each of us specifically and will help us that way if we ask. I haven't had time yet, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your first chapter that you shared with us in bootcamp.