This has been on my heart for a while now. I was going to “do this tomorrow” but felt God led me to stop prevaricating and DO IT NOW so here goes.
Why am I writing this? Basically to encourage everyone/anyone to step out and “have a go” if you think God is prompting you to do something. God loves us unconditionally, will still love us even if we make a mistake. He knows our struggles and he knows that we are human! However he will find it much easier to direct a moving ship.
Firstly some background. I am not an A class English student (my long-suffering school teachers would testify to this). Neither am I someone who found studying poetry at school particularly interesting. It has also taken me a long time to recognise what I write as poetry (for too long I though all poetry had to rhyme – and mine certainly does not). Its also taken me a VERY long time to “come out” as a guy who writes poetry.
Secondly I believe that God is an immensely creative being and has made us all to be individuals. He has given us all a unique combination of gifts and abilities and I think our walk with him is also a unique relationship. God is not in the business of creating “cookie cutter” Christians i.e. lots of replicas of the same thing. So what I’m most definitely NOT saying is that the way I write poetry is THE WAY to do it. What I do say though, is that as we have all been uniquely created and are “fearfully and wonderfully made” the way Gods talks to each of us and prompts us to do things will be different. We just need to almost “tune in” to the way God prompts us and then walk in that prompting.
I started writing these poems shortly after I became a Christian in my late teens. I cannot remember what prompted me to start writing apart from an overwhelming urge/conviction to start writing. My early poems where mostly about my struggles and challenges adapting to my new Christian life. Looking back on them they are almost a “postcard” to God – a sort of one-sided conversation.
Almost all my poems start off with a picture or image. Sometimes this will be something I see in my imagination sometimes it will be something I see around me (e.g. a hill, wooden shack, a notice at church) that arrests my attention. Often these pictures will recur (which is how I know they are from God and not me merely having a nice day dream). If I’m at all unsure I’ll pray about it, not in a “heavy” way but very simply “I think this is from you God, please reinforce it if it is”. Sometimes along with the image will come an emotion.
Whilst I’m musing on the picture/image I will get one maybe two sentences which are the start of the poem. That’s it. So for me starting to write the poem down is literally a step of faith. I have not planned it in advance. I just have to look at the blank page, write the first sentence or two and trust that God will carry on supplying/inspiring the rest. Every time I’ve done this he has met me and supplied what I needed. This does not mean I find it any easier! I still find it hard staring at the blank page in my notebook and then writing the first words.
I often find writing the poem quite an emotional process, one that I find difficult to explain. Sometimes it’s because I’m expressing something that has a real emotional resonance within me. Sometimes the emotion comes from nowhere and is completely unexpected and takes me by surprise.
I don’t have any “special place” where I go to write, though they are usually quiet places – I struggle to “hear” God in a noisy environment, but that’s just me. Recently I’ve found myself writing poems during the worship times at church. I think partly this is because I’ve recognised that my writing is an act of worship and so it is entirely appropriate to write if I feel God particularly impressing me to do so. Ironically it’s when I come to God during a time of worship where I’m concentrating on him more fully than during the normal day that I then sense his prompting/urging for me to write. I’ve not yet had the courage to immediately share what I’ve just written though!
You’ve probably deduced that I write all my poems longhand in a notebook. I find it works for me and and old fashioned notebook is available any time of the day or night, works in virtually any light levels (even bright sunlight) and never runs out of batteries. I also like the physicality of the writing process, the feeling of the pen moving over the paper. Again, this is what works for me. If you find it easier to use a computer, tablet or phone to write then go for it.
The next stage is the transcribing process. This takes my handwritten poem and converts it into a form that does not require the poor reader to have to decipher my handwriting! It also allows me to store them in an electronic form which makes it easier to share them. I don’t edit my poems much as I transcribe them. Instead I concentrate on the form the poem makes as I type it up. As you can see from my other entries here I do like to play with the length of sentences and how I lay these out. These make the “shape” of the poem. I don’t edit my heavily poems because I want them to stay pretty much as God directed me to write them. Sometimes I will do a bit of tidying up (e.g. correct verb tenses) and change the odd word if I find I’ve started too many sentences the same way.
The final part – and the one I sometimes find hardest – is to release them so that others can read them. This is a really strange experience because the Internet makes this an anonymous activity. I don’t know who will read it and what reaction they will have to it. However I still find publishing my poems makes me feel rather vulnerable. I think this is because it feels to me that I’m sharing the emotions that went into writing the poem with total strangers – and I’m worried how they will react.
So if you’ve managed to read this far through a longer than normal post thank you. If you feel God is prompting you to write or express creativity (in whatever form) I hope this has helped you to “have a go”. I found that for me my first large hurdle was recognising when God was prompting me to write. One nice thing about writing is that is it quite a personal, intimate process and one that you don’t need to share unless you want to. However I’ve often found that sharing what I’ve written helps others too.