5 Characteristics of Strong-Minded Christian Writers
When we become Christians, our minds are made new (Ephesians 4:22-23). That means we start evaluating our lives, our work, and our world in a different way. We take on God’s perspective. We aspire to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Christian writers have an obligation to be of strong mind since we are sharing Christian teachings and values to a mass audience. A strong mind is defined as thinking, “not easily influenced by others; resolute and determined.”
Sadly, the minds of many Christian writers are not fully renewed. They are like some of the people in Corinth that Paul mentioned. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, he said they are “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Their minds were resolute in the wrong way.
Today, these kinds of so-called Christians promote odd social, political, medical, and theological views that reflect their own bias, rather than objective reality and God’s truth. They depart from the simplicity that is in Christ when they promote a human bias as if it was from God.
We should not be promoting absurd fringe human ideas as if they are Christian ideas. There are plenty of wholesome Christian ideas to promote without getting snared in offbeat opinions or conspiracy theories that edify no one.
How can you be a strong-minded Christian writer? Here are some of the characteristics any writer can adopt.
Focus Your Thoughts
A strong mind is a focused mind. I didn’t always believe that. I took pride in the fact that I was a “multitasker.” I was a legend in my own mind for being able to research and write several projects simultaneously, check Facebook and my email, and field phone calls, all at the same time.
However, I noticed my productively was not what I wanted it to be. Worse, I saw my quality of writing drop. I was not expressing myself as I wished to do.
That’s when I realized I needed to change my habits. I needed to focus on only one project during a writing session. I changed my pattern so I did not interrupt that session by going to checking my email or conversations on Facebook.
The Dr. Pepper Method
I adopted the “Dr. Pepper” method, which is checking those things at 10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM. If you look at the old Dr. Pepper ads (and bottle caps), you’ll see those are the hours they recommended you stop and drink a Dr. Pepper.
You may not be a Dr. Pepper fan, but controlling your focus makes sense regardless of the guidelines you set for yourself. Distractions kill creativity.
Some people like to use the Pomodoro Technique for retaining focus. You work during intense 25-minute sessions, break for 5 minutes, then repeat until you have finished your writing goal for the day. Discover more about the Pomodoro Technique here.
Start Your Writing Session Right
Managing interruptions is only part of the story when it comes to developing a strong writer’s mind. How Christian writers start a writing session can be just as important.
Before I changed my writing habits, I would usually flash a quick prayer off to God asking him to bless my work. I did it while I was turning on my computer and arranging the papers on my desk.
After I changed, I started by lighting a candle, focusing my intention for that writing session as I gazed at it. I gave the Lord my full attention and asked him to help me give full attention to the writing task at hand.
Neuroscientists have given this kind of focus a new name. They call it “Mindfulness.” It is focusing on what you are doing (or the person you are with) without distraction. It is giving full attention to what is happening “in the moment.”
Studies show that mindfulness offers increased mental strength by expanding attention and providing a sense of emotional wellbeing. It is how we blot out the diverse signals running through our brain and gets us into a writing groove.
Challenge Your Self-Talk
The biggest enemy of a strong-minded Christian writer is the enemy within. Who is that enemy? The Devil?
While I believe the Devil is ultimately behind distraction, there is one kind of distraction that ruins writers. That is “self-talk.”
We all have an inner dialogue. That is part of our God-given cognitive process. We write our content in our own minds first and then transfer it to the page.
However, this creative process often gets short-circuited by self-talked that turns negative. Our own internal voice starts criticizing each sentence or worrying about things unrelated to the writing project at hand.
If you want to be a strong-minded Christian writer, you must control your negative self-talk. Self-talk is continual during waking hours, so it is impossible to turn off completely. Your goal is to identify negative self-talk when it enters your mind and then immediately change it to positive self-talk.
How can you do that? By being mindful about your internal dialogue and challenging it when it turns negative.
For example, your self-talk may be telling you, “This plot is getting way to complicated. I’ll never be able to pull it off.”
You learn to challenge such self-defeating self-talk with something like this: “This plot is getting involved. My readers are going to love this. I’ll break my ideas into small parts and it will be great.
It takes practice to intercept negative self-talk and turn it into a positive statement. But it is a habit that strong-minded Christian writers want to acquire.
Don’t Try To Please Everyone
There is a lot of talk among writers about who they are writing for. Some say they are writing for their reading audience and seek to please them. Others say it is important to please yourself and readers don’t matter.
Strong-minded Christian writers have this figured out. They know they are writing to please the Lord.
But there is another layer to this. You want to please the Lord in all things, but strong-minded Christian writers have a writing focal point. It is not a mass of readers and it is not yourself.
You want to write for one particular person. It may be a real person, like a relative or friend, or it may be an avatar that you create and who has the detailed characteristics of your targeted reader.
When I say a detailed avatar, I mean right down to gender, age, geographic location, family composition, work, hobbies, income, and other details. You want to be able to see the color of their hair and eyes and the expression on their face as you write for that person. No, this is not a character in your book I’m speaking of here, it is a single ideal reader.
Again, a strong mind is a focused mind. That’s why you want to identify that single reader, a real person or a composite, and write for that person alone.
One of the marks of a strong-minded Christian writer is that they write with clarity. Writing for one person like this helps you form ideas and situations that they understand. You revise until you decide the avatar understands you perfectly.
Be a Decision-Maker
Writing is about making decisions. What should you write about in the first place? What research materials should you use? What information do you need to impart to readers, and in what order? What should you add, and what should you cut?
It takes a strong-minded Christian writer to make those decisions in the first place and to make the right ones.
How should strong-minded Christian writers go about this decision-making process?
Some Christian writers say, “God makes all my decisions.” Sadly, many make their own decisions and blame them on God. In my experience, the truth is closer to that line in the Bob Dylan song, “Brownsville Girl.” Dylan says, “People don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent.”
Therefore, Christian writers must make conscious or mindful decisions. They must identify the source of the decision so they can evaluate its relative importance. Does the decision spring from God, reason, emotions, or bias?
Here are the best way to make strong-minded writing decisions:
• Value good habits. Habits are an automated decision-making mechanism. Inventory your habits. Do they result in good outcomes or bad? Change the habits that result in less than ideal outcomes.
• Never ask God, “What should I do?” Investigate and evaluate various courses of action, list them, and ask God to help you select the best one. This applies to writing and to all of life. A narrow focus always brings better results. Thoughtful evaluation is important. Investigate choices, create a list of alternatives, and then project outcomes for each alternative.
• Offer yourself good advice. Imagine a close friend has asked you the question. What advice would you give them? Follow that advice. Often we need to get outside ourselves to make decisions and this is one way to do it.
• Finally, talk to a trusted friend about your book. No, don’t get advice from a crowd on Facebook, but from a well-chosen trusted friend. Even that is risky if you want to be a strong-minded Christian writer. I believe the author Arthur Helps was correct. He said, “It is a weak thing to tell half your story, and then ask your friend’s advice—a still weaker thing to take it.”
The idea is to work through the writing process and make decisions for yourself that you are confident will be blessed by God.
Often Christian writers think words will come to them as they tap the keyboard. That’s not true. If we are good writers, then our words reach the page as the result of a chain of decisions. Strong-minded Christian writers understand that.
Don’t Expect Immediate Results
A strong-minded Christian writer will not expect immediate results from their writing. Realize that your writing genius is not likely to appear in your first draft. It emerges as you do revisions.
I do professional substantive editing and copy editing for Christian writers and others via my sister website. Many complete their first draft and believe they are finished. It is a “one and done” attitude.
Strong-minded Christian writers know that a blog post, or a fiction or nonfiction book, is a layered affair. Ideas come together in an outline, research fleshes it out, and then comes the first draft. Subsequent drafts are needed until the content is fully formed.
Also, I constantly encounter those who expect to publish their book on Amazon and reap immediate income.
Strong-minded Christian writers know better. Christian writers should sell their books, not give them away (1 Timothy 5:18), but selling books is a process, not an event. Not only does a book need to be carefully written and edited, but it also needs to be properly marketed. That takes time.
Christian writers are Kingdom workers on Kingdom time where “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). No, that’s literally true in the book world (although it seems that way sometimes), but the spiritual principle is that we must conform to God’s timing.
Think of that wise saying, “Pray to God, but row towards shore.” We do everything we can as strong-minded Christian writers, but we leave the results to God.
Final Thoughts: The Power of a Strong Mind
It is easy to adopt the thoughts and actions of this world. We are constantly enticed to do that by the biased news we get, the barrage of advertisements that feed consumerism, and the television shows and movies we see, which are the moral equivalent of the Golden Calf.
Perhaps the worst of it is the phenomenon known as “political correctness.” That social movement attempts to overtly change the meaning of words, or create new word images, designed to change the thought processes of people so that they will conform to their own political or social agenda.
In George Orwell’s book 1984 (published in 1949), bending the truth like this was called “Newspeak” and was used to inspire a uniformity of thought that is often referred to today as “Groupthink.”
The calling of Christian writers is to communicate differently. We are to speak the truth with love (Ephesians 4:15). We must continually guard our minds against using the bent truth of our age as our writing benchmark.
The Bible teaches us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to have renewed minds (Romans 12:2). As Christian writers, we must use that mind to honor Jesus Christ.