Co-Writing with the Holy Spirit
By Joshua J. Masters
If the genre we write has the word Christian in front of it, we should approach every project as a collaboration, a partnership where we’re the junior partner.
The best-selling author of all time has invited us to join Him on His latest writing endeavor. No author has had a greater impact on the world or sold more books than the Holy Spirit. He need not include us in His work, but He enjoys mentoring and building a relationship with other writers. It’s a journey of deep relationship and learning as He guides us in the calling He’s given us.
So how can we be sure we’re being a good writing partner?
Here are five tips to successfully co-write with the Holy Spirit:
1. Take Frequent Meetings
You can’t collaborate with someone unless you communicate with them. What if you were co-writing a novel with someone you never talked with, you just did your own thing and met after a year of solitary writing? Disaster. You’d come back with two very different and incompatible manuscripts. Co-writing with the Holy Spirit requires regular, ongoing communication and fellowship.
It’s a big mistake to say, “Well, I consider my time writing to be my meeting with God.” That’s not time with God. That’s working with God. They’re not the same thing. Yes, we should experience His inspiration while we’re writing. We should feel close to Him as we use the gifts He’s given us, but a true collaboration requires a relationship off the page.
Our best work will come when we regularly meet with our co-writer before raising the cover of our laptop.
2. Research, Research, Research
Good writing requires research, and good co-writing means devouring everything your partner has written, learning their style, feelings, and beliefs. The same is true when working with the Holy Spirit. When we write Christian material, is it based on our own feelings about a subject or a true understanding of His?
We should spend as much time as possible reading other works by the Holy Spirit, especially that compilation of His sixty-six most popular books.
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the best Christian writing does more than give a nod to Jesus in the text—every word must be infused with the Spirit. But that only happens when the human author is infused with the same Spirit. That comes from pursuing a relationship with Him, but it also comes from diligent reading and research.
3. Put the Work Aside and Send it to Your Co-writer
Before editing, it’s best to set your work aside for a while. That’s excellent advice for any writer, but it’s even more important for the Christian artist. Aside from giving you distance from the work, this is an opportunity to send your contribution to your co-writer for feedback.
Attach a note (in the form of a prayer) that says, “Dear friend, I’ve been working on our project. Thank you for letting me be a part of it. I’m sending you some pages because I want to make sure we’re moving in the same direction. I will set it aside until I receive your notes. I look forward to hearing from you.”
4. Take Edits Gracefully
The difference between co-writing with the Holy Spirit and co-writing with another human being is the level of input we seek to have. Our co-writer wants the piece to reflect our personality, but it must be His message.
We need to edit our split infinitives, but it’s more important to edit our split loyalties. When you return to the work, the Spirit will ask you to strip out anything that comes from a broken world view—anything that doesn’t truly represent Him. He’ll ask you to take out things you think are important.
We want to be a loyal writing partner, but influences from our previous collaboration with sin and the world can creep in. Even if something sounds spiritual, it may come from an unhealthy place of brokenness. God will use our past to encourage others in our writing, but only after He’s rewritten our perspective of those events.
The process of spiritual editing is difficult, but when we humbly accept those notes from our co-writer, the work is greater and He refines our faith.
5. Define Success
Finally, to have a successful partnership with someone, you must agree on the goals for your project. What does victory look like? Do you and your partner have the same definition of success?
What’s your idea of achievement?
Being published in your favorite magazine?
Getting on the NYT Best Sellers list?
Being number one on Amazon?
That would be amazing. I won’t pretend I wouldn’t love to see those achievements added to my bio, but God’s purpose for your partnership may be very different.
If you listen carefully, the Spirit’s definition of success in your collaboration might just be the first four steps.
Be sure to check out Josh's new devotional, A Faith Unleashed.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master isolated images.)
Joshua J. Masters is a pastor, author, and speaker. He’s been featured on CBN Television, HIS Radio, and the Light Radio Network. Josh is the author of the Serious Writer Book of the Decade finalist, American Psalms: Prayers for the Christian Patriot and is a contributing author for Feed Your Soul with the Word of God. Josh has also worked as an actor and crew member in the film industry (SAG/AFTRA) and continues to have a passion for film. He lives with his wife, Gina, and Franklin the Pup outside Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as a speaking and care pastor.