This piece first appeared at Seriously Write.
The difficulty of writing exactly what we mean and conveying it in a way that is clearly understood by the reader requires painstaking effort and many revisions. Human communication is broken, shot through with our human frailty and sin. Therefore, this is a lifelong challenge, one we must continually strive to address as writers.
One of the benefits of the written word is the power to edit. When we speak, our words often blurt out, surprising ourselves and others. We’re unclear or require many words to say what we’re attempting to communicate. This is why we write out and then practice pitches and presentations. The ability to edit usually allows us to get it right before we publish or pitch.
However, even then, writers need to retract. We think we communicated well, but we didn’t. We assume we conveyed a particular truth, but the reader received another, thinking we were making an entirely different point.
We publish a blogpost only to read the finished piece online and discover a glaring error glossed over and unseen as we edited. We knew what we meant to say, so we became blind to what we’d actually written. This is a habitual problem, one requiring us to be alert as we edit.
Did we really write what we meant, or do we only think we did?
As a writer who has firsthand experience with these types of glitches, an undergirding truth always encourages me: I have a perfectly attuned, supernatural Collaborator.
Even when I can’t articulate what I mean, the Lord understands exactly what I feel and hope to communicate. He knows my heart and my mind, even before I think my thoughts or formulate them in writing. He perceives the truth I’m attempting to get across to the reader, and, thank God, he longs to help me to write it correctly!
Psalm 139:1-4 (NIV) puts it this way:
have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
As writers, we could rephrase: “Before words flow from my mind and through my fingertips, you, Lord, know my thoughts and what I hope to convey, even if I don’t.” Because the Lord knows what I hope to say and what he desires me to proclaim, I can cry out to him for help.
Our mighty God empowers us to write what we mean. This is an essential fact for Christian writers to keep in mind. We have a Helper. The Holy Spirit’s help in conveying the message, all while using our faculties, gifts, and yielded selves, is the powerhouse for our writing. He gives us the courage and the ability to hammer out words that advance the kingdom of God.
We can cry out to God for clarity. We can pause, ask him to help us to write what he wants for our audience, sit silently before him, and then write to the best of our abilities with his help. The words come to us. Our thoughts are clarified. This is what he does. We don’t write alone. We write with God’s help. Hold onto that fact. Lean on it. Trust it.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV) says:
in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Allow the Lord to empower your work, your words, and your ability to convey the emotion of your message. He’s your most important collaborator. Acknowledge him in your preparation, in your writing, and in your editing. Trust him. Rely on his insight. Let the Word empower your words, touching hearts for his glory. He’ll make the way straight.
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