Do you aspire to write an article but are not sure how to get started? Many of the articles published in Women of the Harvest onlineMagazine are called “inspirational essays” or “personal experiences” (PEs). This is the kind of writing I usually do when I have time to freelance.
Where do I get ideas? They come from experiences from my past—years ago or even yesterday. As I look back at my life, significant days, people, answers to prayers, or struggles come quickly to mind. I also get seed ideas when I’m in a quiet, relaxed, and receptive mood: as I read the Scriptures, books or articles, take a quiet walk, sit listening to a sermon, or even while taking a shower!
Even a single quote or a fascinating fact can get me thinking. An idea must intrigue me, excite me, and offer the possibility to expand on scriptural truths, apply to Christian living, and encourage readers. I look for fresh, new perspectives. Working cross-culturally affords hundreds of new takes on life.
When an idea does come, I have learned, the hard way, to write it down immediately in as much detail as possible. If I don’t, it can evaporate quickly and just will not come back. I have even gotten up from bed before midnight to store away an “embryo” article in my files.
Sometimes I am “in the zone,” and ideas come often, especially when I am not over-busy with other work. It’s very exciting to finish a piece that I feel good about. But sometimes weeks go by with few “revelations”; because I trust the Lord to use me as he wishes, I try not to let dry times discourage me. He keeps reminding me that my writing is a gift for his glory, not for bolstering my self-esteem.
Sometimes I can see clearly right away how an article will develop. But usually I need to do some homework first.
I open up a new document on my computer and write down the seed experience, idea, or quote and then brainstorm, pulling up any related idea, experience, or quote I can think of. Then I search the Bible (digitally) for any verses that might apply to the theme, and add those to my “worksheet.” Next, I search a thesaurus (online) for related vocabulary words and idioms that can enrich the piece, and I list those. I go to my (computer and hard-copy) files where I have saved interesting bits, articles, quotes (thousands of them over the years) and see if any might work into the article.
The next step is to wait on God, pray about the piece, and also let my subconscious, and my conscious mind, work on it for up to a few days. Finally, I go ahead and write.
First, I often put down a theme sentence—what I want the piece to say. It will keep me on track as I write.
I shuffle my raw data into a rough outline. Then I dive in and write the article as it comes to me. It is always amazing how I end up saying things I never thought of until I actually start to write. The Holy Spirit is faithful to help when I ask him for guidance.
Once the article is finished, I let it sit at least 24 hours before I read it through again and rewrite, giving special attention to the lead. I keep rewriting it once a day, for sometimes up to a couple weeks, until I feel I can do no better.
I ask my husband, who knows the Bible well, to be my first reader. Since I often deal with Scripture, I want to be doubly sure I have not committed heresy!
Then I send the article to one or more writer friends for their feedback.
For an example of one of my inspirational essays, see: http://carol.ncbrinneman.com/home/obedience/trash-disposal
If you feel called to write, ask God for inspiration and help. Then get down to the discipline of writing daily, building your skills, … and rewriting. It’s thrilling to sense the Lord working with you and through you as you create articles for him.