Writing tips for christian writers: Music to listen to while writing a story
Have you been in a slump lately? Maybe writer's block? Maybe you're struggling with inadequacy: “Who am I to write this message?” Let me share some music for writing inspiration, songs that were instrumental in helping me to push past the fear and inferiority to share this gift God has given me. I think they'll motivate you, too.
Playing this list of songs always reminds me of the big picture, the main idea I'm trying to accomplish, which is to share God's gifts and help build His kingdom. He will bring the increase, but I still need to do my part to sow the seed and water and nurture the seed.
Whether you’re interested in Christian creative writing or writing Christian nonfiction, one of the most important steps in how to become a Christian writer is to deal with self-doubt. Every writer, Christian or not, must learn to recognize and correctly respond to the feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure we all struggle with.
Fortunately for the Christian writer, we can lay our fears down in prayer to our Lord and surrender to the will of God. This doesn’t mean we can’t dream big for God or stop pursuing your God-given dreams. But it does mean we need to surrender our dreams to God.
Sometimes we need to pause our ministry, getting caught up in all we still need to do, and just spend some time in worship and praise for this passion He has put in our hearts.
If you've been getting bogged down in the gritty details of what to write or how to write or if you should be writing at all, please listen to the Holy Spirit. He made you unique and gave you a gift that you need to use. This will bring joy to Him, to those who need to receive it, and to yourself.
Here are some songs to get you motivated again, to remember why you're writing. You can listen to the entire playlist in order right HERE.
(I apologize if TobyMac is not your cup of tea. ;) He seems to be a creative writing songs about being a creative, so many of these are by him.)
1. “Lose Myself” by TobyMac
“So what is stirring in You, may it stir up in me all the dreams that You placed inside me. Take all that You see and shape it to be the story You're writing.” Make sure your dreams are the ones He's placed inside You, that they're His dreams first.
Here are a few other lines that speak to me:
“I'm gonna lose myself to find You...”
“Do not hide Your face from me, please don't hide Your face.”
2. “Write Your Story” by Francesca Battistelli
“I'm an empty page, I'm an open book. Write Your story on my heart... Let me be Your work of art.” “The maker of the stars” is the ultimate Creator. We merely learn from and try to copy His masterpieces.
Read this post where I showed how theology shapes how we create our characters.
And we allow Him to shape us into what He wants us to be as writers, as proclaimers of His message, as sheep following the voice of our Good Shepherd. As we work to create beautiful masterpieces with our words, we are His masterpieces, too. “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).”
Bonus song: This song goes right along with “Masterpiece” by Danny Gokey. This is my current favorite song.
3. “Beyond Me” by TobyMac
“I've got some dreams that are bigger than me. I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life... You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach, called me to waters just a little too deep. I've never been so aware of my need.” I've come to the realization that sometimes, most times, God gives us tasks and callings that are too much for us. He wants us to rely on Him and His strength through our weaknesses.
That's why He gave the task of speaking and leading to a stammering shepherd, like Moses.
That's why He gave the task of defeating enemies and judging the tribes to a scaredy-cat, like Gideon.
That's why He gave the task of ruling the entire nation as the greatest warrior king to a short shepherd boy who was forgotten by even his family, like David.
4. “Unstoppable” by TobyMac
“We'd rather burn up than stick to the shade. Not of this world so we live on the run. We've got our hearts set on what is to come. We are unstoppable... To live is Christ. To Die is gain. We're not afraid...” This is my go-to motivation for pushing past self-doubt. And all writers have it. Every. Single. One. In every writers' group, they're always battling the doubt. “Am I good enough?” “How can this impact anyone?” “Why did God choose me?”
“We are the kingdom come. That's who we are! We are unstoppable!” Don't feel like your calling is too big or too small. God gave it to you, and only to you because of the unique gifts He gave to you to use in a specific way. Keep listening to His voice to know where to take your next step.
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21, ESV).
5. “Steal My Show” by TobyMac
“No matter who we are, no matter what we do, every day we can choose to say, 'If you wanna steal my show, ... take it away.'” When I first heard this song, I didn't like it. I thought TobyMac was taking too much credit for his show, when as a Christian artist singing songs about Christ, it was really Christ's show to begin with. Jesus doesn't have to steal anything, He already owns it all.
But then I realized that this is how I should be thinking. Do I think of my life, my blog, my calling as Christ’s show to run as He sees fit?
This is easy to say but harder to actually live. This is how we all should be thinking. Wherever we're at in life, it's all God's. When we have a metaphorical megaphone in a position of influence (and every writer is), there is a great temptation to take at least some of the credit. We have to point it all back to God.
Which brings me to the next song...
6. “Higher” by Unspoken
“The lower I go, the more I'm gonna lift You higher... I may never have money. I may never have fame. But if I'm ever in the spotlight, I'll point it back Your way. 'Cause standing at the top was never, ever my goal, but if You put me on a mountain, then I'll tell the whole world! Singing Hallelujah 'til I hit the dirt...”
We have a platform, even if we think no one is listening. We need to tell the whole world that it's all because of God. It's so easy for me to share my story by telling what I though, what I did, what I did. But I need to constantly remind myself to share why I did it and how God worked it out.
7. “This is Not a Test” by TobyMac (featuring Capital Kings)
“We've only got one shot, gonna take it now. Goin' all in, gonna make it count. Won't look back, gonna set my eyes, 'cause they're ain't no practice runs in life. This is not a, this is not a test. This is the real thing... So don't get left behind.” We've got one life to make a difference. We've got one chance to help others see Christ and bring them to His light. However we do that, we've got to start now. We can't wallow in fear or self-pity. Believe me, I've done that. It's doesn't accomplish anything.
“It's better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.” - William F. O'Brien.
Fear of failure and fear of criticism can be paralyzing. I know that firsthand. Don't be like I was. Don't let fear paralyze you! Take risks. For the Lord. According to His will. (But don't naively think there won't be any problems or recklessly walk over your loved ones to get to “success.”)
His is the only opinion you need to worry about anyway. I'm sure you feel the same when I want my Heavenly Father to look at me at the end of my life and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant... Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21, 23, ESV).
We only get one life to live for Him. Let's live with abandon...
8. “Live with Abandon” by Newsboys
“There's gotta be so much more to life than this, a higher calling that I've missed... I want my life to count—every breath! I want to live with abandon, giving all that I am. Every part of my heart, Jesus, I place in Your hand.” Making life count is finding God's will for us and doing it. Whatever He wants you to do at this time in your life, do it with all you've got, every breath.
“Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God'” (Luke 9:62, ESV).
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).
9. “All I Can Do is Thank You” by Mike'sChair
“I could write a love song... but it wouldn't be good enough. All I can do is thank you for this life I never deserved. Wanna thank you for the grace I know I don't have to earn... all I can do is say thank you.” I think the point behind this song is that no song is good enough to really describe God or all the wonderful things He has done for us. All we can say is “Thank you,” and it's never good enough.
But in the arena of writing, this is truth mixed with a little bit of laziness, or what could be used as an excuse for laziness. I know, because I've used this as an excuse for my fear. Nothing we write is ever going to be perfect. Nothing we write is ever going to be good enough for our worst critics, ourselves.
We just have to do the best we can and then let it go out into public scrutiny. The reason we allow our writing to go through the possibility of scrutiny is in itself a “thank you” to the Lord. Because He gave us this ability, this talent, this desire, we thank Him by using it. What if you had spent hours and hours on a special gift for someone special to you, and when they received it, they hid it away in an attic and never used it? Would they be showing how thankful they are for the gift? No.
This leads me to the last song...
10. “Back to You” by Mandisa
“This shouldn't be complicated, this isn't that hard to see. It's not about what I do for You, it's what You've done for me! You gave Your love, You gave Your life, You gave Your everything, and ... The only thing left to do is give it all back to You.” In thankfulness for all God has done for us, we do our best for Him, we give Him our life in service. One major way that we writers serve Him is taking the messages He has given us and sharing them with other people.
This song always reminds me of the Parable of the Talents.
“The servant who had received five talents came and presented five more. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:20-21, Berean Study Bible).
Of course, we don't serve Him to gain favor or to gain salvation. It's because we're so thankful He's already given us eternal life and grace that we want to love Him with our lives.
11. “Lord, I'm Ready Now” by Plumb
“I was so caught up in who I'm not. Can you please forgive me? Lord, I'm ready now. All the walls are down. Time is running out, and I want to make this count...” Another common temptation for writers is the comparison trap. “I'm not as good a writer as [insert bestselling author here]. I'm not an English major. I'm not good at grammar. I'm not good at marketing. I'm not good at [insert your insecurity here].” Don't get “caught up in who you're not.” Thank God for who you are.
You are the only you. You are the only one who can tell this story of how God has worked in your life. You are the only one who can tell it with your unique voice. Not to be proud or arrogant about it. But to make your life count for Him, to point others to Him.
12. “Words” by Hawk Nelson
“I want to speak Your love, not just another noise. I want to be Your light, I want to be Your voice... I don't want to say a word unless it points the world back to You...” Our mission is to point others to Christ. We must be extra careful how we use our words as writers. “Words can build you up, words can break you down, start a fire in our hearts or put it out. Let my words be life, let my words be truth.”
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).
That goes for those of us who write or text or use social media; any form of communication falls under this. We have a great responsibility to wisely use our words and sometimes wisely hold them back.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV).
13. “'Til the Day I Die” by TobyMac (featuring NF)
“Blood, sweat, tears, it's a calling... I can't stop, no, I can't quit. It's in my heart, it's on my lips. I can't stop, no I won't quit. It's in my heart, I'm all in 'til the wheels fall off. 'Til the spotlight fades, Lord I'll lift Your banner high... I lay it all on the line 'til the day I die.”
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT).
“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21, NLT).
So if you're struggling as a Christian writer, remember the big picture. Don't let yourself get bogged down in what to write or how to write it. Don't waste time wondering if you should be writing at all. Please just listen to the Holy Spirit. He made you unique and gave you a gift that you need to use. You will spread joy when you spread His message using this gift of writing. I hope these songs have motivated you again to remember why you're writing and Who you're writing for.
Is there another song that speaks to you as a writer? Please share! Which of these songs spoke most to you and why?