Writing a blog or a book requires more than inspiration or discipline. Join me as I reflect on what it takes to succeed and write just about anything.
There’s a shift in God’s church today which is bringing creativity to the fore. It’s displayed through all kinds of artistic expression and particularly through new blogs and books.
Several of my friends are writers in one capacity or another. Some of them follow this blog and some have blogs of their own. A few have published a book. And I know that some of my readers are budding writers too.
But they’ll all tell you one thing: it’s not easy.
How Hard Can It Be To Write Just About Anything?
When you’re writing any kind of content, it’s hard to keep going. It can be hard to know what to write next and how to write it. And it can be really hard to get started when you’re staring at a blank page.
Even if you’re feeling inspired, you may not have the physical or creative energy if you’ve not slept or the baby has kept you up all night.
So I thought I would share a little of my writing process today. I’ll explain why I do what I do and how it helps me to keep going, even when I have no energy and low motivation.
Along the way, I’ll share some secrets that will help you to keep going, even if you’re not a writer. And I think you’ll see how obedience to God is key.
Write Just About Anything With God’s Help
It’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve been writing for a number of years now.
What you may find surprising is that I’m writing more words now, and more consistently, then ever before.
And that’s despite losing both energy and motivation regularly. I’m talking about at least once per week and sometimes every other day!
I can tell you now that waiting and hoping for inspiration and for your “muse” to arrive won’t get you there. But I’ve also found that discipline alone won’t do it either.
So how do you keep going? How do you keep writing, even when you don’t feel like it?
Write Just About Anything: The Process And The Person
I’ve discovered there are two aspects to writing, the process and the person.
There are so many things I want to do but I have limited time, so I have to find ways to be productive with the resources I have.
That means having a robust process in place to make writing easier.
I know I need to keep coming back to God and seek him for what’s next. There’s a “shopping list” of prayer items to do with my process, but I have to allow him to speak how he wants.
I want to know what will happen next, how my ministry will grow. But he wants to spend time together and tell me of his love for me.
And 3 More “Ps”
So the Lord has taught me that I need to have a process and I need to hone it continually.
But he has also taught me that what happens inside me, in the person that I am and the one I am becoming, is just as important.
And he has shown me that through 3 more “Ps”:
Let me explain.
1. Write Just About Anything In Prayer
Process: Everything must come from God and extend his kingdom
I can’t extend all of God’s kingdom but I can work on the tiny bit he has given me influence over.
So I decided early on that I would only do the things that Father asked me to do. That way I could be more effective at the few things he gave me.
Person: Goals can and should change
Each New Year, I pray and set goals in cooperation with the Lord. But I have to be ready to change my plans at any time according to what he says.
This year, he has overridden the whole thing!
I started off with about 10 goals and through various circumstances the Lord has trimmed that down to just 2 or 3, right now.
This has been a humbling experience, but he has reminded me that the spirit of sonship lives in me. It’s more important to Father that I know who I am in him, than to have success with multiple goals.
2. Write Just About Anything With Patience
Process: Setting up systems takes time and effort
I get one day per week to write and work on timbaderonline.
If you’ve ever run a website, you’ll understand how many little things can distract and push you off track. So this is where good productivity habits and the right tools come in.
For me, that means setting aside specific time to write, every Friday, and using an app called Ulysses for the text.
Ulysses is one of a growing breed of tools which provides a distraction-free writing experience, away from all the bells and whistles of MS Word, and the like. In here, it’s just me, the text, a target word count and a few scribbled research notes.
I start with an outline, which I may have put together when I first planned that piece. I use a simple template as a prompt but I also allow myself time to review it properly. This means that I write a rough first draft — and then stop.
Person: Be realistic with your time and energy
One thing living in lockdown has taught me is that I have to be honest with myself about my energy levels.
It takes about 2-3 hours of focused work to write a typical blog post. And that’s not including the time it will take to edit and format it for publishing.
So I must set my expectations that I can only write one article per week.
It also means I need to write in the morning when I have higher creative energy and leave easier tasks till later.
Ed: Ironically, as I write this, it’s a really hot, sunny day and I can’t think straight. I’ve got very little creative energy to push this forward and I’m about to give up and try to outline a completely different post. So yes, it happens a lot! But that’s OK: remember that it’s your game and you can play it according to your own rules.
Remember that writing is your game and you can play it according to your own rules.
3. Write Just About Anything With Persistence
Process: Come back later with fresh eyes
The following week I come back to my draft to edit it: I’ll tighten up the language and correct spellings and grammar. Then I’ll read it aloud to myself to see if it makes sense and make further corrections.
It’s amazing how taking a break from an article helps me see the wood for the trees. I use this time to be ruthless with myself:
I swap sentences and paragraphs around and tidy up the headings. I'll cut out whole sections, maybe reusing them as outlines for new posts. Others are simply trashed.
Only when I am happy with the text will I move into WordPress (the software that makes the website work) to create the actual blog post. I format it using the — frankly amazing — tools I purchased from Thrive Themes (affiliate link) to add all the bells and whistles I ignored earlier.
Finally, I schedule the post to publish on a particular date. But it’s not over yet.
Now I set up social media posts and emails to let my lovely readers (that’s you!) know that it’s out there.
Person: Reconnect with your “Why”
Phew! With all that to do every week you can see how easy it is to get bogged down.
When I get stuck I remind myself of what productivity guru, Michael Hyatt, always says: “People lose their way because they lose their why”.
Michael uses this to great effect in his goal setting and productivity system Best Year Ever.
This system includes a Weekly Preview which I followed every week, until the lockdown hit.
In the Preview, you note down your intentions for the following week, including your most important tasks and calendar events.
A key part of the weekly preview is to check through your goals which contain a previously written reminder of why you’re doing it.
Of course, with the lockdown in place, I had tasks to do but I found my diary was filling up with nothing at all! Week after week, I wrote “nothing” in the calendar section… so I gave up.
However, as soon as I did, I realised it was a mistake.
By failing to reconnect with why I write my motivation took a nosedive and I nearly stopped writing altogether.
And if you’re a writer, that’s the secret that’ll keep you going too:
Keep connecting with your “Why”:
When the going gets tough and you don’t feel like writing, ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?”
Write Just About Anything With God’s Help: Publish Then Rest
My final piece of advice is two-fold:
1. Publish: Just ship it!
You’re never going to hit perfection. So don’t bother. Don’t spend ages worrying about who will read it or any of the things writers usually worry about.
Sooner or later you just have to hit the button and ship it. And it’s better to ship something that is good or great, than have a “perfect” article that never sees the light of day.
When I first published How To Hear God’s Voice, I soon realised that it was too short. I’m proud of what’s in there, but I have thought of so many things I could add, since then.
I may write a second Edition one day, but if I didn’t publish it when I did, I would have missed out on so much else that the Lord taught me through it. And many of my readers would have missed out on hearing God’s voice for themselves, some for the first time.
2. Rest and Recuperate: Take a day off!
It's so easy to overdo it, when it comes to any creative pursuit. Particularly when we see it as our ministry, as given by God.
On the day I finished the first draft of this post, the Lord said to me, “Take a day off”.
What he meant was that I was pushing myself too hard. I put all kinds of expectations on myself that were unrealistic and drained my energy levels, making it harder and harder to write.
What I didn't know then was that we would have a bereavement in the family too. So I'm going to have a rest over the summer and I suggest you do too.
I’ll still publish the odd post in the next few weeks but I'm going to slow down my schedule.
But I’m also going to take the time to pray about the next steps and simply enjoy God’s presence.
If you’d like to see something specific on the blog then let me know.
What would you like to see on the blog, going forward?
Let Us Know Your Answer In The Comments Area, Below.
Really helpful Tim. You have expressed/articulated some of the things I have been experiencing and trying to practice with my writing and haven’t quite put my finger on. Why am I writing this is question that has held me back recently. Good to hear it.
Thanks Rob, it’s good to know I’m not off my rocker!