What James Teaches Me About Writing

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

by Ann L Coker

I sit down at the keyboard with words at my fingertips, yet they don’t appear in any appealing order on the page. Even though I truly enjoy the struggle of writing, the process often seems too hard to handle. Wanting to write I too often feel trapped in how to do it. It’s a personal entrapment with seemingly no release. How do I break the cycle of large desire and little progress?

Surprisingly I find help from James, the half-brother of Jesus and who later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). His epistle gives me the how to, the process of being set free to write.

First, I make up my mind. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It’s a commitment of setting my will to do what I desire – deciding what to accept and what to resist. Making the decision to write I set my mind in that direction.

This mental discipline is how I understand that the problem can be resolved. Indecision is the great enemy in any pursuit. The choice is mine to make, for nothing is more disruptive in life than indecision. As on a battlefield, breaking through the lines is a necessity in order to pursue victory. The fight is actually a submission to the commander’s strategy in order to win the battle.

Second, I make my move. I do the hard work of writing. “Come near,” beckons James (4:8a). Sitting at the keyboard, I write. It’s like dating. Once one decides to date, that person must pick up the phone to engage another person in the dating process. The problem is in the will, but after submitting to the desire, something has to be done about it. Often while I’m at other tasks my mind engages my current writing assignment. I think of appropriate phrases for a devotional or how to couple an article in bookends, returning the closing to the beginning. But unless I sit and write it out, the work will not be accomplished. It will stay in my head and perhaps get lost.

As with my spiritual life, I submit and draw near to God. Everything in life is subordinate to God and His will. I break bad habits and choose the good ones: doing what is right because it’s right, not doing what’s wrong because it is wrong. I move toward the good and resist what is not. In my own strength I cannot make the move, but by the power of the Holy Spirit I draw near and resist what is not good for me. I wash my hands of bad actions and purify my heart of wrongful attitudes so as not to be double-minded (James 4:8).

Now I apply that to the writing process. What hinders my writing? It’s no secret. I know the answer. So I resist that obstacle and submit to those practices that do enhance the process. I put aside the time; it won’t come along unless I make time available. I turn off distractions — social media, telephone calls, even thoughts of what’s next on my agenda for the day. Jerry

Jenkins advises that even the internal editing process must be halted until later. I choose the best over the good and make my move to write.

Finally I break the cycle of indecision. My writing progress is enhanced by a disposition that’s concrete. It’s like exchanging vows in marriage: my husband and I chose to commit to each other and we keep that contract sacred. We are disposed to be with each other. So it is with my writing. I am disposed to write. It doesn’t define me as a person, but writing is my work, my chosen and desired occupation. Often the process makes me move against the flow while other things beg for my attention. I decide daily what I do, how much I write (whether that’s counting words or pages) or what amount of time I give to it.

Because God’s Word is a creative activity, I purpose to live in the hope that what I write is worthwhile, that it will enrich someone else’s life and give purpose to my life. My writing, my work, is my ministry. I live and write in the truth that God has shown me in His Word: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 8:10). Now my words flow because of God’s Word that dwells in me and ignites my writing.

Writing is 3% effort and 97% eliminating distractions

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Ann L. Coker’s writing can primarily be found in devotional publications such as Pathways to God, Devotions, Opening the Word, and A Cup of Comfort. Her magazine articles have appeared in Good News, Celebrate Life, At the Center, and various Sunday school take-home papers. Ann was also one of the contributors for The Woman’s Study Bible © 1995 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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